Choosing a university is one of the biggest decisions that you will make in terms of your education, and it can be overwhelming if you don’t know where and how to start.
first and foremost, know that no two students are exactly alike, and no two universities are exactly alike. That's why we are breaking it down into simplified points to help you compare and focus your search on finding the best fit to suit your unique personality and goals.
Identify university criteria and know your priorities (is it cost, location, course...etc.)
Identifying your priorities before starting your search will help you identify the university that will best suit you academically and personally within your chosen criteria.
It’s good to remember that each of us has unique needs and values, and what is important to you may not seem important to someone else. Explore your priorities that apply to your values and needs.
For example, let's take location as a factor. If you don’t plan to be more than 200 kilometres away from home, then universities located abroad are out! The same goes for university size, cost, and other basic criteria. By identifying your needs early on lets you eliminate the noise from hundreds of universities and focus on the things that will make your chosen university a perfect fit.
We will mention a few main criteria/factors that are most common when selecting a university.
Check your desired course
If you have decided on the course that you want to study and the areas that you want to focus on that subject. It would be a good step to check if your chosen course is delivered by the university and the focus is within your scope of interest. You might find similarity in course/degree names in different universities; however, there are variations across universities in course content and modules. Don’t assume that similarity in the title of the programme would mean that they will deliver similar content/modules in other universities, so be sure to have a look at the list of modules you are expected to take each year within the university.
If you are unsure of the direction you want to take, choose a university that allows you the freedom to experiment with different subjects to help you figure out your areas of interest during your learning journey.
As a commonly known factor, your academics play a role in determining the right university for you, similarly, location is key to be considered. University is both an education and a journey, so consider what type of location you hope to experience when exploring university options.
Ask yourself if you like to be in a big city or a small town, do you want a big university campus or a small type campus? Think about the location you would feel most excited to be in and start narrowing down universities in places that appeal to you. Picking a location that suits your personality will mean that you will be far more inclined to spend time exploring your surrounding area and making the most of it.
Every university has its own special vibe, no better way to explore the university’s location is by visiting if that is possible. Being able to see the city/town and the atmosphere in real life can make a big difference in your choices. Not everyone has the luxury to travel, but not to worry, many universities offer virtual tours on their website, which is an excellent alternative to check them out to get a sense of the location and the city vibe.
As an add-on, you can start narrowing down your list by making some decisions about the size of the student body and geographical location and then move on to aspects you can identify by visiting the campus, talking to current students and trusting your gut instincts. Take the quality of life into account, as well and try to check out the dorms, food, the facilities on campus, and other aspects that matter to you as a student.
Check the size
Don’t forget to consider the sizes of the university in your search. Universities come in all sizes, from a university that enrols only 2,600 students to a university that can enrol 20,000 or more. Which one is better? That depends on your preference, and you can ask yourself.
Did you go to a small or large classroom-type in high school?
Did you grow up in a city or a rural area?
Do you like being placed where everybody knows you, or do you like the anonymity of a crowd?
Large universities typically have large campuses, as well as a healthy selection of student services and things to do; a small university may offer individualized attention, as well as a more intimate and personalized experience. You might even want to think about how far you want to walk to get from one class to another. Even those little details of info may affect your decision.
Check cost and scholarships
The cost of the study is one of the biggest concerns most students and parents think about during the search process and the most popular question we hear constantly. Not all universities have the same price tag and there are a variety of ways to cut your costs.
It’s important to be realistic about your family’s finances and avoid taking on unreasonable debts in the name of your education. It’s always wise to know your budget ahead of time when checking out the figures of a university you are considering, as it may expand or diminish your options, depending on your financial situation.
It’s also important to point out that you do not have to always cross a university off your list because it exceeds your budget, as many universities offer incredible financial aid packages (i.e. work-study programs, scholarships and combination of grants). Raising your academic grades and your school scores may at times help you become more eligible for merit-based financial aid. Exploring this aspect before checking off a university can be rewarding.
University’s tuition fees isn’t necessarily the only amount you will be paying, because it doesn’t reflect the extra expenses in place, like housing, books and living costs...etc.. Ensure you take these additional factors into account when you calculate your educational budget.
" Explore what can a university offer you as a student "
Whether you end up needing it or not, it’s always important to be aware of the support that is available to you as a student. Check out what the students’ union provides in terms of mental health, financing and course materials. Learn about the university’s protocol for supporting students, and make sure you know that there are services in place if you run into any difficulties. And if you have a pre-existing mental health condition, a disability or any other additional needs, be sure to check out what support will be available to you when you reach university.
If you are an international student, familiarise yourself with the support available to you and how the university will help you to integrate with the student body is a key factor.
Career development & support
In addition to making sure the university you’re considering offers the major that interests you, it would be good to check out their career support. Find out how the university supports students in preparing for the professional world. Do they offer career fairs and gatherings with industries within your area of interest? Practice interviews? Resume writing workshops? Networking events with alumni?
If you foresee yourself in a particular field, location, or specific workplace, ask about past students’ track records of finding internships and entry-level jobs in those areas. University admission officers and career counsellors are happy to highlight their institutions’ success stories, as well as any unique career-launching programs and experiences that their university offers. If you’re not sure yet which direction you’ll go in, see if career coaching and personal evaluations are available for students. Many academic institutions extend career support to alumni, too, which can be invaluable in the early post-university years. As more and more students factoring post-graduate plans into their university decision process, university admission and recruitment officers are emphasizing career support and placement when pitching their university to prospective applicants.
Moving away from academics, you’ll want to be at a university that supports socialising. If you have an established hobby or interest that you wish to continue while at university, make sure that your chosen university supports it. Or if you’re hoping to take up a new activity, sport or other hobbies, scroll through the lists of societies and clubs available and see if there is one that takes your fancy. Additionally, doing some research into the events that are organised by the university or the students’ association can give you an insight into the types of events and activities that you can expect to join.
Where to look for advice
Sometimes it can be hard to gain accurate feedback on some of the factors that we mentioned, especially if you don’t know where to look. Here are some useful sources that can help to clarify some of these factors.
Attending open days – Attending an open day. It is not always practical, but if you can visit a couple of universities it is always a good idea to do so. You will get a much better feel for the campus. If possible, it’s also worth spending time in the town or city the university is located in. If you are unable to travel online /virtual open days as an alternative can also help.
Speak to current students – This has become easier to access than before. There will usually be student representatives at university open days or found on the university website, who you can talk to and ask questions. But be aware that because they are working at a university, they will likely talk more positive experience at university than indicate any negative. To gain a more realistic, rounded view, try looking at student groups on Facebook or Twitter and ask questions on there. Alternatively, you could check online if there are any blogs or vlogs from students at your chosen university and see what they have to say.
Ask admissions officers – If you have a more specific question, don’t hesitate to get in touch with admissions officers at universities. They will have heard every query under the sun, so don’t be embarrassed by anything that you want to ask.
University websites, social media, and online blogs– A quick google search can reveal some interesting information about your chosen university. Look at its website, where you will easily find information on some of the points mentioned, or you may be directed to social media threads or online forums that can provide you with answers.
Ask your school – Have a chat with your school teacher or guidance counsellor if you’re finding it hard to make a decision. They can help you to weigh up all the different factors and figure out which institution will work best for you. They may even be able to put you in touch with former high school students who have gone on to study at your university of choice.
If you are still at a loss and struggling to find the university which would be suitable for you and need help getting started on your university search strategy, don’t worry, our one-on-one guidance provides step by step solutions catered to your needs and requirements to ease the process for you to find the university of your choice.