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Which University? The Big Decision!

Beth Watson Study

If you’re one of those lucky individuals with tonnes of offers in the bag, then congratulations - you now have some decision making to be getting on with! As if finding the right universities to apply to wasn’t stressful enough, you now have to whittle the list down to just one firm and one insurance choice which can be pretty scary. I found myself in a similar position during the application process, so I’m here to tell you why I chose Northumbria and why I don’t regret it one bit. 

As a young person with dreams of working in fashion, Northumbria University had always been on my mind as a potential place to study. There was a lot going for it – rave reviews from friends of mine who were existing students, a good perception of the fashion department in the industry, a beautiful design school and a course with diverse modules that would give me the chance to explore all areas of fashion. I could picture myself having fun and doing well here.

It would have been easy to pin all of my hopes on Northumbria, keeping my fingers crossed that I would be accepted, but I’m way too sensible for that! I spent a lot of time figuring out my other options, not imagining that I would see anywhere else of interest. For the most part, I didn’t see anything to rival Northumbria as the facilities here were just so advanced compared to other universities and my course tutors had impressed me with their attitude on my open day.

Then I came across Birmingham City University, offering a similar course which was targeted more towards the retail sector as opposed to just fashion. A brand new campus was being constructed and the promise of excellent facilities was constantly reinforced at an open day which I thoroughly enjoyed. I interviewed at both universities and received conditional offers almost immediately.

The decision for which would be my firm choice was extremely difficult. When put in this situation, you imagine the different lives you could be leading, the people you could meet, the jobs you could secure and how happy you might be at each university. For me, both courses were equally as interesting and both had a high success rate, so I had to look at other factors to make my decision.

This is where I would 100% recommend attending an open day or arranging a day trip to the city you could be spending the next few years living in. In the end, my decision was based on lifestyle factors as opposed to academic ones. There are a lot of differences between life in Birmingham and life in Newcastle and I wouldn’t have understood that if I hadn’t spent time in both cities.    

Everybody is aware that moving away from home for the first time is a daunting experience, so I thought about how I would feel living alone in each city. Birmingham is a huge city with a lot going on, and as somebody who grew up in a small city on the coast, I wasn’t sure if I was ready for that kind of environment. Newcastle, on the other hand, is smaller but still has plenty going on throughout the week, from sports events to club nights and more. As a student-focused city, you’re also bound to meet people in the same boat as you who understand what you are going through.

It’s important to check out the student areas when you are in town as well, as this is where you’ll be spending a lot of your time. Selly Oak and Perry Barr are the main student areas in Birmingham, and looking around I found them a little intimidating. In Newcastle, however, students tend to populate the areas of Jesmond, Heaton and Sandyford, all of which seemed safe and homely with access to good amenities and lots of open spaces. They are definitely worth a look!

Living in the North East is also super affordable, with cheap accommodation, transportation, food, drinks and more. Even in the pricier bars and restaurants, you can usually access some form of student discount, so you’ll make some great savings and have plenty of cash left over to treat yourself or take a trip to visit your friends and family. This was very important to me when considering where to study as money was tight and I needed to make savings wherever I could. 

The last thing that I could not ignore was the warm welcome I received “up North”! Geordies are famous for their friendly attitude and the majority of locals get on just fine with the city’s students. I definitely got a sense that I would feel like part of the community in Newcastle, which didn’t come across as much in Birmingham where everybody kind of keeps to themselves.

With all this in mind, I realised that Northumbria had to be my first choice. I kissed goodbye to my ideas of student life in Birmingham and started to get excited about the possibilities in Newcastle, even more so when I was formally accepted onto my course.

Almost three years on, I’ve experienced most of what Newcastle and Northumbria have to offer. My course is everything I hoped it would be, I have become part of a small local community, made a lovely bunch of friends and have been living happily in Heaton for over a year. I’m even managing my finances pretty well, so I can safely say I made the right decision.

If I had just considered the university and nothing else, things could have been different. Feeling safe, fulfilled and comfortable are more important than you might think when you haven’t seen your parents for over a month and your work is piling up. Any student would agree that the key to happiness at university is to have a happy academic life AND a happy home life.

At this turning point in your application process, my main pieces of advice would be:

  • Gather information on the courses that you have received offers from to ensure they are the right fit for you
  • Attend an offer holder open day or visit  each city to get a feel for the way of life
  • Consider your wellbeing outside of university hours as it can have more of an impact than you realise

When you’ve done this, make your big decision and start looking forward to the future!   

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