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Choosing a course and university

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There is no set formula for students choosing a course they wish to study. Below are four common reasons as to why students choose a specific course:

  • They need a certain degree to pursue their chosen career — for example medicine or pharmacy.
  • They enjoyed studying the subject at A-level.
  • They are interested in a subject they haven’t studied in school or college e.g. journalism, archaeology, philosophy.
  • They want to study more than one subject and decide to study a combined degree e.g. History and Politics, Law and French, Chemistry and Physics.

The content of a degree course and the way it is delivered can, however, vary from university to university.

Choosing a university

Photo of three students standing outside in front of a building.

Once your son or daughter has decided which course(s) they wish to study they will need to choose where they want to study. The easiest way of finding out which universities offer their chosen course(s) is to use the website www.ucas.com, which lists all the universities offering each course.

Schools and colleges usually provide guidance for students applying to university and have libraries with relevant information. Careers teachers within the school/college will have up to date information on courses at university and can provide advice. Once your son or daughter has an idea of which universities offer the course they are interested in, they should order a prospectus from the individual universities (free of charge) which will give further details. University websites usually contain on-line prospectuses and/or the facility to order one — the websites can be found using an internet search engine like Google.

Prospectuses will provide valuable information on the course and the entry requirements. It also gives useful information on accommodation, sports clubs and facilities, the location of the university, dates of open days and much more, allowing a student to build up a picture of what the university and the place is really like.

Your son or daughter may wish to visit the university on an open day. This is a good idea as they will be able to see if they will like the place where they could be living for three or more years. Parents are welcome to attend open days and some universities may cater specifically for visiting parents.

Higher Education Fairs are held throughout the UK. The fairs are held in large venues where representatives from most of the universities in the UK are available to discuss courses. The UCAS website will provide information on where and when these fairs are being held.

Taking a 'gap Year'

Some students take a ‘gap year’ after school which provides an opportunity to work and/or travel. Some students like to use the year to save money prior to going to university; others may use it to gain experience relevant to their career choice. This is generally accepted by universities, however, it is always advisable for students wishing to take a gap year to check beforehand. It is also advisable for these students to apply to university in Year 13 for a ‘deferred’ place, so that their place is ready for them when they return from their gap year.

Choosing a course and university

All students will have different preferences as to what they are looking for in a particular course and university. It is important that your son or daughter chooses the right course and university for them. The chart on the right can be used as a guide for your son or daughter for research purposes. Once they have an idea of what is important to them they can start researching universities.

Factors influencing course/university choice

Your son or daughter may find the following table helpful (click below to download it) when considering various universities. They need to look at the factors down the left hand side and assess how important they feel each one is for their specific needs.