The prospect of Higher Education can be overwhelming, and there are plenty of
considerations to bear in mind when it comes to choosing the right course for you. Here are
some guideposts to help steer your research.
1. Choosing your subject
Knowing what interests you is a fantastic place to start, but if you don’t then working out
what subject to take can seem daunting. Browse UCAS’s subject guides to explore what is
out there, and nudge yourself in the right direction with questions like what do you enjoy
doing day to day? Are there elements of this that could translate into a future job? Reflect
on your values, interests, personality and strengths, self-assess and list the potential
occupations you want to learn more about. You can also take career aptitude tests to help
guide you. Ask around and talk to people in your fields of interest. Identify some outline
career goals, and keep your mind open. The UK’s courses are typically quite specific so if you are thinking about more than one course it is a good idea to apply to up to five similar
courses simultaneously to keep your options open. [Note: there are some fields (medicine,
dentistry, veterinary medicine or veterinary science) in which you can only choose four
2. Understanding what types of undergraduate courses there are
Different categories of course are as follows: Bachelor degree (three to four years full-time,
sometimes with a placement option), Foundation year (to prepare you for a Bachelor’s),
Diploma in Foundation Studies (art and design)/Art Foundation (one year), Foundation
degree (two-years full-time), Degree or graduate level apprenticeship, and HNCs (Higher
National Certificate, a one-year work-related course), HNDs (Higher National Diploma, a
two-year work-related course), and other incremental routes.
3. Working out how you want to study
Although most students elect to study full-time, there are other options available such as
part-time, to allow for those needing to take care of family, work or other responsibilities,
as well as distance and blended learning, accelerated degrees (one year shorter than their
counterparts) and work-based learning.
4. Deciding where to study
Again, research is key. You should ensure you are looking at areas you would be glad to live
in, and you can attend open days or virtual tours to get a better feel for the place. Visiting
the town or city is the best way to do this (more than once if you can!) – talk to people
there, bring someone with you for a second opinion. You should also check the course
structure and reading lists to make sure the form of learning is right for you. Find out what
else is on offer at your shortlisted universities, from societies to sports teams, and scour
their websites and social media platforms for more insight.
5. COVID-19 considerations
An integral factor in making big life decisions nowadays is the pandemic. Check your chosen
university for its arrangements for learning, and bear in mind that social interaction will
likely be affected.
In short, there are plenty of resources to help you decide on your university choice. Leave
yourself plenty of time – check deadlines for each university as they vary – and consult as
many people as you can. But first-hand experience will always be your best guide, as a first
impression packs a punch for a reason. Pace yourself and enjoy this as an exciting
opportunity to feel out multiple options before beginning your higher education.