Off To Uni : The Research

Today is the first post in my all new university series whereby every Thursday on my blog there will be a post about university such as researching a degree/university, how to apply through UCAS, student loans and as the time gets closer how to get ready to move out and go to university. I am super excited for this series as I know a lot of people who read my blog are younger than myself so hopefully this will help some of you in the future! This ones a long'un so I'd make sure you're sat comfortable with a hot cup of tea!

Today I am going to be talking you through the first step in deciding if you want to go to university, the research. First of all before doing anything else you should kind of know what degree you might want to do at university. I was lucky and knew that I wanted to do Law from about the age of 14 so I just needed to consolidate my decision, whereas I know some people didn't and still don't have a clue as to what they want to do. This is fine and the best way in going about finding a degree to do is if you have a career in mind in which you want to venture into you can then research the means of getting into that career and if you need to have a specific degree to be able to do this. If you don't have any idea what you want to do most people pick a subject which they love doing, such as Art, Maths, Creative Writing, English, Dance, Drama and many universities now offer Joint Honours whereby you can study two subjects at degree level which suits many people as it leaves their options open for the future. To see all of the degrees on offer I would recommend looking at the UCAS website. When deciding your degree make sure it's right for you, nobody else. The amount of people that apply to do a degree because they think it's what they should do or what they're family wants them to do usually drop out as they aren't inspired by the degree and it doesn't interest them. In some ways to have to be really selfish throughout this process and do what is best for you.

Once you know or have an idea what degree you are interested in you can then start properly researching universities.  For me, personally, this was the longest process. I was ordering University Prospectuses as soon as I began year 12 and quickly accumulated at least 30. If you don't know what a university prospectus is it is basically a catalogue of a university's degrees which they offer, usually they have a couple of pages on each degree outlining the course structure, the entry requirements and sometimes quotes from previous students. These are the best way, in my opinion, to get a first feel for the university before going to open days. University Websites can also be a great help. Prospectuses were perfect to read in the evening and just get an understanding of a degree. You can instantly tell by the way the university tries to sell itself to you if it's the right university for you. Hence I quickly reduced my prospectus pile to a manageable amount. This then allows you to move onto the next step.

The next step is then actually going to visit these universities. All universities offer open days for prospective students throughout the year usually between June and July and then September to December. The time students are thinking of applying and starting their UCAS applications. If you can, go to as many of these open days as you can. In the end I went to about 8 across the country. I was very fortunate that my parents were willing to take me here, there and everywhere as they understood how important finding the right University was to me. If you can't get to certain open days most universities now offer an online open day with video tours of the campus and accommodation. But try to visit as many as you can especially the one you think you know you want to go to. Open Days really opened my eyes, as soon as walking onto a campus I knew whether it was right for me or not. I got to talk to students about the course I was interested in, the lecturers, do mock lectures, go to talks further explaining the course structure, view accommodation. One thing I do recommend is asking as many questions as possible and taking a notebook to write things down as it can get quite overwhelming at times. Also, if you know the university isn't right for you make sure you say as my mum in particular was pushing a specific university as it was closer to home and was trying to convince me to consider it when I knew deep down that it wasn't for me. You'll also realise when going to open days if you want to stay close to home or go as far away as possible. I personally wanted to go away from home so I could find me as a person as well as having more independence then if I chose to stay closer to home. In the end my Firm choice is Liverpool (which is quite far from home) and my Insurance choice is Oxford Brookes (which is only about an hour and a half from home). You'll also realise after visiting one or two universities what you look for in a university and then you can create a mental checklist of whether or not a university works for you.

I hope this post has helped some of you in beginning the process of going off to university and has helped. Next weeks Off To Uni post is all about the first steps of applying to university through UCAS including tips and tricks for your personal statement. 
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