Choosing the right university, and why I chose Durham.

Sophie Clarke

The idea of choosing your university can seem like an extremely overwhelming task. I found creating a simple list of criteria to use when looking at different universities made the decision a little easier. Using the list below I narrowed down my list of possible universities.

My criteria

  • The grades- are the course requirements achievable
  • Ranking – so you can see the quality of the course in comparison to other Unis
  • The course content- finding courses/modules which I am interested in or provide flexibility
  • Things outside of the course – societies and social life
  • The city/location and the distance/journey from home

Choose your course first & do research

Once I had decided that I wanted to study Ancient History I looked at the university rankings, and from the rankings, I chose universities with courses that had similar grade requirements to my predicted grades. I found it’s good to research whole departments as then you can look at all the courses in a similar department, and decide what you are truly interested in. I found my course Ancient History, which was perfect for me as it provided flexibility to choose modules from the Classics and languages department if I wished. So in my first year, I am doing modules on Ancient History, Classics, Philosophy and Beginners Italian.

Attend an open day… if you can!

The next step after finding courses I liked was researching deeper into the kind of life I would have at these different universities. As I was applying during the pandemic I attended online open days, looked at university websites and prospectuses. I found other non-official university websites like The Student Room and even YouTube videos helpful as they gave more of a student perspective.

From this research, I discovered that Durham’s college system really appealed to me, as it creates a sense of community which is unlike normal student accommodation. I have absolutely loved every second of being in college as it makes it so easy to make friends as you are part of an instant community, so it has really fulfilled my expectations.

Another reason Durham appealed to me was the opportunity for college and Uni wide societies. This means no matter your level of ability in a sport or skill there is always a place for you. As college societies tend to be more casual and social, whereas University level is more competitive, which I loved because it means there is societies for all abilities and all levels of commitment. I really recommend researching the opportunities outside of the course as these are so important as they will be where you socialise and make friends.

As I was applying during the Pandemic, there were no in-person open days until the summer a couple of weeks before I started my first term. But to be honest, I didn’t need an open day to know I loved Durham, everything about it appealed to me. The high-ranking courses, the collegiate system, the extra societies and sports, everything sounded perfect for me. I knew I liked the university aspect, and now it was just working out if I would be happy living there. I decided that I had to visit properly and see what the city was really like. My mum and I drove up and wandered around the city all day, visiting the Cathedral, the Classics and Ancient History department on the Bailey we even walked up to the library. That was it I was sold!

Knowing Durham was right for me

I know I am biased, but Durham is such a beautiful city, its cobbled streets and historic buildings make walking to lectures and just walking around so enjoyable, and even on my first visit, I could imagine myself living in Durham.

On a more practical note, although Durham can sometimes be thought to be small, I think it is a perfect size, it has every shop and restaurant you would need, without the overwhelming feeling of a huge university environment. Everyone has a connection to everyone, and I love that as it means you never stop making new friends.

So, after I received my offer, I was finally able to attend an offers holder’s open day, where we were given a tour of campus. This visit solidified it as speaking to current students and even the other future students made me realise that I could really be happy living in Durham.

I am so happy I chose Durham as my first choice, I have enjoyed it more than I could ever have imagined, and it really has become my home away from home.

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Sophie Clarke

Hi! My name is Sophie and I am a first-year Ancient History student in St Aidan's College. I love doing anything social and my dream is to live abroad.

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