University Tips Blog
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A headshot image of the author, Emily Warner

by Emily Warner

Student Recruitment Officer at the University of Essex

posted on 6 Mar '23

A guide to supporting students making their university and course choices

When it comes to supporting students researching and making decisions about higher education, we understand it can be an overwhelming and exciting time for school and college practitioners. Here, I will provide guidance to help you when you support students to make informed university decisions.

Course first decisions

We always recommend students choose their course first, this way students can avoid the disappointment of not being able to go to a particular university because they do not offer the course they want. There are thousands of courses to choose from and many will be in subject areas which students have not had the chance to study previously. Some may wish to explore these new options whilst many students will continue to study a subject that they are familiar with and enjoy. It could also be the case that students need to apply for specific courses to help them follow their desired career path.

Image of two students chatting at a university

Research is key

We encourage students to research their courses by looking at course content, module options and assessment methods. Many courses will have the same course title, however, what will be taught and how they are assessed will differ at each institution. University course content is driven by the academics that teach on the programme and is often focused on their expert areas of research, allowing students to explore and study the topics they are interested in by experts in the field of study. It is also important to advise students to be both optimistic and realistic in their expected grade profile for applications, allowing them to have options available to them on results day in case their results are not as expected.

Once students have their course selected, they can then have a look at which universities offer it. Depending on the course chosen, students may have a varying number of universities to choose from, but from those available, there are several factors they may then want to consider:

  • City or campus?
  • Big or small?
  • Stay at home or move away?
  • Do they have student accommodation?
  • What rankings do they have?
  • Do they offer scholarships or bursaries?
  • What employability support is offered to prepare for graduate life?
  • What academic, social and sports facilities are available?

Attending university open days and taster days are the best way for students to make informed decisions about universities and courses. These events give students the chance to take campus and accommodation tours, find out more about the courses and the student experience, attend taster sessions, and explore the local area.

Whilst there is a lot of information available online, we always recommend students visit a couple of their top choice universities in person, to be able to get a feel for whether the student sees themselves fitting in there.

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