Choosing University and why I chose Durham

Emma Murphy

Things to consider

Deciding which university you want to go to is incredibly daunting and having lots of universities to choose from can feel very overwhelming. To keep me focused during the process of narrowing down my choices, I would always ask myself the following questions:

  • Does this university offer the course(s) I am interested in?
  • How is the course structured and do the modules available interest me?
  • How is content delivered and assessed?
  • Can I fulfil the course requirements?
  • Does my subject at this university have encouraging statistics (employment rates, student satisfaction, rankings etc.)?
  • What support is available at the university (financial, academic, wellbeing, accessibility, etc.)?
  • Do I like the location of the university?
  • What extra-curricular opportunities does the university offer?

Doing my research

In the beginning, I found the process of elimination to be the easiest way of narrowing down which universities I would look into further. I knew I wanted to embark on a Primary Education course which would qualify me to teach within three years, and so any universities that didn’t provide this opportunity were taken off my list.

From there, I used university websites and online prospectuses to begin answering the questions I’ve listed above. I also made use of other websites, such as The Uni Guide, The Student Room and The Guardian (University League Tables), to find out more about the statistics for particular universities/courses and to hear student perspectives.

Eventually, I had a short enough list of universities that appealed to me to start attending open days. I attended a couple of open days, usually with my parents as my friends and I were interested in different places and courses. Open days look much different for the foreseeable future, but technology is proving to be a wonderful tool in still enabling potential students to get a sense of what a university is like. My main piece of advice as you navigate virtual sessions, Google Maps tours, and platforms such as UniBuddy, is to ask the questions you have as choosing a university must be an informed decision.  In my opinion, the only questions that are ‘stupid’ are the ones left unanswered by not asking.

Knowing Durham was right for me

Durham Sutton Trust Graduation 2016

The first time I went to Durham was to attend the Sutton Trust summer school in August 2016, an incredible experience by the end of which I knew Durham was the place I wanted to be most. I took my parents along to the open day the next month and attended my interview (you have to interview for all teacher training courses) in November. All these experiences enabled me to hear from the academics who would be guiding me, listen to the experiences of the students, understand the ‘Durham Difference’ and have my questions answered.

For me personally, the collegiate aspect of Durham was one of the main factors I decided on Durham as my first choice and remains one of the aspects of Durham I love most. Knowing I would belong to a college which had its own support services, extra-curricular opportunities and sense of community eased the worries I had of becoming lost in a large university environment.

Hearing about, and experiencing the incredible amount of opportunities available at Durham and how students become involved in and committed to such a wide range of sports, societies, outreach, volunteering, and leadership positions was also a deciding factor. Knowing how many people now attend university I wanted somewhere that could offer experiences and learning opportunities beyond my degree. For me, that is what the phrase the ‘Durham Difference’ encompasses.

Download our 2021 prospectus click here.

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Emma Murphy

I’m Emma, a third-year student at Stephenson College studying Primary Education. I am a first-generation student from Liverpool and completed the Sutton Trust programme at Durham before starting university.

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