Students wish they had done more homework when making university choices

Which? University reveals one in four prospective students feel unprepared when they decide where to study.

With the recommended deadline for universities to offer places for the next academic year tomorrow, new research from Which? University shows that many students don’t feel confident they’ve done enough homework to inform their university choices. A quarter (24%) say they haven’t done all the research they’d have liked to by this point.

One of the best ways to learn more about a university or course is by attending open days and speaking to current students and members of staff. But a quarter (23%) didn’t attend any open days before completing their UCAS application and aren’t planning to when picking firm or insurance choices. Over half (54%) told us they didn’t talk to students at universities when making their decisions and nearly half (47%) didn’t talk to staff.

Paying for a degree is the biggest financial decision most people will make until their thirties so it is important students are supported through this process and given guidance on the sources of information available to help them. It is also important students have access to this advice early in their academic career as decisions made at GCSE and A-level can have an impact on options when it comes to university applications.

Only a quarter (25%) of applicants aged 19 or under felt certain they had enough advice from school or college to make an informed choice and one in five (20%) said they felt the advice they received about A-level options failed to take into account which ones would be seen positively by universities. A quarter (24%) said in hindsight they’d have chosen different A-levels for the degree they’re applying for.

Which? University features information on which A-levels to study for each subject, real-life views about universities and colleges, and general advice to help students with this important decision.

Which? executive director, Richard Lloyd, said: 

“Going to university is a hugely significant financial decision so it’s worrying that so many young people say they didn’t do enough research before applying or that the advice they received wasn’t up to scratch. The vast majority of prospective students are going through this process for the first time, making it vital that they have proper guidance and as much information as possible to help them make the right choice.”

Which? is concerned that young people do not have access to enough information and advice when deciding which university and course to apply for and has been calling for better information to be made available in the Key Information Set (KIS) on the academic experience and employment performance. The Office of Fair Trading has also recently raised concerns about the lack of information provided by universities.

Notes to editors:

1.    Youthsight, on behalf of Which?, surveyed 1,003 UK applicants, of whom 700 were aged 19 and under, intending to start university in September 2014, online between 7th and 24th February 2014. Data were weighted to be representative of the applicant demographic.

2.   Which? University is a free and independent website to help students make more informed decisions about higher education, featuring information on more than 30,000 courses and 286 universities and colleges to search and compare. It brings together facts and statistics from official sources including UCAS, the Higher Education Statistics Agency, the National Student Survey and Destination of Leavers of Higher Education survey. This is combined with real-life insight from students and the unbiased, expert analysis you’d expect from Which?.

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