How To Choose Your Top 5 Unis - Tips & Tricks

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

It can be so overwhelming choosing the universities you're applying for, especially as there are such an amazing array of both universities and courses that you can really feel spoilt for choice. Since I have just sent of my uni application, being an early applicant, I'm often asked how I did it, so thought I would compile some tips and tricks that helped me narrow down my choices massively.


I would seriously recommend knowing what course you want to do before even looking at the different universities available. Now, I'm not saying know exactly what course you want to do to the letter, but have a general idea - don't be choosing between doing natural sciences or English at this point! Have a general idea of where your interests lie, then start looking at some university courses for this subject. It's also a good idea to know what you want to get out of your course too, in terms of the way it's taught and the sort of modules, perhaps. You don't want to get attatched to a university, and then realise the course isn't for you! Feeling enthusiastic about the course you want to study is also so important. If you're not truly into the course, you just won't find any university appealing!


Since you'll eventually need a firm and an insurance choice, you really need a couple of tiers of universities to choose from - one's that could become your firm, and one's that could become your insurance. Your insurance choices need to be at least a little lower than your firm (for example, an AAA for a firm and an AAB for insurance), otherwise it wouldn't be worth having an insurance choice - it's basically the backup if you don't get the grades! But I would seriously suggest you put as much interest into your insurance choices and make sure you like them, which would soften the blow if you did need them, and make use of all your five choices.


Definintely don't underestimate the usefullness of open days! If you are looking at universities all over the country it can feel like a total trek, but they are so useful to get a feel of where you could be studying, and what is on offer there. While at open days, I would definitely suggest thinking about things such as;


I really wasn't sure about the difference of the two before I visited some unis. Many universities are campus based, like a mini village almost, with ammenities such as pubs, shops, and your accomodation all on site, whereas some are more 'city' based, spread out around a city. I would really suggest looking at them both and perhaps even applying to both sorts of universities, unless you really dislike one of the options. I really thought I was going to prefer a campus and feel too overwhelmed in a city, however I like the idea of a city being close by and being able to nip to the shops if I fancy, possibly because my current college is in a city (albeit a small one).


Another reason why it's a good idea to know which subject you want to do is so you don't spend the day at the university going in several talks about subjects, it will be so easier to just go to one or two subject talks at each university, and then compare your experience at each of the talks. At one of my favourite universities, I was actually a bit dubious about their course, until I went to the talk and was absolutely blown away and sold.


At most of the universities I looked at, the accomodation was much of a muchness, but it is definitely a good idea to go and have a look to get a real feel of where you could be living. I'd also advise you to consider living conditions for your second and third year - yes, it may seem like a long time off, but it is definitely worth considering. Some universities have some accomodation they offer for second and third years, but some won't - having a talk to some students about the areas they live in could be really useful.


At open days there always so many students about who are experiencing the life you could be! My best suggestion is go and talk to students who study the subject you want to study as you'll get a feeling for what it's like to study there too. I remember when I was doing college tours at Oxford, a few of the students were history students, who seriously sold me because they gave the tour from a 'historical' kind of perspective which was so useful.

Mentioning that, a campus tour can be a really good idea if one is on offer, it could give you a real feel for the place - the first 'campus' style university I went to was Warwick, so it felt totally discombobulating until I went on a tour, when I began to be able to navigate myself around the place a bit!


Now comes the serious part: the decision! Some universities you may just have a feeling for. The biggest decision I had was choosing between Oxford and Cambridge, as you can only choose one. I simply had a real feeling about one, whereas although I loved visiting the other one, I just couldn't really see myself there. It could be an idea to make some sort of pros and cons list if you are really stuck - perhaps the course is a bit better at one uni, but at another uni the location suits you better, and so you can weigh up which factor is most important for you.

Once you've got your five, the hard part is definitely over! If you do manage to get offers from all five, and really can't choose which one to pick for your firm and insurance, the unis usually host 'offer holder open days' where you can go again and really work out which one is best for you - it can definitely be easier sometimes with a fresh set of eyes.


The big question! I'm asked so often where I've applied so here we go; I am applying to do a History degree at Oxford, UCL (University College London), Warwick, York and Nottingham. So far I have received a couple of decisions, from York and Nottingham, which is super exciting - I can now go to university, so long as I get the grades! A surreal feeling for sure...

I would love to hear about your experiences too! Whether you have been through uni or are there right now, I would love to hear your tips for starting uni and settling in - a crazy thought that I will be going through all that this time next year! If you have any other questions about applications make sure to leave me some too, I would love to help!

EG x


  1. This is such a good post! Really useful tips, I think you've pretty much covered everything!
    When I was applying I remember ordering as many prospectuses as I could and just spending a day sifting through them and putting them in yes, no and maybe piles. Having the information physically in front of me really helped.

    Good luck for the rest of the application process and starting university, I'm sure you'll absolutely love it.

    Chloe x

    1. Ah thank you so much! I totally agree, prospectuses are so useful because often sifting through so many website pages can be overwhelming - prospectuses really condense it and make everything easy to consider! x

  2. I literally love reading university posts and I can’t wait to follow you on your uni journey Erin! These are actually such good tips and I’d definitely say them myself :) x

    1. Thank you Eleanor!! I will make sure to post more uni related posts then! :)x

  3. Loved this post Erin!! Super useful for me as I’m the year below you so I’ve got it all coming for me! I’ve already started looking and getting excited!!
    And well done for you for your offers, you should be super proud!! My sister is also the same age as you and is applying for history as well !!
    Kate Xxx

  4. Applying to university is so so exciting (definitely scary too) but you’ll look back in a year and it’ll feel like years ago. You’ve made an excellent course decision hahah. Good luck with your application, especially with Oxford. I wasn’t so successful when I applied but you’ve got some pretty solid other choices- especially UCL, you’ll get to live in the best city in the world ;) Let me know if you need any advice!