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The Complete Guide on How to Pick a University Virtually

Not able to visit university in person? Try these 13 ways to make a great decision about university without even going to see it!

Can you make a well-informed decision about which university to go to without visiting it?

Yes, you can!

Gone are the days of relying solely on information provided by universities and university experience days. There are now more online resources at students’ disposal than ever before to help you make important university decisions about your undergraduate and postgraduate education. 

These 13 questions will cover all the important aspects to consider:

1. Read student reviews about the university

2. Can you attend a virtual open day?

3. Can you find any student vlogs from current students?

4. What are clubs and societies like?

5. What does the students’ union provide?

6. What’s the local area like?

7. Are the accommodation options a good fit for you?

8. Will your budget meet the cost of that particular university, course and available accommodation?

9. Have you read the details in your course prospectus pages?

10. Have you been in touch with the university departments yet?

11. What does the university’s social media presence tell you?

12. Will you receive the career support that you’ll need?

 

Click here to jump to our university open days table, to find out when the next virtual open day or virtual tour is for your university options

1. Read student reviews about the university

Why should you pay attention to student reviews?

A recent UCAS report found that in the last year, online student reviews were the second most important resource in making university choices. 78% of respondents said that student reviews were either ‘important’ or ‘extremely important’ to their decision. 

 

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Student university reviews are important because students want to hear from other students first hand what a university is really like.

Secondly, student ratings help you understand whether current students’ experiences lived up to their expectations. This can help to ensure that you pick the right university for you and see your degree all the way through without dropping out

After dropping out of another degree last year, I chose to do Art History here and it was the best decision I could have made. The lecturers are so wonderful and friendly and engaging and the course content is really interesting and can even be used to apply to other aspects of your life. Doing this course has really brightened up my life and helped me to view art in a much more open minded way

Student review from University of Nottingham, History of Art BA

 

Want to know which UK universities students rated as the best? Check out our Best University awards.

2. Can you attend a virtual open day?

Yes! Some universities offer virtual open days where you can speak to lecturers, watch introductory course lectures and contact current students. 

Why not check out a university’s campus tour video or sign up for a virtual university open day? We’ve got a list of all the virtual open days for universities in the UK here.

3. Can you find any student vlogs from current students?

If you can’t make it to a virtual open day, lots of student vloggers are grabbing their go-pros, ring lights and video editing software to offer prospective students (and potentially curious students from other universities) an insight into everyday life at their uni.

Some universities commission students to record similar content for their channels to show off their facilities. These would obviously be more biassed in favour of the university but it’s still a great way to gain insight into different university contexts.  

Vlogs created by students help to show authentic representations of student life which is why they’re a great resource to use when picking a university virtually! They will also often share helpful tips and advice on how to prepare for university and ways to tackle other challenges you may face as a new student.

The best place to search is YouTube: give it a go!

4. Why not check out a university’s clubs and societies?

What do you like to do in your free time? There will most likely be a club for you to pursue those interests and passions at university.

Looking at the clubs and societies at your university and students’ union is another great way to see what your university lifestyle could look like. Clubs and societies are where you can find like-minded people who are into similar things to you.

If you’re deciding between a few university options, the mix of societies, clubs and groups that is best suited to your interests could be what makes one particular university stand out from the rest. Take a look at the students’ union website.

Interested to know who won our latest award for Best Uni for Clubs and Societies? Find out here!

 

Nottingham Trent is great university as you able to have a balance between your studies and clubs, as there is a wide range of societies and clubs for varied ability and commitment levels e.g. Intermural Sports clubs and Beginners Teams so you can suit the societies to your studies

Student leaving a review of Nottingham Trent University

5. What does the students’ union provide?

The extent of the student support on offer from a students’ union can be a helpful indication of the kind of experience you can expect at a university. Students’ unions can be much more than an entertainment centre. They provide professional development and leadership opportunities for those who want to get involved.

As well as that, they can offer mental health support, study support and sometimes practical support. There can be opportunities to volunteer in the local community, to earn whilst you study with student jobs, to campaign for the issues and topics that you care about and even be given support to make that business idea you have come to life. So make sure to search for your prospective students’ union offerings to see what difference this could have on your own student experience.

 

Check to see if your prospective uni won an award for Best Universities for Students’ Union 2023

 

A nice university with practical- and career-oriented courses and a fantastic students' union which provide plenty of opportunities for engaged students. Wi-fi reliability needs significant improvements. More social spaces in collaboration with BCUSU are needed.

Student leaving a review of Birmingham City University

6. What’s the local area like?

What will you do when you’re not studying? Considering what is available to you in your university town or city will help you narrow down your university choices. Local walks, trails to go on bike rides or runs may be something you would really appreciate having close to your uni. Are the city choices you are considering full of fun activities for students? Check out this page to see if your options are popular with students.

Nottingham Trent is so fun would definitely recommend because nottingham is a great city and the facilities that the university provides are very good

Student leaving a review of Nottingham Trent University

For me the biggest perk of going to the UoB was living in Bath. It really is a phenomenal city with so much beautiful countryside to explore around it…

Student leaving a review of University of Bath

 

Find your university location here to give you a flavour of what is on offer for you and whether you like the sound of it. If you want to study in a city, check out our league table of the Best Student Cities in the UK 2022.

7. Are the accommodation options a good fit for you?

Aside from tuition fees, accommodation costs are the single biggest item for a UK student so assessing the options available is key when considering the best university for you. There are a different selection of accommodation types at each location so researching is really important. You will be spending a lot of time at your accommodation and your room or flat will become your main space to make your home at uni, to study, socialise and even make life-long friends.

The best place that we know about for researching student accommodation is on StudentCrowd, where you can sift through our extensive collection of student reviews on every single accommodation available in the UK and Ireland, as well as up-to-date price info. You can come back to StudentCrowd anytime to help you make future decisions on your accommodation.  

Having a fab time in Connies [Constance Stewart Hall]! I recommend anyone and everyone to join! 

Student leaving a review for Bishop Grosseteste University (BGU)

 

The staff at LMA are so welcoming and friendly, [they] treat us like one big family

Student leaving a review for Staffordshire University

 

On each of our university pages, you’ll be able to see which accommodation students rated as the best at each university. We also provide league tables for the best-rated accommodation in each student location. Many providers also include virtual viewings to help you get a feel for the accommodation from a distance. Just use our search bar to get stuck in!

Not sure how to pick university accommodation? Read our article on how to ‘Make the Most of Your Student Accommodation.’

8. Will your budget meet the cost of that particular university, course and available accommodation?

There is no doubt that university is an expensive business. Factoring in ways to cut costs from the outset can be a wise way to approach picking a university virtually. Consider looking at accommodation costs, both for purpose-built accommodation and the local area's private rental market. 

We’ve tried to make it as easy as possible for you to weigh up the cost of accommodation in this league table of all the student locations in the UK, from the cheapest to the most expensive.

There are also various online budget calculators that can help you estimate the cost of living within different student towns and cities across the country. Our location pages can also help give you an insight into the costs involved. 

Why not check out the scholarship and bursary provision at different universities to see if you could be eligible or you could apply for various pots of funding? An added consideration to factor in could be the cost of extra resources that you’ll be expected to purchase for your course. This varies widely.

Being mindful of these expenses before arriving at a university can help you work out the kind of budget you’ll need, whether you can afford to live in a particular town or city, and whether you’ll need to look for a student job when you get there.  

9. Have you read the fine print of your course prospectus pages?

When shopping around for university courses, keep in mind that the same course at one university is unlikely to resemble a similar course elsewhere. Modules, course structure, contact time as well as types of assessment are all different components of a course. Doing proper research into each of these will help make sure your chosen course structure is most suited to your interests and study preferences, your current set of study skills or the kind of skills you may want to develop whilst at university. 

Student reviews can also give you insight into how you may experience the course. Visit our course pages to take a look at the ratings students give for their personal tutor experience, value for money, teaching quality and course content.  

Here is what two students had to say about their courses:

The last 3 years at the University of Hull were fantastic, I really enjoyed taking psychology as my course. The classes were informative and well structured.

Student leaving a review for University of Hull

 

Great university! Lecturers are very knowledgeable and highly involved in the industry that they are teaching. Facilities are great which allows delivering very high-quality practical teaching on-site.

Student leaving a review for University of Derby

 

What could you find out about your university course?

10. Have you been in touch with the university departments yet?

Students rank emails from the university as the fifth most important resource in their decision making process (Source: UCAS). And as another online tool, signing up to prospective student email communications can be a good resource to help inform your choice of university. 

Emails don’t have to be a one-way stream of communication. It’s totally normal for prospective students to respond to or reach out to their university with questions they may have or queries about what their time at university may be like. Getting in touch with your uni before arriving or whilst you’re considering your university options can give you a feel for how they communicate and relate to their students. 

Some universities have an online chat function with current students, so they can answer your questions about the course and what it is like to live there.

11. What does the university’s social media presence reveal?

Social media gives you the benefit of being able to scope out the university’s public accounts that you would be following if you were a student already, so make full use of this. It might help you to pick up on extra things to look forward to during your time at uni or aspects of the student experience you might not like so much. 

Be sure to take it all with a pinch of salt as what you see on the internet will often let you see a few perspectives which might not be reflective of everyone's experiences. 

Why not start by identifying a university's main hashtags and search these across different platforms? You also might be able to come across posts from other students and take a sneak peek at what they get up to whilst at university.

12. Will you receive the career support that you’ll need?

Last but not least, just as important as the university experience are graduate prospects post-university. Most students attend uni in the hope that this will help them secure a job and launch them into their career.

Have career help and you may have the opportunity to do a practice assessment center which is a valuable experience.

Student leaving a review for University of Hertfordshire

 

Today’s graduate job market is tough. Having a good careers department can make a big difference to your success as a graduate seeking employment during or following your course. 

Explore our latest league table of the Best Universities for Careers Service.

At StudentCrowd, we are passionate about helping students like you make the right decision about your higher education. You may not be able to sign up for a campus open day but we are confident that you can make great university decisions with the information available at your fingertips.

Why not bookmark this page, come back in a year’s time and leave a review and let us know how you got on? We’d love to hear from you!

 

 

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