Researching where you want to go to university is a task that can easily waste away several
hours in the day. To make it a more productive search, we’ve gathered a few key questions you should keep in the back of your mind to help you find somewhere to go that will really benefit you during the next three to four years of your life.
1. Is there support available to fund my studies?
There’s no denying that university is an expense. With undergraduate courses currently costing £9250 a year at universities in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, plus the added cost of living, it is very common for students to need financial support of some kind while they study. In the UK you can apply for student tuition and/or maintenance loans through Student Finance England or their equivalents in Wales, Northern Ireland, or Scotland. For a maintenance loan you can expect to get around £9488 if you live away from home (and not in London) or up to £12,382 if you live in London and not at home. You can also expect to receive around £10,866 if your course incorporates a year abroad.
2. Does the university I intend to apply to offer extra-curricular I enjoy and cater to my hobbies?
Most universities will have a wide selection of clubs and societies to choose from, which are great ways to meet new people. You may already have one or several hobbies that you’d like to continue during your studies, so it’s a good idea to check if the universities you’re looking at cater to those. There might also be some new hobbies you’ve always wanted to try that the university might offer.
The department attached to your course should also have its own society, which will offer group field trips and socials to help you get to know your other course mates.
3. What accommodation is available and how does it work?
At UK universities, a room, kitchen, and living space in student halls of residence are usually
made available to first year students. Most universities offer an accommodation guarantee
to students who have selected them as a first choice, in advance of a certain deadline which is usually during the summer. Open days are great for exploring the accommodation options, but detailed virtual tours are also usually on offer on university websites.
What you’ll eat may be the last thing you think of while you’re cramming for the final exams at home, but it’s worth knowing if you want to cook for yourself or have access to a canteen before you apply for accommodation. Do you follow a certain dietary regime or have any
allergies? Many universities now cater to a variety of diets, but make sure where you’re
looking at has a variety of options to suit you. Eating well when you study is so important,
and the last thing you want is to be starving in a lecture!
Bearing in mind how far you want to live from the campus is also important as some city – based universities have student halls located a bus or tube ride away.
4. Does the university have good careers services?
While it’s perfectly normal not to know what to do with your future before starting
university, it’s important to make sure you have somewhere good to access career support.
Having access to a careers office and advisers will help prepare you for applying to your dream job once you graduate. They will be able to advise you on where to search for summer internships or work experience, offer support in writing CVs, cover letters, prepare you for job interviews, and help you figure out what the first steps in your life after graduation might be.
5. Does my course give the option to study abroad or do a placement year?
Maybe you didn’t manage to convince your parents to let you do a gap year or perhaps you’d love to explore an area of the world you never have before. A year abroad gives you the opportunity to travel, broaden your horizons, make new friends for life and explore academic study in a completely different environment. Many universities are partnered with institutions from around the world, meaning you could study anywhere from close to home like France or Spain to thousands of miles away in Japan, Australia or Canada. Every university offers different locations, but not every course lets you take a study abroad year, so if this is something you k now you want to do then make sure to ask whether it’s offered.
If you would rather prepare yourself for the start of your career a year before you graduate,
a year in industry (or placement year) might be of interest to you. Placement years are quite
common in the food and drinks industry and can range from Food Science or Engineering internships with big companies such as McCain Food or Campden Bri, to Product Development or Agriculture and Agronomy at Marks & Spencer. Make sure you check what placement opportunities are available to you when you’re making your decision on your first and second choice universities.