As the new another school year begins approaches, incoming high school seniors are soon to face one of the hardest decisions they’ll have to make thus far in their academic career: choosing their top choice university. Not only is this decision a vital investment towards your future, but the type of experience you undergo during university directly impacts who you become in the final formation years of your life.
Now, there’s no need to worry if you can’t yet picture what type of university would be ideal for you!. As long as you have an understanding of the program that most interests you most, you can compile a list of the universities around you that offer this program and use the following collection of characteristics to take into consideration and narrow down to the school best suited for you. Are you ready? Let’s get started!
- Innovative programs. If you are still in the preliminary step of picking an appealing program,
you can use that research period to get a first impression of universities. As you’re considering the field you’d like to go into, make sure to jot down universities with compelling programs that are unique to that school or available features such as joint programs and double majors/minors. Remember that university is valuable, not just during your four year stay, but throughout your progression into a career in general. This means that possibilities such as work experience, the ability to research, any co-op programs, or even travelling abroad on international exchanges while earning your degree are all aspects to look into. The university you choose should be sustainable for the opportunities you want access to, so keep an eye out for these qualities.
- Location. The first question you must ask yourself is whether you want to live at home, on
campus, or off campus. If staying close to home isn’t a priority for you, this broadens your pick at universities but also introduces more information you must deduce. Since the first few months at university are bound to feel a little lonely and demanding, it’s important that the area you choose to reside in brings you comfort. This means deciding whether you’d prefer a big city with busy streets and lots of neighboring stores filled with people so you never feel alone or a more rural area with picturesque park surroundings and a healing relaxed environment. Take a look at the campuses currently on your list and tick off any of them that share the atmosphere you imagine as home.
Apart from appearance, the arrangement of the campus is significant too. If a campus is spread across a large area, it is difficult to get to classes within a short amount of time. Try to gather how others get to class, whether they walk, bike, or take busses, as transportation fees can contribute to additional costs as well as inconvenience. There’s nothing more helpful than asking current students of that university about these questions, so reach out to people on platforms such as Linkedin, Facebook, and Instagram if you don’t know any personally. Most would be more than happy to explain to you the benefits and shortcomings of living on campus! If you decide you’d rather rent an apartment close to school, check the services normally offered in residence such as laundry or workout rooms and consider if those are necessities for you and if so, how you’ll acquire them off campus.
Aside from the location of the university itself, another trait to review is how connected it is from the rest of the city. Find out if there are restaurants and working areas within walking distance, how easy public transit is, and if there are stops close to campus. How easily can you make a trip home and is that distance or cost a deal breaker for you? If you’re in a situation where you can’t easily visit these universities and virtual tours aren’t enough to quench your curiosity, take advantage of Google street view. You can use that tool to put in the address of the university you’re considering and explore the city on street view to investigate where the qualities important to you are available.
- Professors. Next, take a look at the school website and search for the number of professors in the
program you’re interested in. Not only does this allow you to see if there’s a variety of courses to choose from but if you’re familiar with some names that are prominent in your desired field you want to go into, that could weigh a university in your favour. Most, if not all, professors’ have websites that should go into more detail about the research or interest they focus on. Even those that aren’t familiar could quickly become so with a Google search. You can also bring this up in your interview with that university since you can specify your excitement for meeting that professor.
4. Facilities. With hard courses and a heavy course load, side interests are a must to stay sane! It’s important that the university you choose can support these priorities. For example, if you’re a musician then it would be crucial for you to check ahead of time if there are options, such as bands or choirs to develop your musical skills. For many, taking a look at the school’s library is the factor that draws them to one university over another. Since a decent amount of university life will be spent studying, it could be valuable to spot out cafe’s or 24/7 spaces for the most enjoyable study environments. Lastly, kitchens or dining areas are surprisingly important for most since living away from home means a lack of accessible easy meals. Universities include meal plans as well as places to eat on campus, so another point to compare between the schools on your list can be the cafeterias: whether they have flexible hours or if they accommodate your dietary restrictions.
5. Finances. For most students, this is the defining feature that wins them over at a university. That’s not to say that you should automatically choose whichever university is the cheapest, but rather that it’s worth it to take the time and create a budget and plan to try to minimize student debt as much as possible! Most universities offer a tab on their website where they can estimate based on tuition, qualifying scholarships, residence and additional costs to give you a guideline of how much going there would cost. Other topics to look into are financial aids or bursaries and whether there are paid co-op or internships available at the school or if they offer part time work positions on campus.
6. Complaints. Whether you gather this information from people you know personally or from students posting about their experiences online or reaching out to others with this purpose in mind, even small complaints such as not enough lighting or lack of variety of food available in the meal plans are details that can give you a new perspective or opinion on a school and help you decide if you’re stuck between a final decision.
7. Rankings. While university rankings are certainly not reliable enough as your only source of opinion on universities, they can provide additional insights to indicate general standings as long as you know what information you’re looking for. Points such as student satisfaction scores or ratios of faculty members to students and other information that is directly relevant to you can be a good overview of how a university would be or wouldn’t be suited for you.
Remember that there is no such thing as a wrong choice for your university! What matters most is that you are genuinely passionate about the program and school you are dedicating yourself to. It’s not possible that a university be good at everything but rather that the things they are good at match your set of priorities.