1) Courses and combinations
You should check what your strengths and weaknesses are before applying to unis, through your UCAS form. If you’re hell-bent on studying 2 languages (or 3!), weigh up your language skills accordingly; choosing to do a Joint Honours degree will mean you need to hold similar language skills and knowledge in both languages (i.e. have the same-ish level in both). If you feel one of the languages is holding you back, why not choose a Major and Minor degree, meaning your best language will keep your average up. If you’re not sure whether you really want to be studying two languages, you could go for Single Honours, meaning you can focus on one language and take up open units to fill out your credits. Open units give you the chance to study another department’s units (e.g. an era in History) whilst holding a Modern Language degree; simply put, it offers you the chance to study for a term or year something you enjoy, without making it the bulk of your degree.
2) Picking your universities
As you’ve decided on which course(s) you would like to study, you’re going to have to choose a few universities to put on your UCAS form. Most schools will advise you to pick a couple of universities that are asking for your expected grades, a couple matching your grades should you not do so well in your A-Levels or IB, and a couple of universities asking for 2 grades beneath your expected grades, should something go terribly wrong in the exam. A good idea is to check with The Guardian’s university league table, to see how Higher Education institutions fare across the system (and world). Don’t just focus on your field of study, but also analyse the university’s ranking on a larger scale: it might just be that the uni holds a brilliant reputation overall, with a Modern Languages department that is just so-so. It will then be your choice as to whether you value overall or departmental reputation more. Once you’ve had a look at entry requirements, order a few prospectuses to get an idea of what the university is like.
3) Explore and extrapolate
It’s a good idea to go to a few university, if you can, before you apply so as to understand what they’re offering, geographically and socially. You might feel more at home in a university town, than you would on campus, or vice versa. Some students place a higher value on overall design and architecture of their future home, others decide that culture wins overall. You may be looking for brilliant library facilities, huge halls or smaller lecture rooms...Visiting is fun (you can take a mate along for the ride) and you get a real feel for the place, without being shown the ‘best bits’ on an open day! Why not speak to some of the lecturers (check university websites for more details) to understand what the course offers, from how you can edit it to suit your needs, what sort of modules are on offer, how many language hours you’ll have per week, whether it’s more hands-on or hands-off etc. It’s important you know the score before you decide to put them down on your UCAS form. If you can’t afford to go out and see what the uni is like for yourself, make sure you email course coordinators and lecturers to get your questions answered
4) The year abroad
If you’re choosing to study Modern Languages at university, you will undoubtedly be one of the lucky students who gets to pick up their things and relocate for a year (or a semester)! You might see it as your #1 reason to study languages or, on the contrary, it might be something that’s already filling you with dread. Fear not! You can ask current students what they thought of it right here and speak to coordinators to see what you can actually get up to. Some students have had a nasty surprise when it came to studying exactly wherever they chose, as their home universities did not allow for personal preferences, relying on their own partner universities for the study exchange. Similarly, some prospective students don’t know about all the possibilities offered on a year abroad, hence why it is such a good idea to check with your home uni first, before you sign up for anything!
5) Looking to the future
Although it might look like a land faraway, graduation and all it bears is closer than you may think (about 4 or 5 years, by most standards). As such, you should also contemplate your chance of getting employed, and where, according to each university you choose. It’s not just about how many bars are available and what the Student Union is like, but also where you could be working at the end of it all. With university fees rising, it’s crucial you pick somewhere that will be equally as useful when it comes to getting your degree as climbing up the career ladder.
With all this in mind, you should find it a little easier to pick your Modern Language courses at your favourite unis! Good luck :)