With the annual university admissions process starting soon, many students are actively on the hunt for the right school for them. But how do you choose the perfect university? While there are definitely more postsecondary options available now than ever before, there are also more resources that are easily accessible to help with your decision process.
Everyone will tell you that choosing a university is one of the most important decisions that you will ever make. While it’s true that the school you attend will likely have a lasting effect on your personal and professional life, it’s also important to remember that education is something you do for yourself and your happiness and success will come from what you make of your opportunities.
There may be several “perfect” universities for you, each of which can provide you with the resources you need to reach your full potential. The key is remaining actively engaged throughout your education and making the most of all that is offered.
That being said, it’s wise to consider a wide range of factors both general and personal before proceeding with such a significant investment. While you can always change your mind and switch courses or schools, it’s far more preferable to find a university that fits well with your interests and goals the first time. This begins with understanding your personal motivations and general selection criteria before narrowing down your list with a closer analysis of your top choices.
Image Source: Universitiesrankings.com
Here are five important factors to consider:
1. What type of education do you want?
It’s totally OK to not know yet what you want to do with your life. You have your whole life to figure that out and university is a great place for discovery. There’s no need to choose a career or even a major yet but you probably have some idea of where your interests and abilities lie. If you think you might want to pursue a more technical field like engineering or science, certain schools will be better equipped with the required research labs and other resources. Likewise, some universities have unique degree offerings and enviable reputations in the liberal arts.
Ensure that a potential university has the major and degree level you’re seeking, and take note of its admissions rate and criteria, curriculum and completion rate. If you don’t know what you want to study yet, try to select schools that have a range of degree options that are good possibilities. There is much more to evaluate before making your choice but if a potential school doesn’t have the majors you’re looking for, you can take it off your list right away.
2. What type of learning do you prefer?
Once you have an idea of what you want to study, consider how you want to learn. Are opportunities for internships or experiential learning important for you? Do you have specific scheduling, learning or assessment preferences? A closer look at university websites can reveal these details, as well as how much time you can expect to spend at lectures or in independent study.
Don’t underestimate a school’s academic environment. Look for accredited universities with evidence and reputations for quality education, particularly in your preferred area of study, but keep in mind that rankings, awards and statistics can be misleading. Also consider typical class sizes and the availability of academic advisors and other support services. At a campus visit, try to observe how teachers interact with students; whether they make prospective and current students feel comfortable and how much personal attention they generally provide.
3. Where do you want to live?
One of the most important decision criteria should be the university’s location, as after all, this is where you’ll be presumably living for the next four years. Do you want to stay at home and commute to school or live far away from your comfort zone? Do you prefer a city location or perhaps a more tightknit community in a smaller town? Some students who study abroad return home after just a semester when the culture shock becomes too much.
A university’s location will influence the amenities and activities available, weather, food options, crime and safety, language and regional culture, and your cost of living. Consider whether you’ll require public transportation and an area’s access to potential workplaces and employment networks.
No location will have everything so you’ll have to decide what factors are most important for you and what you can live without. For instance, Bangalore is an increasingly popular study destination with a booming IT and startup economy, good climate and great day-trips, but students from Northern India may not feel comfortable with the prevalence of the Kannada language, rather than Hindi.
4. How is the campus community?
While a growing number of schools conveniently offer virtual tours that you should definitely take advantage of, there’s really no substitute for visiting a campus in person. A school’s size will often reflect the resources it devotes to facilities like student housing, athletics, dining halls, libraries and research labs. Does the campus layout offer many places to lounge around or study outdoors? Visit the dorms, classrooms and common areas – does it feel like home or, at least, can you imagine yourself living there?
Your surrounding environment, extracurricular activities and campus community go a long way toward forming your overall university experience. Are there intriguing clubs, sports teams and student societies? Try to find out the sorts of people who attend, whether they actually enjoy spending time on campus and the students happiness. Is there a discernible school spirit?
5. What are the expected outcomes?
More and more students are concerned about the opportunities they can reasonably expect upon graduation from a university. Job placement rates and graduate starting salaries are related to a school’s perceived return on investment, although overemphasising these metrics risks overlooking the harder-to-measure qualities that often lead to longer term success. Of course cost is an important factor, but counselors can often assist you with a combination of financial aid, scholarships and payment strategies.
Your tuition and living costs may be a small price to pay for the opportunities that arise from your university education, but again so much depends on how you leverage your time and the available career and alumni services. Research various university websites, student forums and other resources, such as GPTS’s students satisfaction survey, before narrowing down your options. While you may not be able to find a university that satisfies everything on your wishlist, by considering a wide range of factors and understanding your priorities you’ll be sure to find a great place to study.
Patrick Quinn is a content writer of Great Place to Study, a global auditing and intelligence firm that classifies and recognises institutes on the basis of student engagement