Find out what degree, subject, and course to study in college, including how to apply.
What should I major in?
Start with the subject you want to learn before looking at individual courses. If not, consider the following questions:
You’ve studied it before?
What are your favourite A-level, Highers, etc. subjects? Which classes do you enjoy or ace?
If English literature is your favourite class and you’re continually reading, an English degree is a good choice.
Will you be interested in that subject in three or four years, enough to work independently?
Do degrees differ from A-level, GCSE, etc.? Here are some module examples.
What do you want to do after college? Will your major help you get there?
Many careers consider graduates from a wide range of topics (though you’ll need transferable abilities like research and problem-solving).
Is it career-related?
You want to be a journalist? Or maybe an unplanned work experience gig opened your eyes to that career.
How does the industry view your university subject? Need it to get that job? Many degrees are accepted as journalism degrees, therefore you don’t need one.
Have you done enough work to know if this is the correct career? Don’t base your career on movies and TV — it could be different.
Interested in life’s major questions? Consider a philosophy degree.
This isn’t a frequent A-level, so you may not have studied it before applying to college.
What’s involved? Consult a careers consultant, look online, or examine your course modules.
Your impression of a subject may not match reality.
What’s next? Consider your employment options when choosing a major.
You might learn about undiscovered employment.
What to do?
Once you know the general subject you wish to study, research courses.
Interested in history? Take a Modern History course.
Even with the same name, courses might vary greatly between universities.
All universities offer your course? Few UK universities offer veterinary science, limiting your possibilities.
If you wish to study business, you may choose from over 170 universities and several degrees.
For certain areas, like acting or psychology, choosing an authorised programme can ensure you’re ‘work-ready’ or able to proceed straight into the right postgraduate school, giving you a head start in a specific field.
Compare courses by:
Reading the course content for similar-sounding courses helps you compare them.
How flexible are core and optional subjects?
Many appealing modules?
Could you do related reading to prepare?
This would help with a personal statement.
Coursework, exams, practicals, presentations, and group work may be used to assess your degree.
Compare courses to find one that plays to your academic talents.
If your previous courses mainly relied on one style of evaluation – BTEC Nationals, for example – you may encounter a steep learning curve if you choose a different one.
Match course entry requirements to your expected grades to make realistic selections based on what you’re likely to accomplish – and a back-up option in case you don’t.
You’ll need to pick which universities are your firm (first) and insurance (second) choices based on their offers.
Your five Ucas choices should include a safe bet and an aggressive one based on your projected grades.
Make sure your second insurance has lower entrance requirements. It’s your safety net.
National Student Survey asks all final-year students to rank their courses and universities (NSS).
You can find detailed scores for instruction, staff comments, and amenities in addition to an overall satisfaction level.
It shows what students think of the course.
Find out what students do after graduating from a university course, including the percentage in work or further study, the professions they’re in, and how much they’re making.
LEO data shows what students who studied a certain subject at a university earned one, three, and five years after graduation.
Can’t choose between two topics? You may locate a combined course.
This could be a combination of familiar and fresh topics.
ottish colleges offer specific degrees (e.g. politics), but you’ll explore a wide range of disciplines in your first year.
In the second year, you can continue with this subject or specialise in others.
Study abroad, sandwich, or placement
You don’t have to attend classes for three years.
Sandwich and placements can help you put theory into practise – crucial for teaching, engineering, medicine, and nursing.
There may be options to study abroad for a term or a year, which is a great opportunity.
Where should I study?
After choosing your subject and course, decide where you want to go for the next few years (especially if a course is very similar at different universities and you need something to distinguish your options).
The ‘city factor’ can offer a unique viewpoint when choosing a university course, one that can effect your total university experience years later.
It’s worth examining what there is to do for pleasure and the overall ambiance. You won’t have classes 24/7.
For many, university offers a chance to leave home and live somewhere fresh.
Staying home and commuting to local classes may be cheaper.
Open days are a great method to determine if an institution is suited for you.
Learn your environment by asking:
Where are my classes?
Where can I stay?
How’s the transport? How long does it take to reach campus from student halls?
What’s the nightlife like?
Consider these when choosing a university city.
Near vs. far
If you plan to visit home often, choose a school with decent transportation.
If you’re an adventurer or don’t want mom and dad to drop by, think further afield.
City vs. town
While a huge metropolis like London or Birmingham may sound fantastic, it also have disadvantages.
Will you have time (and money) to enjoy every student night, gig, and pop-up restaurant?
Smaller cities, like Edinburgh, Nottingham, or Leeds, may be less intimidating and make getting to 9am lectures easier.
Self-contained campuses or’student towns’ have everything you need for living and learning in one spot, whereas lecture theatres and student facilities are spread around a city.
You may feel more independent at a university with more spread out lectures and dormitories (but you will further to travel to get around).
Even if you choose a city-based university, it doesn’t imply lectures will be in the midst of the action. Check where you’ll be spending most of your time.
Rent and living costs, like your weekly purchase or a pint, vary widely across the country.
London’s choice of institutions, large list of (free) things to do, and status as one of the world’s most famous cities might not mean as much when your rent leaves your account each month.
How much is your term housing? This includes private apartments and halls, where you’ll spend your post-freshman years.
Travel budget? Check ticket pricing if you want to take peak-time trains or buses to lectures.
Bigger cities offer more stores, pubs, cafes, and restaurants where you can find part-time work, but smaller ones with more students may be more competitive.
Use our student budget calculator to compare student finance and other subsidies to living costs at your selected university/universities.
One place may be better for your favourite hobbies, whether they’re history or athletics.
Sheffield lacks surf spots, compared to Southampton and Brighton.
Deeper disparities exist. Metalheads may flock to Birmingham, home of Black Sabbath and Judas Priest, leaving ‘Mad-chester’ to indie youths.
Rugby lovers may prefer Cardiff over Newcastle’s Toon Army.
Universities may have a vibrant political or sports scene.
Reputation and rankings
Universities may claim they’re ‘Top 10 for this’ or ‘3rd best in the country for that’ What does this mean?
The Complete University Guide, Guardian League Table, and The Times’ Good University Guide are the most prominent for UK universities. When assessing universities, they examine teaching quality and tutor-to-student ratio.
Many of these rankings look at universities overall. Oxford, Cambridge, Imperial College London, etc. trade top spots annually. A lower-ranked university may be helpful for your subject (eg it has close links to industry, top-notch facilities).
While these league tables are helpful, don’t base your entire decision on them. Just because a university is ranked highly doesn’t imply it’s appropriate for you.
How to enter university
Grades and conditions you must meet to apply to a university course.
Each university uses these to swiftly assess your course suitability.
These can vary, but normally involve advanced-level certifications and grades that prove you have the necessary abilities and knowledge.
1. Uni admission criteria vary.
Ucas entry requirements for any course can be listed many ways. They could be:
A-level, AAAB, DDD (BTEC)
112 Ucas points
112 Ucas points with a B in one subject
They all generally mean the same thing (although BTEC DDD and A-level DDD are different!).
2. Subjects important to universities, not just grades.
A university may require you to have taken one or more certain subjects.
This is vital while picking A-levels, especially if you have a degree in mind. Doctors, take note!
Sometimes subject-specific requirements are needed, sometimes they’re a preference that can benefit your application.
Some institutions may not accept particular disciplines or need extra criteria if you apply with them.
Law A-level isn’t required to study law at the university level.
3. Qualifications matter sometimes.
While some institutions issue offers purely on Ucas tariff points, most are precise about the level and combination of qualifications they want.
Medicine and law normally demand A-levels (rather than BTECs).
4. Check GCSE requirements
Most universities require a 4/5 in GCSE English, math, and science.
Some college courses include required subjects and grades.
Since A-levels have changed, universities may look to your GCSE marks as a formal sign of your academic competence.
5. Universities don’t allow retakes
Some selective universities or disciplines, like medicine, may require all A-levels at once.
This affects students who want to repeat tests after sixth form or who took exams early.
Universities may allow retakes but boost their offer by a grade, so an ABB offer becomes AAB. This is frequent for Scottish students applying to a university in their home country.
If you don’t obtain the grades you wanted, talk to your teachers or head of year.
6. Are there university or course requirements?
You could say these are utilised to show how a course compares to others.
A course needing A*AA-ABB or equivalent will be evaluated differently than one requiring CCD and lower.
Ucas entry requirements aren’t always helpful for judging a course’s value.
7. Can college requirements change?
A university can adjust its entry requirements until you receive an offer.
You could apply for a subject assuming the university wants BBC at A-level, but get BBB instead.
This might also work backwards.
This offer is optional. You can’t change it.
8. Universities’ declared admission requirements?
Possibly. But there are grey areas.
When a course requires AAB, the university will only examine such grades.
Some may want those grades or equivalents, thus A*AC may do.
A institution may require BBC or 112 Ucas tariff points, yet admit students with lower grades.
9. What if you don’t make the cut?
Your grades may not meet university criteria.
There’s a chance a university will accept you with lesser grades if they have open spots (though three Cs when your offer was ABB probably won’t work).
On results day, call the university to ask if it will still accept you.
You can apply to a different course through Ucas Clearing with your results.
How can I pick first and insurance schools?
Once you receive all your Ucas offers, you’ll need to choose your first – or ‘firm’ – university and your back-up, or ‘insurance’ option.
Firm university choice?
Your firm choice is your first college. If you meet the requirements, it’s yours.
Make sure you can meet the standards and desire to travel there.
What’s your college insurance?
Insurance is your second choice. It’s there if you don’t meet first-choice requirements.
Pick a place with lower-grade conditions so you don’t become stuck.
If your first choice falls through, you’ll have to go to your insurance choice, so don’t choose somewhere you wouldn’t want to go.
No insurance needed (but it makes sense to do so).
What’s the deadline?
You don’t have to choose your first and insurance options until you hear from (up to) five schools. Ucas Track will show you the deadline.
Early May or June is the deadline.
FAQ about firms and insurance
Can I apply for insurance-related housing?
Some institutions will let you apply for housing even if they’re your backup; most will only do so if you’ve chosen their course.
If you choose your insurance school, you’ll need to apply for housing after results day. Housing can help you.
My firm and insurance selections effect my student loan application?
Your university choice can effect student aid.
Some universities charge up to £9,250 in tuition fees, so your loan will be adjusted to cover this.
Maintenance loans vary based on where your firm and insurance are located in the UK. London’s away-from-home students receive more than elsewhere.
If you change your mind, update your student financing information so you’re accurately assessed.
What happens after I choose?
Once you choose a firm and insurance, your other options will disappear from Ucas Track, so be careful before you submit.
Ucas Track follows.
This practise has grown in recent years and indicates you’re in, no questions asked.
If you receive a message stating a conditional offer has been firmly accepted, the place is yours if you meet the course criteria on results day.
Will you reconsider?
I don’t wish to attend any of the offered universities. Next?
Once you decline a space, it’s gone, so be sure.
If your Ucas options don’t work out, you can try again.
Try Ucas Extra if you don’t accept offers.
Enter Clearing to locate a different course if you don’t meet firm or insurance requirements (or try again next year).
If you do better than predicted, ask for Ucas Adjustment.
Can I transfer my firm for my insurance company?
When you determine which universities to choose for company and insurance, there are specific expectations.
If you get the grades, you’ll attend your top pick.
Change your thoughts quickly. Change your Ucas answers within 7 days. Things get tricky otherwise.
You must ask your first university and insurance choice to release you from your accepted place.
No university will force you to go, yet you’ve contracted with them.
Can I swap subjects at university?
University course switches are possible, but not necessarily easy.
If you can switch courses depends on whether there’s space and if you meet the entry requirements.
Transfers may be possible (the earlier, the better), but they shouldn’t be counted on.
It’s easier to invest time now and make sure you chose the correct degree. If you’re asking this, examine your commitment to the course.
It’s not worth the risk to take a course to get into a more competitive one.
Some students switch courses to get into popular majors like medicine. Never mind! Years ago, these courses caught on.
Before dropping out, consider what you’ll owe in student loans.