Making Successful Applications to University – Part 1: Choosing the right course

Darllenwch yn y Gymraeg

This week’s blog is from Rhys Phillips (originally from Blackwood), UK Student Recruitment & Outreach Officer at University of Southampton, with his advice on choosing the right course.

Southampton University logo copy

When thinking about university applications, two words usually spring to mind: Personal Statement. Whilst it is true that a strong personal statement is vital to making a successful application to university, I would argue that it is actually the final stage of an applications procedure that should realistically begin now for Year 12 students. For the purposes of this post, I am going to break these procedures down into three separate areas and address them over the coming weeks. This week we will focus on the first stage of making a successful application: choosing the right course.

Choosing the right course

Do you know your future career? If ‘yes’, then you are already well on the way to choosing the right course. Websites such as Prospects and Unifrog offer guidance by career aspirations and can help you choose a suitable course to help further that goal. If you answered ‘no’, then do not panic. There are many more like you and a solid career aspiration will often come with time. One thing you must ask yourself in this instance is ‘What really interests me?’ The majority of undergraduate degrees last for three years, longer if you opt for a year in industry or abroad, so what really interests you? You will need to maintain that interest for the duration of your degree, so choose wisely.

Once you have chosen a course or subject area, you now need to think about institutions. UCAS course search is a great place to start and will list all institutions that match your individual preferences. From here you will be able to view key course information and link directly to the provider’s website. One of the most valuable pieces of material here is the list of modules available for individual courses.

Remember that due to academic specialisms, although universities may offer similar courses by name, they often differ quite considerably from institution to institution. The challenge of this can be countered by viewing the modular detail for each course, thereby allowing you to view specific details about the topics you will cover over the duration of your studies.


When you have drawn up a shortlist of courses, it is worth considering the reputation both of the institution and the individual course itself. The Complete University Guide is a fantastic ‘all-in-one’ resource that allows you to compare both institutional and course specific performance. Remember that although an institution may rank highly in the league tables, your chosen course may not and vice-versa. You should also look at employment rates upon graduation, with Unistats providing a free and convenient way to check employment and accreditation rates six months after graduation, as well as average graduate starting salaries.

Finally, you should consider the wider reputation of your chosen institution, such as whether they are part of the Russell Group and the strength and quality of their research output. The Russell Group represents 24 leading UK universities which are committed to maintaining the very best research. Russell Group graduates are highly sought after by employers, both nationally and internationally. Eleven of the top 50 universities in the world, as ranked by employers, are Russell Group universities and graduates from Russell Group institutions earn on average 10% more than graduates of other universities over a lifetime[1].

Next time we will look at the next stage of the application procedure: enriching your application.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s