Your Grades and the Grades They Want
Hopefully your offers represent a wide-ish range of entry requirements, so you have plenty of choice when it comes to thinking about the grades you’re likely to achieve. Entry requirements naturally indicate which of your options might be ‘firm’ choices and which might be ‘insurance’, simply because some will be higher than others. Being ambitious but firmly realistic is the key here.
If you’re unsure about how likely you are to get certain grades, have a chat with your teachers – they should be able to give you a brutally honest opinion on the subject. Some universities can be flexible if you do miss the required grades on Results Day, but you can’t rely on this being the case.
Make sure you know exactly what the conditions of your offer are - don’t be the fool that skims over the requirement that you get a certain grade in a certain subject. For example, if you want to study Geography and get an offer of ABB with the requirement that the ‘A’ is in Geography, you will face problems even if you get A*A*B if that ‘B’ is your Geography grade.
Although one of your choices might have a prestigious reputation as a long-standing institution of academic excellence, it won’t necessarily have the best reputation for your course. Checking the standing of your unis on a subject specific basis is a really good idea!
Likewise, university degrees aren’t like A-Levels in that they can be taught really differently by different unis. If you know there’s a specific area of your subject that really interests you, make sure this is represented by modules offered within the degree.
For example, as part of its Education Studies BA course,
Durham University offers a module called ‘Harry Potter and the Age of Illusion’, with content including ‘Gryffindor and Slytherin: prejudice and intolerance in the classroom’. As you might have guessed, this course doesn’t end up on the module list of all Education degrees around the country!
If you’re doing a vocational course, it’s definitely worth considering how each university will prepare you for your chosen career. Are there opportunities for a year in industry, how many weeks of work experience are you required to do and how will the university help you with this?
The location of your final five universities is likely to be one area where they differ enormously, giving you a useful means of comparison. Whereabouts is the university in relation to the city centre? What is the nightlife like? The green spaces? What is the cost of living? Make sure you know the difference between campus and non-campus universities and which you think might suit you better.
If you’re the kind of person who wants to go home every weekend, then consider the impact this might have on your bank account. Do a quick national rail search to find out just how much a weekend of ‘unlimited’ heating and family pets will cost you when travelling home from your preferred universities.
distance from your BFFs needn’t mean the end of your friendship but it’s worth considering where your pals might end up and how this will work in relation to your choices. Would you be happy rocking up to halls with half your school year or would you prefer getting a bit of distance from your old group?
The little things can make a really big difference to your university experience. Luckily, most unis have an incredible array of extra-curricular groups and activities you can get involved in, but if there’s something you’re really interested in check what’s available at the university. If you have a fervent passion for something in particular, is there a society to meet your needs, and if not can you create your own?
It’s also a great idea to have a look for info on the uni’s
Student Union, which will have Student Officers to represent you as a student. Most unis will have a separate building for their Student Union, filled with bars, cafes, clubs and shops, and this is a great place to visit on open days. How effectively does the Student Union campaign for change, both within the university and nationally, and what opportunities are there for you to get involved?
Keep in mind – although prospectuses often feature double page spreads of their brand spanking new halls of residence, and touring these halls makes up a large part of open day visits, accommodation isn’t the be all and end all. You’ll probably only stay in halls for your first year, so things like the quality of the course and how much you like the city will be much more important for your overall experience.
Research Round Two
When it comes to choosing between your final five, the bad news is that you’re going to have to do another round of research. The good news is that you can just build on what you’ve already done, and also that we’ve got loads of things on whatuni to help you out.
One really important part of research is speaking to people who went to your preferred uni, so grab whoever you can find (your sibling’s friends, neighbours, cousins etc.) and ask them about their experiences. Luckily for you,
we also have thousands of student reviews for you to have a look at. Take in both the positive and the negative – if something keeps coming up as a criticism it’s worth looking into yourself and deciding if it’s a make or break factor.
Our comparisons page will save you having to flick through those 5 prospectuses over and over, giving you one screen of data, with your different options handily placed side by side.
Finally, if you haven’t already
visited the uni – go! And if you have, but it’s not too much hassle to go again – do it! You may well see the university differently outside of all the open day propaganda you were faced with the first time…