Top tips on selecting your 5 choices on UCAS

By Haaroon Younis

Selecting which five University courses you want to apply for is undoubtedly a difficult decision that will shape your future so it’s important you get your choices right.
I’ve compiled some top tips to help you with your decision and some things to think about and consider when picking your choices.


  1. Check entry requirements

The general rule of thumb is that you should select one high risk choice, three achievable (mid risk) choices, and one low risk choice. The choices should be based on your predicted grades and what you think you’re likely to achieve. You should have a pretty good idea by now regarding what grades you may get as you’ve probably done mocks.

For example if you are predicted AAB your choices should be along the lines of:

AAA (1 high risk)
AAB (3 achievable/mid risk)
BBB (1 low risk)

It’s essential that you have a good mix of choices that ask for a variety of grades ranging from ambitious to safe choices based on your predicted grades.

Avoid: Don’t pick five choices that that all ask for the same grades. It normally means you won’t have an insurance choice, if you don’t get the grades. And also if the entry requirements are roughly the same or higher than your predicted grades you’re drastically increasing your chances of not getting any offers.


  1. Finances

One thing most students overlook is the financial implications of their choices. It is crucial that you choose Universities you can afford to go to.

You should approximately how much you are entitled to through Student Finance. Compare this with the accommodation and living costs of all of your potential choices. If you want to stay at home and save money then that automatically rules out a lot of Universities. If you’re looking at studying at a London University doubly check the costs. Ask yourself questions such as, will I need to get a part-time job alongside my studies to fund my living? How easy is it to get a part time job in that location? Will I be able to balance studying and working part time?

Bonus tip: Lots of Universities offer scholarships and financial support that you do not have to repay back. Have a look at the financial support available at all of your choices. It’s quite common that some Universities may offer financial incentives for those with high grades (achievement scholarships), whereas other Universities might expect the same grades without any financial incentive. A potential extra £1000 a year could make a huge difference to your finances so research what is available.


  1. Research & compare

The course is probably the real reason you’re going to University and with so many to choose from it can difficult to differentiate and choose the right ones.
Below is a list of questions you should ask yourself whilst comparing different courses and different universities.

  • Does the course offer the opportunity to study abroad or do a work placement?
  • What is the student satisfaction score and graduate employment statistics?
  • Do the modules covered in the course seem interesting and relevant to you?
  • How is the course and each module assessed? Is it through coursework, exams, presentations or a combination of all three? Which type of assessment method do you prefer?

Bonus tip: Not all courses with the same name are identical in content. There might be quite a bit of variation so still do your research thoroughly.



  1. University culture

Every University and campus has its own culture and vibe and whilst people from all walks of life are at every University and there is something for everyone, the stereotypes you’ve heard about a University might have some truth in them.

Most Universities have a reputation for something or a prevalent culture. For example, Lancaster and York Universities are in small, secluded cities and have a quieter social scene, whereas Leeds, Manchester and Bristol Universities are in big, vibrant cities with thriving clubbing scenes and partying reputations. Another example is Leeds Beckett, which has a sporty culture and reputation.

If good nightlife, clubbing and socialising are important to you then you would be better suited at a University based in a big city, and vice versa, if the nightlife is not your thing you may want to consider a University that doesn’t have that sort of reputation.


  1. Choose carefully

The last tip is choose your choices carefully and strategically. Pick choices where you would genuinely, realistically be happy to go to. Do not pick two or three you like and the rest as ‘filler’ choices you’ve not researched and don’t know much about!

Bonus tip: You never know which universities will make you an offer and there are no guarantees that your favourite choices will give you an offer. You don’t want to end up in a situation where your option may be to attend one of the ‘filler’ choices you selected.

You will be spending the next three years of your life at a University so do your research and pick ones that are realistic for you to get into and also ones you can see yourself living and studying there.