Choosing your university

For those of you applying to the UK for university, you will have to choose 5 universities for your UCAS application. Here’s how you do this.

  1. Find rankings.

Here are a few university ranking guides that you can use to decide on which university you want to apply to. This should be your first step. Decide roughly what type of university you want to apply to: top 10? top 20? top 50? You can decide where you want to aim by looking at your current grades. The grade requirement typically becomes higher as you go higher up the rankings.

Bear in that mind that the first two links below are the more popular UK rankings.

  1. The Guardian: 
  2. The Times:
  3. QS:
  4. The Complete University Guide:

Take the guides with a pinch of salt! All the guides base their rankings on slightly differing criteria, such as research quality, student satisfaction, entry standard, completion rate. So I suggest reading up on what criteria each guide uses. But if you’re too lazy to do this, a safe way would probably be to cross-check the rankings across the guides, e.g. top 10 universities across all rankings.

One more tip is that it is normal for people to have a ‘back-up’ choice or a ‘safety-net’. This is really important. You don’t want to have all 5 universities requiring 3A*. So for example, if your first 4 universities require 3As, you would want your 5th choice to require 2As 1B in case you don’t meet your 3A offer.


  1. Research differences in the course in different universities.

I failed to do this for my own UCAS application. Can you believe it? This is very, very important and you mustn’t skip this step. Courses differ hugely across universities and this will literally make or break your academic experience in university. There are several ways that they can differ: the lecturers, the amount of options you get, the exam structure, the day-to-day lecture-tutorial ratio.

For example, I did not know when I applied that Cambridge’s Law course offers more choice of modules than Oxford, and has exams at the end of every year, instead of 100% of your final grade being based on your final year exams.


  1. Is it right for you?
  • Do you want to go to a university that has a campus lifestyle or is in a city?

The universities in London don’t have a campus lifestyle, e.g. UCL, LSE, KCL, Queen Mary, due to the space constraints. That was one of the reasons I chose to apply to Warwick, Durham and Oxford (in addition to LSE and UCL). The university buildings in London are dotted around the city so it feels like you’re not in university, whereas in Oxford you’re in a university town so it feels really cozy and homey. Bear in mind that cost of living in London will also be much higher than outside of it, e.g. accommodation, cost of food, transport.

  • Does the university have all the facilities you require?

This question would most likely apply to science students. You would want really great lab facilities. However, for humanities students this doesn’t hugely apply.

  • Still unsure?

Order a prospectus from the universities!

Go to an Open Day to visit the university and see if it’s right for you! This is probably the best way to see if you’ll enjoy being there. After all, this is 3 or 4 years of your life. I would say visiting it for a day and having a tour is more than worthwhile. Check out the dates for open days on the official university website, or at a combined calendar on

Contact us and we will be most happy to give you advice on what to do and how to choose your university.