You might know exactly which course you want to study or you might need some help. 

Everyone is different and their student experience should also be individual. Choosing a university or higher education institution is partly about identifying your priorities and matching these to a place. Most students apply for a university place through the University and College Admission System (UCAS). 

Before you start your application, consider the questions below.

This is the biggest question and the one that requires the most research. You might want to consider some of the other questions before this one just to narrow down your number of options. Think about the course; a course with the same name might be very different depending on where you study it. For example, history studied at St Andrew's might be Scottish history, at Queen’s, Belfast might be Irish history. Similarly, history could be modern history dating from the 1850’s or modern history starting with the 20th century. Even where a course looks very similar they may have optional units which include a wider range of subjects, so it is important to know not only the course but also the content.

To find out who offers the course you want to study visit the UCAS website

This will decide the number of places that you have available to you. If you opt for home you are likely to be able to only travel daily to Durham University, Newcastle University, Northumbria University, University of Sunderland, Teesside University, Cleveland College of Art and Design or a local further education college offering higher education courses. So your choice may be determined by what they offer. Over half of local students attend a local university.

Advantages of living at home:
  • Likely to be cheaper overall
  • Keep the same social group, job, etc.
  • More familiar environment and area.
  • You will not have to fend for yourself - yet!
Advantages of moving away
  • A new social group to get involved with
  • Lots of activities to get involved in
  • You get to be independent in a safe environment
  • Wider choice of courses and institutions
  • Learn new skills such as budgeting, sharing chores etc.
Disadvantages of living at home:
  • Extra travel each day
  • Might miss out on some of the social sides of university life
  • Restricted choice of course or institutions
  • It delays the point where you are out on your own (this could also be an advantage)

Disadvantages of moving away
  • Homesickness – it happens to everyone at some point
  • More expensive living costs
  • Fending for yourself – cooking, cleaning, paying bills

For some students, university is about a change of pace and getting out in the world. A university that is right in the heart of a city with lots of nightlife and entertainment facilities might be a high priority for you or you may want to be in a rural location with peace and quiet. This might be a consideration if you plan to work while at university as there are likely to be more opportunities in the city.

One of the great things about university is that they come in all sizes, from the small campus with a few hundred students who live and study on site to the huge sprawling multi-site universities with thousands of students and dozens of buildings. Consider what matters to you.

Quite a number of universities have several sites so when you make your application make sure that you know where you will actually be studying. For example, if you apply for a course at De Montfort University and wanted to be in Leicester you might be disappointed to find your course runs in Bedford.

This is a tricky one, as there are several tables and your chosen university may be rated differently in each. Some concentrate on teaching and learning scores, some research, others on student satisfaction.

Normally, studying at university needs to be self-funded and this involves borrowing money as a student loan and supplementing this with part-time employment. 

Student loans allow you to borrow money to help toward the cost of your fees and also for general living costs. What's more, you might get extra money on top of this, for example, if you’re on a low income, are disabled or have children. To find out more visit the student funding web page.

All young people attending university have to think very carefully about their decision but if you have a disability you might need to consider different things such as whether you will need specialist equipment/assistance or what type of student accommodation would suit your needs.

When you are making a decision for yourself it might be useful to think about the sort of difficulties that you may have come across in your current school, sixth form or college and what adjustments you needed to help you use the facilities. You might consider thinking about choosing a university which has a campus where all the facilities are in the same location over a university which might have a number of sites and student accommodation across a wide area. The key to making a choice that is right for you is to do some research and, where possible, visit.

What you consider will depend on your disability but you could think about:

Where the course is located. Does the teaching all happen in a fairly small area?

What about the student union bar, the sports facilities, canteen or library?

If you need extra support with studying such as a person or technology to assist you, you would apply through the university for this. Discuss your needs at interview and during the process they use for assessing you.

For example, you may need:

Practical assistance such as -

  • a volunteer reader scheme
  • sign language interpreters
  • note takers in lectures
  • study support tutors
  • accessible work placements or field trips
  • a quiet place or somewhere to rest away from other students

Concessions for your study –

  • extra time in examinations, or a separate room to take examinations
  • permission to use a computer in examinations
  • flexibility in deadlines for essays
  • lecture notes and course materials in alternative formats

Technological support

  • induction loops
  • Braille facilities
  • electronic reader or text to speech technology

What's more, you may be entitled to additional financial support. Visit the Direct Gov website - for more information on the disabled student allowance.

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