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Shortlist Colleges - Study in UK

After completing your research about studying in the U.K, you will need to start making a list of colleges that you are going to be applying to. This is a very important step and applying to the right colleges can result in you getting multiple admission offers whereas applying to the wrong colleges can have opposite results.

Choosing these colleges requires research. There are hundreds of quality colleges and universities in the U.K which offer great courses in a variety of fields. Every institution has its pros and cons. Over and above, you are restricted by the UCAS application system, the official UK application system, to apply to no more than 5 colleges/universities. It is important to create a ‘balanced’ list which comprises of colleges that are your top priority, as well as colleges that you will easily get into. Creating a balanced list helps in avoiding the possibility of you not getting into any college after the end of the application process.

What are the factors to consider while choosing which colleges to apply to?

There are various factors to be kept in mind while making this list of colleges. It is ideal to consider the most important factors first and then move towards the less important factors while short listing colleges.

To gather information about different colleges regarding these factors, you can go through their websites, visit education fairs and contact their overseas representatives/agents in India.

1. Course Content

The first stage of this short listing process is to select only those colleges that offer the course you wish to pursue. This is essential as not all colleges offer every course. For example, there might be hundreds of college and universities that will offer a Bachelor’s degree in English, but you will not find as many colleges for a Bachelor’s degree in Drama. Therefore, the first thing you should see is whether the college even offers your course or not.

You should also consider the structure of the course before short listing a college. For example, if you wish to pursue a course in management, it might be beneficial for you to pursue a course that includes a year of work placement rather than a typical 3 year classroom – based course.

2. Competitiveness

The next step is to short list the colleges that offer your course on the basis of their ‘Competitiveness’. This refers to how difficult or easy it is to get admission into a college. The more the applicants, the more competitive is the admission process. The University of Cambridge and the University of Oxford are two of the most competitive universities in the U.K.

Colleges assess you on the basis of your statement of purpose, interviews, entrance exam marks and your academic record during school. Try and get a realistic assessment of all these factors before selecting college. It is very possible that you might not get into a university like the University of St. Andrew’s, but can easily get into some of the lesser competitive universities.

One way to get a good idea about the competitiveness of a college is to go through the ‘Average Entry Tariff’ of the colleges at the Guardian UK university ranking system:

The subject-wise tariff scores can be seen here:

High average entry tariffs point at greater competitiveness of the course and college.

Tentatively, use the table below to get an initial idea about how your scores in the 12th class exams compare to the average tariff scores:

Average Tariff Scores

Indian Representation (ICSE/CBSE)

500 +

90% +

400 – 500

80% – 90%

350 – 400

70% – 80%

350 and below

60% – 70%


According to this table, if the average tariff score of the college is above 500, then you would generally require a score of 90% in your CBSE/ICSE examinations so as to get admission. Similarly, if the average tariff score is in between the ranges of 350 – 400, then you would generally require a percentage of 70% - 80% in your examinations.

The above table is a very rough representation of the average tariff scores. It does not apply to every college/university in the U.K.

3. Reputation

From the colleges that you have a realistic chance of getting into, you will need to select the colleges with the best reputation. This is very important as good reputations are often a good indicator of the academic standard of that institution. Also, good reputations of colleges and universities generally result in better pay checks for students.

It is important to not only choose the colleges with the best reputation, but also keep in mind that reputation of the course you wish to pursue. There are many cases in which a particular university is known for its courses in a particular field and not the others. Make sure that you select colleges that are well known for your course.

Go through the following websites to get a better idea about the most reputed colleges and universities in the U.K:

4. Cost

A very important factor that you need to consider while short listing colleges is their cost. Once you select the most reputed colleges out of the ones you can get into, you will need to short list colleges on the basis of their fees and living costs.

Go through the websites of all the short listed colleges and check their tuition fees. Most colleges in the U.K have different tuition fees for different courses. For example, most colleges and universities charge higher tuition fee rates for science courses as compared to arts based courses.

Also consider the location of your college and check the estimated annual living costs. For example, studying in a university in London will prove to be way more expensive than studying in any other city in the U.K.

Do not forget to find out about the types of financial aids that are offered to Indian students by that particular college/university. It is possible that the generous financial aids of that college can end up making studying at that college affordable for you.

5. Location

After you short list colleges on the basis of the ones that are affordable for you and the ones that are not, you will need to choose the colleges that are situated in locations that suit you. For example, you might prefer to live in a big city rather than in a small town.

Not only that, but it might be ideal to live in certain locations for certain courses. For example, studying in an institution in London can be very helpful for business – related courses as it is the business hub of the United Kingdom.

 Also, you might prefer to live in warmer conditions rather than the places where it snows heavily. This might also affect your choice of university or college.

Keeping all these factors in mind, you will need to come up with colleges that are in locations that suit you but are still within your budget.

6. Campus Life

After short listing colleges on the basis of their locations, you will need to short list the remaining colleges on the basis of their campus life. Go through the websites of these colleges and see the types of facilities they offer. Also find out about the type of student clubs they have as such clubs will provide you with the opportunity to meet like – minded students.

Some universities are more international – student friendly than the others. You might want to choose a university which has an active international student community so that you do not face problems in adjusting to campus life during your initial days.

After having short listed colleges on the basis of these above factors, you should have ideally come up with a list of colleges that not only offer the courses you wish to pursue, but are reputed, affordable, situated in ideal locations, have great campus lives and are ideal according to your academic qualifications.

What if I can’t decide?

The decision of choosing colleges to apply to is very important as you are not allowed to apply for more than 5 courses. You should not apply to a college unless you are sure that it suits your qualifications as well as your interests.

To help you make this decision, universities and colleges have various ‘Overseas Representatives’ in India. These representatives or agents are responsible for helping Indian students with the application process for U.K universities/colleges. Normally, one agent handles the application process for multiple universities.

Visit these agents at their offices and discuss your problem with them. Under most circumstances, they will be able to provide you with valuable advice and also tell you the colleges you should apply to on the basis of your qualifications. However, we strongly advise you to visit at least 4 – 5 agents and consider the suggestions of every agent before deciding to apply.

Do your own research using the above mentioned criteria about the universities that the agents recommend you to apply to and then decide the ones that are best for you on the basis of your own understanding.

Study in UK