Choosing how and where to study higher education can feel a little daunting. So, it can help to break it down into smaller considerations that can guide you towards the best path, rather than facing it as one big decision.
In this blog, we’ll talk you through these smaller things to consider, to help you reach an overall decision, including:
- Working out which type of higher education study is right for you – from studying at university to choosing a higher apprenticeship
- Weighing up the pros and cons of staying at home vs moving away
- Comparing different location types, for example, moving to a big city vs moving somewhere more rural or coastal
First, think about HOW you want to study
The great news is there are more ways to gain higher education qualifications than ever before. Studying a degree at university is often the obvious route, but did you know you can also study higher education at a local college, or by doing a higher apprenticeship?
Let’s look at some of the benefits of each:
Studying a degree at university
Universities offer a large choice of courses, so if you’re unsure of exactly what you want to do once you graduate, being able to choose a broader, more open-ended course could be useful in terms of keeping your future options open.
Going to university can also enable you to gain a lot more independence, especially if you move away (universities offer a choice of accommodation options). Plus, many students develop a whole new set of soft skills from studying at university – skills that are valuable to most job roles.
Unibuddy on UCAS is a great platform, as it gives you the chance to chat to current students and ask them any questions you might have about uni life. And if you’re interested in learning more about the application process, take a look at our higher education application summary and timeline.
Studying higher education at a local college
Lots of colleges also offer higher education courses, in many of the subjects you’d find at universities. Colleges are well-known for more practical, vocational courses like Higher National Certificates/Diplomas and foundation degrees, often with the opportunity to continue to a full degree through a top-up course.
Some of the benefits of choosing a local college include smaller class sizes, lower tuition fees, flexible study options, such as part-time, and more class contact hours and study support.
Although many local colleges don’t offer student accommodation as universities do, a nearby location gives you the chance to stay close to home and keep your living expenses down.
Read this UCAS article for more information on studying higher education via a local college.
Doing a higher apprenticeship
There’s an increasing number of apprenticeships available to take, across a range of areas, from business and accountancy to IT and nursing. They can be a little more restrictive than university degrees, as they’re focused on providing you with the skills and knowledge for a particular industry or job role. However, many employers value the practical nature and real-life value you can gain through an apprenticeship.
If you’re under 25, you won’t need to pay tuition fees for an apprenticeship, as the government and your employer will fund your training – a great benefit compared to the cost of university tuition fees. Plus, another advantage is that you’re instantly joining the world of work. This means you’re gaining hands-on experience, earning as you study and developing professional contacts from day one.
Read this summary from Prospects for more details on comparing university and apprenticeships.
Staying at home vs moving away
One of the key considerations is going to be whether you want to live at home or move away. And there are lots of benefits to both.
- Less expensive – It’s often to cheaper to stay at home as you won’t need to spend your student loan on paying rent for accommodation. This means you could use your loan towards a laptop, study equipment or social interests.
- Closer to family and friends – If you prefer to have your personal support network nearby, then staying at home could be a great choice. You can still meet lots of new friends at university, but you can do so with the added comfort of being near to your family.
- Familiar surroundings – Staying local also means that when you do want to socialise (with new friends or old), you’re already familiar with the best places to eat, drink, workout and hang out. This is local intel that will be much appreciated by any new friends you make who might not know the area.
- Space and privacy – Living at home often gives you more space to focus on your studies as you won’t feel as pressured into attending every social event. It’s easier to step back and have a quiet night to yourself. Plus, you won’t need to worry about putting up with any annoying habits from potential flatmates, especially if you’re the kind of person that likes to keep your living spaces neat and tidy.
- Independence – You’ll gain more independence whichever option you choose but moving away will open you up to more opportunities to exercise that independence.
- Closer to campus – Uni accommodation is usually close to campus (or even on campus at some institutions), so if you move away you shouldn’t need to walk far to get to lectures and study facilities. Staying at home, on the other hand, could mean you’ll need to commute to lectures, so you’d have to factor in extra time and costs.
- Freedom – Moving away for uni can give you a great sense of freedom. You’ll be able to explore new places and plan your days according to your own schedule. You’ll also be able to come and go as you please, without worrying about disturbing (or waking) your parents.
- Easier to make new friends – Living in student accommodation opens you up to more opportunities to make new friends, as you’ll be surrounded by people in the same boat as you, 24/7. This means you’ll start to grow a friendship group beyond just the people on your course, exposing you to more social scenes, activities and events.
Big city vs rural/coastal location?
If you’re leaning towards moving away to study, one thing to think about is whether you want to move to a big city, or somewhere more rural or coastal. Again, there are benefits to each, so consider which benefits appeal to you the most:
- Easier to get around
- Nearby shops, bars and restaurants
- Lively environment, filled with businesses and entertainment
- Beautiful surroundings
- Often smaller, closer-knit communities
- Generally offer campus-based accommodation, meaning everything you need is one place
Of course, there are some universities that offer the best of both worlds. Some campus-based universities are located fairly close to big cities, so if you’re struggling to decide between the two, that could be the option for you.
Want to know more about campus-based universities and where you can find them? Read this handy list from TheUniGuide.
You can see the difference
One of the best ways to compare between university courses, local college courses and apprenticeships, is to visit different providers. They usually always offer open days and taster events throughout the year, all designed to help you research your options and find out more about what it would be like to study there.
As well as finding out more about the course, you’ll get to explore different campuses, and if you’re considering moving away, this is a great chance to view the local area too.
Look at www.opendays.com and visit different university and college websites to find out when their open events are taking place.
Nervous about the cost?
Don’t be. We know it can prove costly to attend lots of open events, especially if you’re travelling a distance, but if you’re having difficulty financing open day visits, speak to your school, college or the provider you’d like to visit; they may be able to help. Most providers also offer virtual open events, as well as physical events. Attending an online event allows you to explore many of the same areas as actually going on to campus – and providers always give you the opportunity to ask students and staff any questions, so it’s a similar experience to attending in-person.
It’s an exciting time
While all the above considerations are important in helping you reach a decision, they’re also exciting things to be thinking about, so try and enjoy the process as you go along.
We hope this blog has been useful to you. If you have any specific questions at all, please feel free to get in touch – we’re more than happy to help.