It won’t be long until you find out whether you’ve got a place at your dream university.
You’ve probably already read their prospectus, checked out their website and done your research... but how can you discover what the student life is really like?
Here are a few things you can do to get that insightful student scoop on your soon-to-be place of study:
1. Follow your university on social media
Most universities will have a big social media presence, particularly on platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. By following them before you start, you’ll get a more up-to-date account of what it’s like to study there. As well as being able to see the buildings and facilities available, you can find out more about other things, such as what clubs and societies you can take part in and what other extracurricular opportunities are available. By having a sneak peek at the comments, you’ll also be able to get some real feedback from students who already study there.
Universities are also keen for prospective students to show how excited they are, so don’t be shy to interact with them. Post about significant milestones such as UCAS offers and A-Level Results Day and, if you’ve got into your dream institution then tag them to let them know how excited you are! You can also engage with their polls and Q&As and find out early about any changes at your institution. The more you find out, the more at home you’ll feel when you arrive.
2. Reach out to other students
You don’t need to wait until Freshers’ Week to start making friends. Get on Facebook and see if there are any groups you can join to connect with other students. Groups tend to either be organised by people on the same course, or people living in the same halls of residence. Sign up for a couple, see if you can find someone you relate to, and then take it from there.
If you can’t find anything on Facebook, consider checking out Whatsapp, Snapchat, or message boards such as The Student Room instead. Just be wary of groups that haven’t been approved by the institution.
3. See what Freshers’ events are available
Before we start, let’s address the elephant in the room; because of Covid-19, Freshers’ Week won’t quite be the same this year. Some events will be held online, while others will have limited capacity... and some events won’t go ahead at all. But universities are eager to give you a memorable introduction, so most will still try to do something.
It’s worth keeping an eye on social media, both for your university and their Students’ Union, to see what’s on and where you can purchase tickets. It’s also a great way to see who else will be going.
Be wary of Facebook groups or reps trying to sell you unofficial Freshers’ wristbands though. Check with your university to make sure you’re not being ripped off.
4. Check out some great student accounts and blogs
You’re going to have a lot of questions about university. Particularly with regards to stuff like accommodation, timetables and lectures. Universities will try their best to help, but you’ll also want to hear from a third party.
Some students and graduates establish a solid online presence to help new students. Eve Cornwell is one of the best-known StudyTubers in the UK, using her social media platforms to document her time studying at Bristol and the University of Law, as well as her graduate career as a lawyer, and Vee Kativhu’s YouTube channel is packed with advice, such as how to mentally prepare for university.
One of the advantages of following StudyTubers is that they paint a realistic picture of university life. It’s not always bright and rosy, so getting an honest view of higher education from current students is a huge benefit. Some StudyTubers are also an amazing source of information for current events; for instance, Zahra Zahra has used her platform to discuss issues such as the humanitarian crisis in Yemen.
5. Get a feel for the local area
If you’re moving away from home, you might be unfamiliar with your new town or city. Open days (if you’ve managed to attend one) are an opportunity to learn more about your chosen place of study, but what about the surrounding area? It’s useful to know about the local shops, cafés, bars and other amenities too.
Consider joining local groups and following local businesses on social media. As well as helping you better understand your new community, and find out what’s going on, it will also let you scope out all the quirky independent spots that make the place what it is. When you get there and make friends, you can wow them all with your encyclopedic local knowledge.
Have you got any other tips for researching your new university? Join our panel today and let us know; you’ll get a free £10 Amazon voucher when you sign up!