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Nine things to look for when comparing university courses

So you’ve decided on a subject to study at university, but there are so many courses to choose from – how do you pick just five for your Ucas form?

Don't worry if you're struggling to narrow down your university choices – there are plenty of things you can consider to make choosing easier. 

What to look for when comparing courses:

1. Entry requirements

It's a good idea to look at courses where the entry requirements match your predicted grades – while also having a back-up option with slightly lower grades in case your exams don't go to plan.

You can search for courses based on your predicted grades or Ucas points here on The Uni Guide.

Why it’s useful: making realistic choices gives you a much better chance of being offered a place – there's no harm in applying for one course with ambitious entry requirements, as long as you apply for more achieveable courses alongside it. 

2. Type of university

There are different types of universities – some may have a particularly active political scene or reputation for sport, for instance, while others may have a strong student union offering lots of societies and nightlife options. Take a look at universities on The Uni Guide – we’ve tagged them with specific characteristics like 'sporty', 'varied union activities' and 'creative'.

Why it’s useful: you could be spending three or four years at this university. It’s about finding the best fit for you, based on your interests and values.

3. Location

Universities and colleges offering degrees differ hugely – from self-contained campuses where you can study, rest and play to the hustle and bustle of city life where you have to travel to lectures.

Do you plan to live at home and commute or move to the other side of the country? Have a think about what the travelling will be like and how much it'll cost. 

This article on our sister site The Student Room goes into more detail about the differences between campus and city universities

Why it’s useful: if you’re looking for buzzing nightlife and end up on a sleepy self-contained campus, you may not get the experience you’re looking for. Go to an open day to get a feel for the area.

4. Student satisfaction scores

All final-year students are asked to rate their course and university experience in the annual National Student Survey. The findings are often quoted as an overall satisfaction score but you can also find specific ratings such as teaching, feedback from staff and facilities. 

Why it’s useful: it can give you a glimpse into what students think about the course. Look for student scores on The Uni Guide course pages – we’ve analysed the levels of overall student satisfaction against other universities offering the same subject.

5. How you’ll spend your time

Will you have a structured timetable with lectures, seminars or practical work – or will you be expected to work independently in the library? What about placement year opportunities?

Teaching hours will also vary depending on the subject you’re applying for. For example, there will probably be fewer timetabled hours on a history course than an engineering one, but you’ll be expected to study by yourself the rest of the time.

Why it’s useful: comparing teaching hours and style of learning between similar courses at different universities should help you find the best fit for you. 

6. Course content

Look through the course information offered by the university and ask yourself if you can happily spend the next few years of your life committed to this degree. Similar-sounding courses can actually end up covering very different areas, so checking the modules gives you a better idea of the course's focus.

There will be core subjects that you have to do and optional subjects you can choose – so take a look and see if the modules appeal to you.

Why it’s useful: if you don’t like the course content, you probably won't like the course and may end up dropping out. It's well worth doing your research.

7. How you’ll be assessed

Your degree could be assessed in lots of different ways – coursework, exams, practicals, presentations and group work. When comparing courses, try to find a course that plays to your academic strengths.

Why it’s useful: if you're comfortable with the way in which a course is assessed, you can feel confident about showing the knowledge you've learned.

8. Graduate prospects

Find out what students are up to after they graduate from studying a subject at a particular university – including the percentage who are now in work or further study, the types of professions they’re working in and how much they’re earning.

On The Uni Guide course pages we’ve analysed these figures so you can see at a glance whether salaries and employment rates are high, typical or low compared to graduates of the same subject from other universities.

Why it’s useful: some fields require you to get some experience under your belt before you see a bump up in salary (so don’t be put off if the initial graduate salary for a subject is low). 

9. Professional accreditation

For certain subjects (like acting or psychology) choosing a course that’s been accredited by a relevant body will ensure you’re work-ready or able to progress straight into the appropriate postgraduate course. This will give you a headstart when it comes to getting into a specific profession.

Why it’s useful: you don’t want to end up on a course which could make it more difficult to achieve your ultimate career goals. 

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