If you are starting to think about applying to University next year, or even the year after if you’re really keen, the chances are you have heard the phrase “a Russell Group University” being thrown around.

A group of 24 of the so-called elite Universities in the UK currently receive around two thirds of the total funds awarded to research lead establishments. The Russell Group claims their graduates are highly sought after, with many receiving a 10% top up on their graduate salary as a result of their higher education. Examples of Russell Group universities include Oxford, Cambridge, Durham and Warwick; the so called “red brick” establishments as opposed to the more modern universities.

If you are a high flyer, you can expect your teachers to gently push you in the direction of applying to such universities, according to a recent report from The Guardian. But is that right? I’m not so sure it is.

The daunting experience of filling out your UCAS form and carefully selecting 4 or 5 choices is not easy. Let’s face it, you don’t have much to go on bar an open day, a colourful brochure and not forgetting the much lauded over league table. The Russell Group claim seven of the top 10 Universities in the UK are members of the Group, a claim not easy to ignore. But should you base your application on the national league tables?

The short answer is no. Despite the impressive claims by the Russell Group, you should always, where ever possible go and visit the university and get a feel for the place. Outside of an open day perhaps, when the friendly students in brightly coloured t-shirts aren’t waiting to answer your every question. Are the lecturers passionate about the subject you want to study? Is the campus clean and lovely? Also, nowadays it is vital to think about your plans after you graduate, as unfortunately most students don’t go to university just to expand their knowledge on their chosen subject. Look over how extensive the universities career service is, do they host events that cater for your field?

Applying to university is probably one of the biggest decisions you’ll ever make. The important thing to remember is that you are definitely not alone. There are scores of online forums and message boards out there that will provide useful advice and support during the application process. If you have your heart set on a small idyllic campus in the countryside with rolling hills and green fields, do not let anyone, including your teachers, persuade you to drop that in favour of an establishment higher in the league tables.

Feel free to share your views and opinions on where students should concentrate their applications in the comment section below.