This isn’t a pity-me post, and it isn’t meant to warn anyone off university, or even my university – just an honest post about what it’s really like to get into your insurance choice university.
Way back in early 2016, I was considering which universities out of the five I had applied to I should put as my firm and insurance choices on UCAS, the system UK students use to apply for university. If I’m honest, the decision was half-made already: I wanted to go to the University of Nottingham, so that was clearly my firm choice. I knew I didn’t want to go to two of the universities I had applied to, because I didn’t like the courses – I’d applied mainly to fill the spots. So, really, the choice I had to make was between the fourth and fifth universities: Liverpool (the one I’m at) and Southampton.
As is probably clear from the title of this post, I put Liverpool as my second choice. I felt like the impression I had gotten from the applicant day I attended was that it was a better fit than Southampton. To me, the campus just seemed more comfortable. There wasn’t a huge amount in it between the courses, from what I can remember, so I was mainly going off of the vibe I got from each of the universities when I visited.
Fast forward to August 2016, and one of the most emotionally confusing mornings of my life: A Levels results day. Having pretty much hated the process of A Levels for reasons worthy of a post entirely their own, I actually didn’t care what my grades were going to be. I only cared about getting into one of my chosen universities, so I decided to wait for UCAS to update at 8am, rather than head straight to school for my grades. I’ll spare you the long and confusing version of events: I was accepted into Liverpool with no issue, even though my grades hadn’t been what they asked for.
I say it was emotionally confusing, because while I was so relieved I had been accepted into university and hadn’t had to go through clearing, I had been so set on going to Nottingham. For the whole of that day, I wasn’t really sure what I was feeling. By the end of it, I was disappointed I didn’t get into my firm choice, glad the A Levels ordeal was finally over, sad I hadn’t done as well as I’d hoped, and relieved Liverpool had accepted me. On top of that, I was just really tired. Sixth form was intense, and spending the summer waiting for something that was now out of my hands and would decide on the course of the next 3 years of my life hadn’t been all too pleasant.
In the weeks after, however, I felt excited. Beyond excited – it had settled in that I was going to a good university, the course looked good, and it was a major life goal that I was about to realise.
So what’s it been like in the time since? A lot of students you see in university prospectuses will say how they were accepted into their insurance, but they wouldn’t change it for a thing, and they now prefer this one to the one they’d intended to go to, and they’ve never had so much as a second thought.
Yeah, that’s not quite true for me.
Don’t get me wrong, I do love being here in Liverpool and it has given me some great opportunities. The course is, on the whole, exactly what I wanted. I have a lot of control over the modules I take, and my grades are doing well.
However… When you do get the impression that a certain place would be perfect for you, it’s hard for the place you felt like was a runner-up to beat it. Admittedly, some of the things sound quite arbitrary: I still prefer the actual Nottingham campus to the Liverpool one. I think the variety of societies and social activities seemed better there, especially as a non-drinker – personally, I’ve found being a non-drinker in Liverpool a bit tragic. Most society events that I’ve found are pub crawls, or will be a short event followed by a night of clubbing. And I think gym membership was cheaper at Nottingham. But sometimes it is the small details like these that can make all the difference to your experience.
Of course, I can’t say any of this for sure; I don’t know if the impression I had from Nottingham would have turned out to be entirely accurate, and I don’t know if I would have found other aspects of university there more difficult. I can’t say for sure whether I would have gone for a year abroad if I’d gone to Nottingham; I chose not to here, because my course only facilitates a semester, and I didn’t feel like that was a long enough time to get settled in in an entirely new environment and enjoy it. There’s every possibility that I could have gotten to Nottingham and found just as many things to dislike, or which I may have wanted to be different.
There are some things that I’m sure are true of all universities: I’m sure there’s always some divide between those who came to university to study and focus on their degree, and those who simply came for the ‘student life’ (a.k.a frequently getting drunk and missing most of their lectures). You’re always going to run into people you don’t get on with. Student accommodation is notorious around the world for its turbulence in terms of arguments with flatmates about cleanliness and noise – that pretty much comes down to your luck of the draw. After all, most people at university are young adults; we don’t all have everything figured out, and some people you’ll run into will have been doing chores for years, and others won’t have figured out how to use a washing machine yet.
So I won’t say that my experience getting into my insurance choice university has been perfect, as I saw in so many prospectuses when I was researching universities. I’m not going to pretend there haven’t been some days where I’ve thought my firm choice could have turned out better. But I do like my university! It’s an experience I won’t regret, and I love the work I’m doing. No matter where you go, there will be things you love and things you wish were different. And that’s always worth bearing in mind.