Researching a University Campus
Going to university is one of the biggest decisions you will ever make, so it goes without saying that you want to make the right choice. It’s very important to research different university campuses and weigh all relevant factors before signing off your tuition. Of course, a school’s academic reputation should be one of your top priorities when thinking about post-secondary—you are looking for an education, after all! However, there are other factors that can be just as crucial when you’re searching for your dream school.
Speaking from personal experience, what’s on the surface of a university can be misleading. I am an undergraduate at the University of Toronto, and before choosing my school, I spoke to current students and did research on forums online. If I had assumed the stereotypes about U of T to be true—that it has a stellar academic reputation, but its students are isolated, mistreated, and overall miserable—I probably wouldn’t have been too keen to attend. However, my actual university experience has turned out to be much more positive. Though the institution lacks in other areas, the factors that were important to me were the vast selection of courses and extra-curriculars and the diversity and cultural community, within the university and Toronto in general. These were all things I considered in my research. You are not just going to school every day, you are living a life there.
Overall, when researching a campus, it’s important to consult a wide variety of sources. Talk to current and former students (especially those in the program you are applying for), read forums, email departments and offices at the school, or simply go and check out the campus yourself. You should feel confident in your decision to go to university, and that will only happen if you find the school that best fits your needs.
Aside from academic quality, here are some other things to look out for:
Location. Do you want to be closer or further away from home? Do you want to be in a big city or a small “college town”? Consider where you will be living (in residence, renting, or commuting from home), as well as the activities and services that are available to you beyond the campus. Also, don’t be afraid to bend yourself a bit and try something new- you may surprise yourself in good way.
Size. Some people thrive in large and busy environments, while others prefer more tightly knit communities. (Note as well that in general, the larger the campus, the more diverse the offerings of courses and clubs.)
Social scene. Consider not only what clubs, teams, or other extra-curriculars might interest you, but also what the demographics of the school are (because clubs are often formed out of the interests of the student body). Does the campus suit your interests? If not, is the location of the campus going to make other social opportunities available?
Cost. University is definitely an investment, especially if you’ll be living away from home. Factor in tuition as well as textbook costs, student fees, food, rent/residence fees if necessary, etc. Also look into scholarships or bursaries available at the school if you are in need of a financial boost.