Starting to explore university…….Mission Impossible??

For those of you in your first year of post-16 education (A-Level, BTEC for example) who are thinking of going on to study at university you may wish to start thinking about the options available to you. At this stage of your education  it is a good idea to start to explore what higher education has to offer, and whether this option is right for you! Thinking about whether to go onto higher education is one of the toughest decisions you will have to make, and to some of you may feel like mission impossible, so to make the decision easier why not ask yourself three key questions:

Why do you want to go to university?

What course would you like to study?

Where would you like to live?

If you are still unsure after trying to answer these questions then keep an open mind, and review your options thoroughly.

For those of you who are sure that higher education is the right decision for you then it’s now time for you to do your home work! RESEARCH is increasingly more important in terms of applying to university. Universities can tell which students have done their research and know exactly what they are applying for, and they like to see it as it shows interest in the subject and a passion for your own education. The earlier you start the more knowledgeable on higher education you will become and this will help to create a positive first impression when writing your personal statement.

How should I go about my Research?

It is not unusual for you to feel a little lost at the beginning of your course research, there is a lot of information available to you and it can be difficult to make sense of it all. Think of ‘university course research’ as a highly organised secret agent operation in a blockbuster movie. You (the secret agent) need to gather detailed intel on your chosen targets, using a number of different  research approaches. You will need to build up a detailed set of information before you can carry out the purpose of your mission (which is ultimately to be accepted onto your chosen course at University). Planning your research into three different stages will make it easier to keep track of the information you are gathering. So your mission, should you choose to accept it? (…is to start with stage 1).

Stage 1

A great place to start is the UCAS website; this rich information resource provides you with easy to read information regarding entry requirements, course module content and generally how to apply for university. For first-time ‘university course researchers’ entry profiles (marked ‘EP’) are a hot spot of information. Over 66% of entry profiles are created by the admissions tutors themselves, a heavy indicator of just how useful they can be.  So why not make USE OF THEM?!



On paper, create a series of columns with the name of the university you are researching written down at the top. Read through each entry profile carefully noting any part of the course information which is of interest to you. By doing this for numerous universities you can compare the courses you have researched and you will naturally start to form an opinion on the universities which interest you.


Stage 2

Ok then, so you have gathered a list of universities with some interesting courses. Now is the time to dig deeper! By visiting university web sites (course information pages) you collect a more wide-ranging bank of information (things like module content, academic reputation, study abroad options, social societies) further enhancing your opinions (good or bad) of the university. At the end of stage 2, you may start to have a few detailed questions of your own which at the moment remain unanswered.

Well…if you find yourself in this predicament then go back to the course information pages, find the telephone number or email address and pick up the phone or send a quick email to the department you are interested in, and you may find that your questions will be answered!


Stage 3

Now that those tricky questions are answered you will be feeling a little more positive about this whole university course research idea. You may also have a list of around five universities which appeal to you. You can now start to think about registering for summer open days! This is a great chance for you to experience what each university has to offer. Current university students will tell you, that attending open days is the most reliable method in making an informed choice in terms of choosing the right place to study for you as an individual.

However…many students across the country fail to utilise open days to their full ‘information packed’ potential. A common mistake is that students only attend general welcoming talks about the university and the courses that they are interested in but fail to grasp what else the university has to offer in terms of accommodation, social societies, learning facilities and the relationship the university has with its surrounding local areas. By the end of the day, some students will be travelling back home with a false impression of what the university (and location) really has to offer them as full time student. It really is important that you use open days wisely and let them enable you to complete your mission!

Good Luck!