Which University is Right for You?
Deciding to go to university is one thing, but deciding which one is another matter altogether. What factors should you consider when evaluating your options?
Take university rankings with a grain of salt—have a look not only at each school’s reputation, but also what they’re famous for. Many institutions focus their attention on one or two extremely strong programs. Unfortunately, this may mean they neglect other fields. The best thing to do is to choose an overall renowned university (with no defining program), or a university that places a focus on your program. In either case, you ensure you’re getting a good education.
Regardless of awesome residences or an amazing party scene, when making your choices you have to remember what’s important. The main reason you’re going to university (presumably) is to learn: education should be your priority. Maybe you’ll have a ton of fun at University X—but then again, maybe you’ll achieve your academic goals (and have a better chance of finding a job) with a degree from University Y. Consider that.
Of course, post-secondary being such a crucial (and expensive) decision, you also want to make sure you’re seeing the issue from all sides. Here are some other factors you can consider when evaluating your options.
1. Location. Would you prefer to study in a big city or a small “university” town? If your school is close enough to home, commuting may be a cheaper alternative to residence. If your school is far away, consider the adjustments you will have to make (potential homesickness, a new city, and in some cases, even a different culture).
2. Size. Giant institutions offer some of the most comprehensive resources and talented faculty—but it’s easy to get lost in the crowd. Meanwhile, at tiny schools it seems like everyone knows your name. What’s going to work better for you?
3. Accommodation. If commuting isn’t an option, where are you going to live? Many universities have different residences (single suites, apartments, etc.), and there are always off-campus options. Residence is an expensive investment, so do your research and make sure your school’s amenities are satisfactory.
4. Social opportunities. What are you interested in? School is important, but involvement in your school community can be vital to a comprehensive education. (Fortunately, most universities have literally hundreds of clubs and associations, but see what they’re offering anyway.)
5. Identity. Whether you like it or not, you may come to find you are perceived a certain way because of your university. It’s an unfortunate bias, but you can actually use this to your advantage. Pick a school that will reflect a part of you, and one of which you’d be proud to call yourself a student.
University research may seem daunting, but you can usually find all of this information on school websites. For a more in-depth look at academics and student life, check out open houses, attend academic sessions, or speak to current students about their experiences.