Universities tend to have similar facilities. Most will have something resembling a library, a sports centre, a careers service, a gym and a student guild.
There are always going to be differences between universities however, and some universities might value one service more than another; they might put slightly more weight on their careers service, on the amenities and activities offered by the Students' Union.
You might want to think about where you’re going to sleep when you get to uni, and how the uni itself might help out.
Can the university guarantee accommodation for first year students? Are there any guarantees beyond that, or will you have to fend for yourself in second and third years?
What’s the wifi like? Is it provided by the university, or will you have to seek out alternatives yourself? Easy access to the internet can make those long night study sessions infinitely more manageable.
Where is the accommodation located? On campus – which might prove safer – or elsewhere, in the city centre, which might make coming home after a late night slightly more dangerous.
Sports and societies
This could genuinely be a deciding factor for you. If you’re an avid writer, being able to attend a Creative Writing society or having your work published in a student journal might well be a must, just like the boxing aficionados out there might well want to step in the ring themselves.
More specific tastes might be harder to cater for. If you’re looking for something specialist; a climbing wall, Quidditch, a marital art like kickboxing, anything obscure or which might require unique equipment you may well have to look a little harder.
To make sure you wind up where you want to be, doing what you want to do make sure you research your uni's Students' Union before applying. Make sure they meet your needs.
The Students' Union
The Students' Union (sometimes called a Guild or Association) is the central touchstone between you and the university. It’s the main means through which you and your friends can get your message to your uni, and the central organising body for all the cool, interesting things students can take part in. It’s worth making sure, before you make your decision, that yours is well-staffed, well-funded, well-supported, and, for the most part, successful.
More often than not, they'll offer the same brand of activities and services; Fresher's Fares, concerts, live music, bars, night clubs and restaurants, and anything to do with sports. Their exact levels of success, exactly how satisfied their students are with the performance, might well vary from university to university.
All of our university profiles include brief descriptions of the Students' Union, so take a look if you want to know more before you apply.
Academia aside, universities are about preparing you for work, about making sure you develop the skills needed to carve out a professional niche for yourself. University isn’t just about knowledge for knowledge’s sake; it’s about making sure you know how to take care of yourself.
In pursuit of that, most universities will have careers services, services which make contact with graduate employers in the name of securing relevant work placements and valuable experience to both help you decide what you want to do with your life and make sure you’re equipped to do it.
They might also help you find part-time work; making sure your hours meet statuary requirements and fit around your timetable. They’ll find you work and support you in your pursuit of it.
Universities should be and usually are capable of accommodating anyone with special needs. They’ll have a deep, comprehensive understanding of The Disability and Equality act of 2010, as well as all of the associated legislation and they’ll know how to make you feel as welcome as possible.
Nonetheless, it’s worth making the effort to check. It’s best to know, not to assume, that a particular university can adjust to your needs. Older universities, for example, might continue to use older buildings. Buildings that can be a challenge to navigate and that might make your life a little more difficult if you suffer from any sort of physical disability. Have the confidence to ask directly, and make sure you know before you apply.
Keeping all this in mind will help when it comes to making a decision that’s right for you, to picking a university that's well suited to your needs. Put the effort in now and reap the benefits later.
Next page: Choosing a University Checklist