The transition from high school to university is a big and important one. This may be the first big decision you make about your education, and where you choose to study will dictate a large part of your life for the next 3-5 years. As university application season is upon us, here are 8 tips on how to choose the right university for you:
Do your research
The Internet will be your most reliable resource when researching prospective universities. Most universities will have a tab on the homepage of their website entitled ‘Prospective Students’, where you will find information about admissions requirements, program details, housing, financial aid, FAQs and more. These university websites will help guide you when comparing universities and choosing between them. Also, be sure to check Facebook pages or groups and online forums for prospective students.
Make a list of your priorities
When choosing which university to attend, you must determine what matters most to you in terms of your university experience. Do you want to study in the downtown core of a big city? Do you have a specific program in mind that is only offered at select universities? Are you set on studying abroad during your degree? Are there financial considerations that could affect where you study? Make a list of what matters most to you. For example, take Naomi from New Brunswick. Naomi made the following list of what is most important for her in a university:
- Concurrent Education program offered (5 years preferable)
- Within Eastern Canada to avoid exorbitant travel costs when coming home
- Appealing student residences
- Job opportunities on campus for students
- Lots to do in the city
Consider the program
Remember that at the end of the day, you are going to university to learn. The most important consideration should be the program of study, so dig deeper in your research to compare specific programs between schools. Look into faculty, research, and courses available in topics that may interest you to gauge each program. It’s completely okay to not be sure about what you want to study, but try to browse many programs that might be of interest to you and go from there!
Visit the campus, ask questions, or sit in on a class
Although arranging a university campus visit can be difficult and expensive, this step can be very beneficial. Sometimes it takes attending a campus tour and physically walking through your potential future campus to feel whether you can see yourself attending a particular school. Most universities can arrange a campus tour if booked in advance. If possible, try to sit in on a class that you might take in your first year, just to get an idea of the academic setting.
Consider proximity to home
An important factor to consider is how close you are to home. Both being close and far from home have their advantages and disadvantages. Remember that travel can be very expensive, especially around school holidays. Living in a city far away from friends and family has a pretty steep learning curve but many students choose to do so. Living away also allows a student to become very independent and self-reliant.
Consider reputation and research opportunities
Further down the line in your academic career, you may choose to pursue further schooling. At that point, where you did your undergraduate degree could be significant, because certain schools have more research opportunities for undergraduate students than others. If you’re already considering doing more school after your undergraduate degree, you may want to look into what kind of advancement opportunities are offered to students at the universities on your short list before choosing one.
Consult those around you for advice
Ask around for input from friends, family, teachers, and guidance counselors. Try to find people who have studied or are studying at the schools that interest you – get their perspective. Do or did they feel supported by the school? Are they happy with their choice of university? What do they wish that they had known before choosing that school?
At the end of the day, the vast majority of first year undergraduate students are ecstatic with their choice of university and end up loving the school they choose. Try not to worry too much. Remember that no matter where you choose to study, you will learn a lot and your university experience is largely what you make of it. Get involved, have fun, and take a deep breath!