Results are in and I am proud to be graduating from Leicester with a 1st in MPhys Physics. To my great surprise I have also won a Departmental Prize (these are prizes awarded by the department every year for doing particularly well at something, for some examples see page 24 of the 4th Year Information Guide). My graduation is looming and I’m feeling pretty excited. This time last year I was terrified at the prospect of finishing my degree, however now I definitely think I am ready! Besides, I have got my PhD to look forward to.
Since this is my final blog I thought I’d look back at my five years (yes, five years!) at university and give a few tips on the sort of thing you should consider when you choose which university to attend. In hindsight I was very lucky to have chosen Leicester and it couldn’t have worked out better for me, though at the time I really didn’t put as much thought into it as I should have. A few things I would bear in mind (aside from the obvious, such as the course itself) are:
1) Part time work opportunities. When you attend an open day ask the ambassadors/ student guides whether there are many work opportunities about campus. You may find you need an extra bit of cash each month on top of your maintenance loan. I had one year at Leicester where I had six jobs around the university! These ranged from note-taking, to working as a student ambassador.
2) Accommodation. I would definitely check how easy accommodation is to come by. I have never struggled to find accommodation at Leicester no matter how late I left it, however I’ve heard this is not the case for all universities.
3) Campus-based universities? I personally would always choose a university that is centred on one campus. Aside from being convenient, I also prefer campus life since there is a real feeling of community. I have heard universities that are spread around a city/ town can be lonely, though this is very subjective and many of my friends don’t mind at all.
4) Contact hours. When you choose your university check how many hours you will be in the department for. This is also something to consider when you decide which subject to take. If you work well without too much guidance this won’t be an issue, though I prefer as many hours as possible so I can interact with my course friends on a regular basis and make sure I have plenty of opportunities to ask for help. Science subjects typically have more contact hours than others.
5) The careers department. Now that you are paying the higher tuition fees you want to make sure you have the best chance of securing a job at the end of your degree. Make sure the careers department at the university you want to go to is very active. For example, at Leicester the careers department arranges mock interviews, gives you one-to-one advice on your CV/ job applications, organises networking events and keeps in close contact with you after you graduate.
The other thing Leicester does is offer around 500 internships at the university, just for Leicester graduates. These can be within any department of the university and are geared towards giving you experience and helping you obtain a graduate job. My friend did one of these internships and got a job at the university at the end of it. Other universities may offer similar schemes to this, so they are definitely worth looking out for!
6) New buildings and change. The final thing I would take into account when you pick your university is whether or not there is any evidence of change – for example new buildings/ changes to the course. This indicates the university is constantly trying to improve things for students, both as regards ranking in the league tables and in order to make your life better during your degree. While I have been at Leicester University it has climbed the league table rankings and built 2 new sports centres, along with a new union and O2 Academy. It feels like the university is constantly improving and is definitely on the up.
I hope that helps and good luck with your university applications. I am off to get ready for graduation and enjoy my summer before the real work begins!