If you know roughly what subject area you wish to study during university (or even two subjects that you are choosing between/considering doing a joint honours degree in) then you can start to use the search tool on UCAS. This tool will allow you to see which universities offer the subject you wish to study. This also gives you an idea as to whether the universities offer a specific form of your subject which you may want to investigate further, or may want to avoid. For example some universities may offer a general ‘English Literature’ course while others may offer a more specific course in ’English Literature and Creative Writing’ which may be more suited to the field you wish to study.
These results can also be tailored by distance so you can gauge how far you may need to travel to look into a course that interests you. Similarly, you will also be able to tailor this depending on whether you know if you will be moving away from home for university, or staying at home.
When you click on the title of a course that comes up in the UCAS search tool you will be taken to a page of information on this specific course, at the specific university providing it. On the front page of this information you receive the very basic information about the course, a very brief summary, contact details and the location of the university on a map. If you go to other tabs on this page you can find more detailed information such as the entry requirements of the course, fees and a section on how to apply to the course.
All of this information is very useful to you to see what is important when comparing universities and to allow you to get an idea of what appeals to you. If you are keeping a folder of information on universities throughout your research then these pages are useful when printed off and they provide a lot of information just at a glance. Importantly UCAS also provide a link to the website of the actual university where you can find more detailed information and investigate further through open days.
These open days are the next step in your research as they are incredibly useful as they show you what the university is really like. Firstly, you can book your place to go to open days on each university’s website which is usually easy and quick to do. Each university carries out their open days differently, but they all involve you going to the university buildings yourself and attending a talk about the courses that interest you, given by the members of staff who teach that course at the university. These open days allow you to experience the buildings and staff of the actual university to see if you can see yourself studying there. There is also no pressure on you for these open days as this is the universities chance to impress you enough to want to study with them.
Keeping notes in the talks is vital so you may want to have a notebook specifically for the notes you take down at open days or transfer the pages into a folder. Taking pictures of the university building can also be helpful to remind you of what the building and university was like further down the line of your university application.
Travelling around to these open days can be a good way to fill your summer as after the open day you can visit the city after you have visited the university. This is not just a good experience to fill your summer but it can also give you the chance to see if you like the city enough to possibly live there through out university, if you are moving away from home.
Many university websites, and websites on the internet in general, have blogs and articles regarding university experiences and what to expect when going to university open days, so these can be useful to you to read if you want a first hand account. Also, current students can be at open days and are willing to answer questions about the course they are studying and about the university in general and these take place out side of timed events so if you see one of these students feel free to have a conversation with them and find out more.
I hope that this advice on the research you can do on universities during the summer was helpful and good luck to anyone doing their university research.