A Student’s Guide to the Universe of University

Source: University Of West Of England

Source: University Of West Of England

On finding the right university course for you. If you even want to go in the first place.

What does an ‘academic institution for further-education with a brand new on-campus laundrette (50p-a-spin)’ even mean?

As the young(-ish) audience of this magazine I imagine you’ll have been either considering university, letting the thought cross your mind once or twice… or are closing your eyes rather tightly and sticking your fingers in your ears at the mere mention of the word. To the latter, let me tell you: I get it.

Thinking about heading off to university can be bewildering; you may find yourself asking questions such as, where should I go? How do I start? What does an ‘academic institution for further-education with a brand new on-campus laundrette (50p-a-spin)’ even mean?

Or maybe you are one of the few lucky ones who have known since birth that they were destined to go to the wonderful somewhere to study the magnificent something. If so, I applaud you. However… (confession time) I too was like you, once. A bright eyed individual with glossy hair (not really) and a rucksack on my back full of aspirations (well…). I wanted to go to Oxford University, an institute that may as well say on the box ‘best of the best.’ This educational ideal was mainly encouraged by reliable sources (love you, friends and family) telling me, who at the time had no idea what I wanted to do in the career-department, that if I went there, I could get anywhere in life. Alas, the golden ticket was too good to be true. Upon realising the immense pressures which would undoubtedly ensue if I were to tread the Russell Group waters, I was pushed back to stage one.

So, where to start? First, I recommend finding out which course to take. For those of you still stuck for course ideas, worry not, for the inspiration will come. For me that inspiration took the form of a magazine called DIVA… I doubt your inspiration will come in exactly the same way, but, you never know. Let me explain; a woman who had sent in a short story turned out to be the Creative Writing director of a local uni’. C-r-e-a-t-i-v-e W-r-i-t-i-n-g. Had I read that right? In all my years on this planet I’d never heard of such a course. Yet, right away, I knew it was the one for me.

I recommend finding out which course to take.

Next up, the university search. I started looking at unis that had this course and evaluating their credentials (Unifrog is great for this). Next came the delightful world of skimming through prospectuses and booking open days. Flip the page, click the mouse, sip the coffee. This became my free-time routine. After a really, really long time, I had shortlisted the universities that looked best. Hoorah. What next.

Parental Figure: The open day is tomorrow, remember to write up questions to ask, lists of what to compare between universities, and choose your outfit to wear. We get up at 5am.

Me: D:

Open days. can be really fun, and are definitely worth going to.

Open days. can be really fun, and are definitely worth going to. But they can also be tough (queue dramatic music). Getting lost in cities you don’t know, desperately trying to talk to a lecturer whilst hundreds of hungry parents with this crazed look in their eyes keep getting in your way, sitting through talks about how great the city is when all you want to do is go home. On the other hand, you get a feel of what the university is like, how friendly everyone is, how close it is to the nearest Nandos, all the really important things like that.

So now you have a feel for the places, what the people are like, and actually know what a module is. With this new knowledge you can now tackle the UCAS application. If the process of applying to University had a theme tune it would probably be a mixture of Countdown’s with a sort of comedic trombone sounding in the background every time you make a mistake. Which you probably will do. Make a mistake that is. That’s why it really is best to get some advice; whether that be from your tutor, your mum, a friend, UCAS itself – there are lots of places you can go to get the information you need. Just, breathe.

There’s probably something on that application that will physically force the sweat to ooze from your forehead, though. The ‘are you deferring a year?’ bit. This is really hard to work out, and to be completely honest I am still not convinced by my decision. However you have to look at the pros and cons. Personally I think taking a gap year is pretty cool. You can explore the world, gain some confidence, have a break for a while. On the other hand going straight there means you get to have the excitement of moving out, jump straight into whatever course you have been inspired to take, and are one step closer to being that contributing-to-society individual you are bound to be. So, think it over, really think it over, and then think again.

Well, I hope that’s helped. It’s up to you now to try your best to get good grades and get that acceptance letter. I, er, am still getting through that bit, so do not yet have an eye-opening anecdote for you. But for us both, good luck.

Are you going to university? How did you decide what course to do? Are you being asked to put together a UCAS application? Do you even want to go to university? Let us know: @rifemag

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