You've got the offers, now where should you choose to go?

At this time of year, students are - hopefully - in a position of choice between which university offer to accept. Sometimes this can be a difficult choice, with competing interests at stake as well as potentially different entry requirements. Here are four things to consider when making your choice:

What are the grades I’ll need to get in?

If the offers you hold are conditional on you achieving a certain set of grades or exam results, it’s important that you are realistic with yourself about the likelihood of getting those grades. As we had towards exam season, you can also have an open conversation with your teachers about what they think will happen, so that you can make your decisions based on accurate information.

If you are holding offers from the UK, it’s also worth trying to find out the difference between the grades the university is asking for and the grades that, in previous years, they have accepted. It’s possible to find the average UCAS tariff points on entry at various places online, which is a rough guide as to whether a university is flexible (or not).

What exactly will the academic experience of studying there be like?

Very often, students can apply to certain universities based on other people’s perceptions: university X is ‘well regarded’ and university Y is 'highly ranked’. Though those help give a general sense, if this is somewhere you are going to spend the next three or four years of your life, it’s best to go on your own opinion. Rather than second-hand information, do your own research. You can look into things like graduation rates, student satisfaction, average class size and graduate prospects among many other factors.

As well as this, note down in detail what the academic pathway you are applying will allow you to do. For a single or joint honours course, what modules can you take? Is there an option at one university which isn’t available at the other? If you wanted to take an internship or study abroad, could you? For liberal arts pathways in the US and other countries, it’s important that you understand the core curriculum and distribution requirements, and whether they suit the style of education you are looking for.

What will I gain from university life beyond my academics?

As well as getting a good academic education, the experience of going to university should also teach you much more about you and your place in the world. In making your final choice, it’s important to consider the wider opportunities available to you. Doing detailed research into the extracurricular opportunities is important - you might assume that the university has the club you’d like, but it’s probably best to check. You should also look into the accommodation options, what opportunities you have in the area around the university and what career placement activities you can follow. Studying in London, for example, might seem hugely appealing, but the availability of halls of residence in a city-centre university might be limited, compared to a more suburban option with a campus feel.

How does it make you feel?

Finally, there are the intangibles: which university makes you excited? Or, which one can you see yourself at more? This is the ‘gut check’ moment - where do you want to be? I like to advise students to run through a list of pros and cons when deciding, not to choose the winner, but because going through that process can sometimes make you realise which university you want to win. Going to an institution that you feel positive about is going to help make that transition much more smooth.

These are important choices to make, and it’s important to choose wisely. Though in some countries the transfer options mean that you can switch if needs be, in other systems it’s not possible. If you are struggling to choose between options and would like an expert’s view, please get in touch.

Canada, Europe, UK, USADavid Hawkins