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Choosing a uni course: five things students wish they'd considered

We asked first year uni students to look back on what they wish they'd thought more about when choosing a university...

Some of the factors listed below may not immediately come to mind when you’re weighing up different university courses, but can actually make a real difference to your student experience. Here's how to find out more to help make the right decision for you.

We’ve also got a checklist of the top things to look for when comparing courses, as well as some pointers if you don’t know what course to choose.  

1. The number of scheduled teaching hours

The number of timetabled teaching hours - and what you'll be doing during those hours - is often down to the course and subject area you're studying. Science students, for example, may have lengthy periods in the lab, while humanities students may have fewer sessions of face-to-face contact, but are expected to do more hours of independent study.

However, teaching hours for the same subject can vary from uni to uni. Find out beforehand what a typical week will look like for you by reading about a course on our course profiles, checking prospectuses or asking at an open day.

2. The sorts of people who go there

You’re likely to meet lots of different types of people at university, regardless of which one you go to. Some may be similar to the friends you have already, but you're also likely to find yourself rubbing shoulders with people of all ages, from different cultural and academic backgrounds, with different interests and from the far-flung corners of the world. 

A good way to get an early feel for whether you’d fit into a particular uni is to go on an open day, but you can start building up a picture of who your fellow students could be by looking up specific courses on Which? University - we've listed out stats including male/female, full-time/part-time and young/mature ratios. 

3. The learning and assessment style

  • Do you perform better in exams or would you choose coursework every time?
  • Prefer to spend most of your time in taught lectures and seminars? Feel at home studying independently in the library? 
  • Like the idea of a work placement as part of your course?
Asking yourself these questions can help you find out whether the courses you’re interested in are suited to how you like to learn or be assessed - there can be big differences in how courses are taught and structured.

Key Information Sets, which you'll find on university websites as well as our course profiles, show you the proportion of time you'll spend in lectures and seminars versus the time you're expected to spend studying independently. You can also see the breakdown of how you'll be assessed each year of the course - written exams, coursework and practicals.

4. The financial support on offer at the uni

We all know that going to university isn't cheap. From accommodation to general living costs, right down to all those little extras you hadn't factored in - it can be hard to stretch your student loan.

What you might not know is that there is extra funding available - via universities, charities, trusts, and your local council - designed to help you cover the costs of university that, unlike your student loan, you won't need to pay back. This funding ranges from scholarships and bursaries to help with paying for textbooks and course equipment. A good starting point to find out more about financial support is by visiting the university’s website - we've got more tips here.

5. Degree classes awarded

Employers want to recruit the best graduates – and for some (but not all) graduate-level roles, you’ll need a 2:1 minimum to apply.

While ultimately the degree class you graduate with depends on the hard work and effort you put in as an individual, you can find out how many students graduated with a 2:1 or above in the previous year by looking at a course profile here on Which? University. If you notice a big difference in this figure when comparing courses asking for similar entry requirements, it could be worth asking the university why this might be.

What else did students wish they'd known?

Our roving video reporter hit university campuses to find out...

Source: an online survey of 1,200 students who have just completed their first semester of university, between 11 and 19 December 2012, conducted via YouthSight.​


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