Choosing a university is a big deal and takes a lot of time, travelling and decision making. There are a lot of different factors that come into play when deciding on a university to attend. These are the 5 top reasons why I chose to go to UWE!
UWE front of frenchay campus, East entrance. Image source: WesternEye website
1. My Course Choice
Before you take on the important decision of which university you would like to spend the next 3-6 years of your life, I believe you need to decide on a course first and THEN find the university that you can study this at. For me, I have always had a passion for writing and the English language. Therefore, as I came to the end of my A-levels, a career in journalism and PR very much intrigued me. But after learning about the competitive industry and the amount of under-paid journalists, I decided on a course in marketing instead. I felt like this course was still strongly linked to my interests but would open more doors for me when it comes to me eventually entering the world of work.
After I decided that marketing was the course for me, I used one of the most helpful tools that exists! You can use the UCAS course finder to find all the UK universities that offer this course. The list was quite extensive and there are always slight variations in the name of the course or if it’s combined with something else. I seeped through this list, and chose to ignore any joint courses such as ‘Marketing and business management’ or ‘Marketing and international studies’. For some people this may be an ideal course because they are covering more ideas and seeing how, for example, here being an international business can impact marketing rather than just operating in one country. However I chose to soley focus on Marketing. The University of the West of England (UWE) was one of the many on this list and was added to my list of possible choices.
Once I had my list of the universities that offered a Marketing course I next considered the distance I would have to travel from uni to go back home to Cambridge to see family and friends. My aim was to go home around once a month so the 3/4 hour trip I would be taking by train to get to Cambridge from Bristol seemed a reasonable distance and time. Before going to university, taking the train was an alien and complicated affair for me as I was used to taking the bus everywhere (you may be in a similar position when you start.) But once i’d done the trip a couple of times it became second nature and I knew the exact route without so much as having to check trainline to see where I was meant to be going, so it’s really not as scary as it first seems.
Map, Bristol-Cambridge route. Image source: Cambridge same day courier website
I had always been aware that unlike choosing a secondary school or sixth form, choosing a university was slightly different; in that there was much more emphasis on its reputation and ranking. There are a huge number of websites out there that offer university league tables to show you what ranking your university comes in at in the UK, or some even the world. Let’s use The Complete University Guide for discussion’s sake. Of course, at the #1 space we have The University of Cambridge which is not only the best university in the UK but one of the top in the world. For some of us, achieving a course here may be realistically possible, others – not so much. In my case, I didn’t bother sending over an application. The University of Bristol is number #17 on this list, not bad. UWE is a little further down at #60, I say a little.
Of course, when it comes to finishing your degree and entering the world of work, it would be amazing to show up for your interview with a degree from one of the top universities from this list plus a portfolio of work experience (also essential – but we will come to this point later on.) But unfortunately not everyone is able to get into these, or we would all already be there. This is because of the competitive environment today where more people are starting to go to university than ever before, and of course the top universities are going to have top grade requirements. And furthermore, for someone like me who wanted to study Marketing, going to even the University of Bristol rather than University of the West of England, also in Bristol as mentioned, was not an option because this course is not offered. While other business related courses are offered at University of Bristol for example, management, accounting and management or international business studies, marketing is not one of them.
The Complete University Guide league table. Image source: The Compete Universtiy Guide website
Therefore, I strongly feel after finding the course that suits you and your future ambitions, you need to find the university that has a good reputation for this field. Which are the best art schools? Which are the best business schools? What about the best language schools? And so on…
4. Placement Year
Now we’re going back to that work experience point I said I would talk about! I was now coming close to making my final decision. I had found UWE offers the Marketing course I wanted to study, I had found that UWE is a reasonable distance from my home town of Cambridge, I had found UWE is a decently ranked university and is situated in the city of Bristol, a large and well-known city.
Here comes the work experience part. I finally decided this course and university are the one for me because I had the option of including a placement year in my course. Knowing how competitive employment is today, I wanted to seize this opportunity to have a year’s worth of work experience that the university would help me to find and arrange.
I had heard about the huge number of university students that find it difficult to get work after finishing their degree. They believe because they’ve been to university and spent years studying in a particular field, this should be enough to impress employers when they graduate and get them a job. But it’s not. Because so many students graduate having finished their degree but when applying for jobs, they are turned away because they have no real world work experience in this field. This pushed me further to choose to do Marketing at UWE.
5. Second Choice
And finally! If you are applying to university through the organisation UCAS, you will be required to make 2 choices. First, your primary choice and the university you dream of going to, but then also a back up choice. This back up choice should have slightly lower grade requirements than your first choice and acts as a safety net in case you don’t get those grades you were hoping for and are not accepted by your first choice.
For my second choice I applied for Anglia Ruskin in Cambridge.
TIP: When choosing your second and back up choice, pick one that you like equally as much as your first choice and one you could actually see yourself going to. Because you might.
So now you know how to choose the perfect university for yourself considering all the important factors! The moral of the story is… not everyone has the top grades to get into the top universities. But going to a lower ranked one, putting the work in and achieving your best, plus a portfolio full of work experience and projects you might have worked on around the school will look far better than finishing from any university with a 1st but zero real world experience in your field.