How I chose my university

Eve, Sarah, Mia and Holly

Narrowing down what university you should apply to from over 150 choices nationwide can be an intimidating task. With so many options you need to know you are making the right decision! To help, here is how four of our Summer School mentors chose the universities they applied to, and how they eventually ended up at Durham.


I am a third-year computer science and mathematical sciences student at St Cuthbert’s Society. I am a first-generation scholar coming from the North West (Cumbria).

I took part in the 2019 Supported Progression Summer school where I got a taster of studying computer science at Durham. We learnt about interesting things such as Conway’s game of life and how it is Turing complete. This made me incredibly keen to continue my academic studies. I knew Durham was the place for me when I found out about the flexible natural science courses they provide (Natural Sciences allows you to study up to 3 science subjects) so I could still study mathematics too as I loved both subjects. To top it off, Durham’s collegiate system really appealed to me as the smaller communities of people made the move away from home seem easier for me.


Hello! I‘m Sarah, an English Literature finalist at St Chad’s College, originally from Runcorn (a small town on the outskirts of Liverpool).

When researching universities and their English Literature courses, I stumbled across the Sutton Trust Summer Schools programme. Durham University was top of the league tables for my subject, and I thought, with Sutton Trust’s aim being to improve access to high-quality education and employment opportunities for students from low-income backgrounds, ‘why not try the crème de la crème’, and I’m so glad I did! I fell in love instantly. I got a taster for Durham over the five-day residential: I stayed at one of their colleges, experienced further education course content, took part in many extra-curricular the university offered, and I met so many other students from similar backgrounds as my own (even meeting my best friends who I met on the summer school and would end up living with whilst studying here at Durham!)

To this day, I’m incredibly grateful I was able to experience the summer school at Durham with Sutton Trust, as opportunities like that didn’t often come to students like me.


Hi, my name is Mia and I study Modern Languages and Cultures (Spanish and Italian) at Durham. I am also a member of Josephine Butler College. I am from Stockton-on-Tees in the northeast of England.

Firstly, I wanted to go to a university which was ranked highly for my subject and would be academically challenging for me. I also loved the idea of a traditional university; I enjoy getting involved in the formals and wearing the gowns at Durham and this is not something offered at every university. Another big factor for me was the collegiate system. There are few universities in the UK which offer this, and it was something I had my heart set on, as it is a great way to meet people and get involved in lots of societies. Living close to home was not something I originally cared about but after experiencing university life it is one luxury that I could not imagine being without. 


I’m a third-year law student at John Snow college, from Cardiff and am currently on a year abroad in Utrecht, the Netherlands.

When choosing a university, I had a few different priorities. I wanted a university which was high in the rankings, but also felt homely enough to spend 3 years in. I ended up choosing a lot of picturesque cities because of this, a scenic walk to class was definitely a priority! At first, I wanted to move to a big city but after open days in bigger cities and summer schools at Oxford and Durham, I realised that a smaller city suited me better, that’s why I think it’s so important to visit a few universities before you make a final decision. I ultimately chose Durham because of the collegiate system; I loved the idea of having a smaller community within the university and was excited by all the college events and sports on offer.

How do you choose?

As you can see, there are so many different things you can consider when choosing a university including location, societies and sports, tradition, colleges, course content and summer schools. Ultimately, you have to find what truly matters most to you, like our mentors did – for Eve it was the course content, for Sarah it was her Summer School, for Mia it was the location, and for Holly, it was the scenic location and the college system. When you find what that thing you care most about is, you can find the right university for you.

Discover more

About our access and engagement programmes here

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Eve, Sarah, Mia and Holly

We all came to Durham after attending Access Programme Summer Schools and are also Durham Student Ambassadors inspiring others to come to Durham too.

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