At the time, choosing a university can seem like the biggest decision of your life. I’d always known I wanted to go to university, but I underestimated the effort it would take to choose a place to study, let alone to actually achieve the grades to get in!
I’ll start off by saying however, I might just be the most indecisive person you’ll ever meet, so choosing a university needn’t be the stressful experience it was for me. Nevertheless, putting a good amount of thought into your choice is a normal and healthy thing to do, and having doubts over a university – even if it seems ‘perfect’ – is completely fine too.
The point is, it’s so easy to be swayed into a choice because of someone else’s expectations, or what you think you should want
Though easier said than done, the first piece of advice I have when it comes to picking a university is to be selfish. Everyone faces some sort of influence from others when making big decisions, but it can seem like the whole world and his wife wants to weigh in on your choice of university. Whether it’s parents who insist on going you choosing the most prestigious university, friends that want you to pick the same place as them, or a partner encouraging you to stay close to home, differing opinions are everywhere. This can be overwhelming and make even the most headstrong person doubt themselves!
Obviously everyone’s circumstances are different, but hopefully you have the means to make this decision with your best interests at heart, rather than someone else’s. Personally, I was lucky that my parents were incredibly supportive when it was my time to move away for university, but even they raised a couple of eyebrows when I decided to choose Warwick over Oxford! This was only because they recognised the prestige of the name, and benefits that going to Oxford would bring, and thankfully they were more than happy for me to go to Warwick – a university I really loved. But the point is, it’s so easy to be swayed into a choice because of someone else’s expectations, or what you think you should want. Choosing a place to study for three or four years is a really personal decision, and something I wish I’d realised earlier is that it’s okay if your choice doesn’t match the expectations of those around you. As cheesy as it sounds, doing what’s best for you is the most important thing.
Choose a university you really love – a place that you feel at home and that you know you could be happy
Even though it’s nearly four years since I chose to come to Warwick, I still remember my first open day here, and the feeling of being blown away by the campus. While recent events here at Warwick have admittedly disillusioned me slightly, I try to hold onto how I felt first seeing campus, my department, and meeting some of the amazing people I now call some of my closest friends. While the course, location, and overall quality of a university are all important things to consider, my second, even cheesier piece of advice is to choose a university you really love – a place that you feel at home and that you know you could be happy. As they say, when you know, you know!
But what happens if, for whatever reason, you can’t go to your ‘dream university’? Missed grades, unforeseen circumstances, or simply not being able to choose, can all mean that the university you end up at isn’t the one you always imagined. For this, there isn’t some quick fix solution, but what I will say is that a situation is what you make it. “What if?” is a dangerous phrase, and making the most of every opportunity might just be the best way to see if a university is right for you. And if it turns out that it’s not, there is no absolutely no shame in trying a different one. It all comes back to doing what is best for you.