Choosing the best university and course for you

With so many different institutions and courses out there, it's almost impossible to know exactly where you want to go without doing more research. This page will offer some useful tips to help you narrow down your options.

      We've put together a short video explaining how you can choose a course and university that's right for you.  

Mary from the Recruitment Team offers advice on how to choose a course and university that's right for you.

When should I start thinking about which university and course is right for me?

Soon, says Wendy March, director of sixth form at Congleton high school in Cheshire. “Don’t leave it until the last minute. There’s always a correlation between those who suddenly decide to apply at the last minute with those who receive rejections.”

Make sure you are aware of the UCAS deadlines for when your application needs to be submitted by. There are earlier deadlines for some subjects, for example, Medicine and you may also have internal school deadlines which you should be aware of. School deadlines allow enough time for your teachers to check through your application. 

How can I narrow down the subject I want to study?

Radhika Dattani, who's just finished her undergraduate degree in Education, used her A-levels as a starting point. 

"When making my decision I thought about the content of my A-Levels, my previous work experience and my future career plans. Education was the perfect course for me."

Many students can get caught up in the idea of going to a particular university rather than focusing on a particular course. Look at it the other way round, suggests Joanna Labudek, head of undergraduate admissions at the University of Birmingham.

“How do you want to study? Joint honours, single honours or a multidisciplinary course like our Liberal Arts and Sciences programme? Look for detailed course information – a BA in English at three different institutions will be very different." Make sure you do your research and compare the different courses out there. 

You should also think carefully about the type of course you want to study. Do you want time out on a work placement, or to study abroad?

I have a course in mind, but I'm not sure which university is right for me?

Consider carefully what you want to get out of your university experience. Maybe you’re really interested in sport or music and you will need to check out the facilities that are on offer. Or, you might also want to consider the universities location do you want to be in- a leafy suburb, rural campus, inner city or simply close to home?

You can apply to up to five universities, and it’s wise to try and visit as many as you can on your shortlist. As Dr Craig Blunt, lecturer in French studies at the University of Birmingham, says: “Actually going along and experiencing a day there can really shift your priorities. It’s not like buying a car – data and glossy brochures can only tell you so much.”

However, if you can't come along to visit don't worry, there are some great virtual options available to provide an insight into what a universities really like. You could take a virtual tour of campus or have a look at the university accomodation online. 

Ok, so I've made my application, but I've not heard anything for ages...

After the application deadline, it’s a matter of waiting for offers. Don’t panic if they don’t all arrive at once. An offer can come in within a week, or it can take two months. But if your application is on time, you’ll get equal consideration.

While you wait for information regarding your offer, you can do more research of what your course and university is like. One way of researching is using social media. There's lots of content available on Youtube-  where you can access talks from academics or videos related to the student experience is like. At Birmingham, we also have our own student team who produce a lot of great content documenting their own experience of student life writing blogs, making podcasts and using instagram.