Deciding on the right university for you can be a big and challenging decision. There are many things that need to be taken into account, such as price, accommodation, distance, popular opinion of the quality of the courses, which universities offer your desired course … the list goes on and on.
Ultimately, the decision is a very personal one, although the main deciding points are the same for everyone.
- Quality – There are many resources you can look at to determine the quality of the individual courses that a university offers. Student forums, blogs and other web pages, besides the traditional word of mouth method are various ways of assessing a university’s strengths. Many universities are well known for a particular course, but this does not mean that all of the courses they offer are of the same high quality.
- Accommodation – Different universities offer their own form of student accommodation. Some have on-campus rooms or apartments, others rent out house shares to groups of students and many house their students in residencies in the nearest town or city. If none of these are an option that appeals to you, the other thing to consider is the average living cost of the town or city where the university is located. When it came down to my final decision, between two universities that had offered me places, one of the main deciding factors for me was the price of living, as one of the universities was located in a major city, whilst the other was situated on the outskirts of a considerably smaller city, hence there was a big difference in the average rental costs.
- Outside of class activities – If you are the sort of person that likes to participate in extra-curriculum activities, then you may wish to look into some of the activities that each individual university offers, as it may vary depending on funding, sponsors, etc. I wasn’t too worried about this when I considered my options, however I did still take the time to have a quick look, just to make sure that the university I had chosen offered a small variety of sports clubs for keeping active. However if you are the competitive type, research into whether your university competes with other clubs and schools may be a good idea.
- Distance And Transport – Most students, especially in the first year of their course, like to go home during the holidays and maybe for the occasional weekend. Although, in my opinion, this should not be a main deciding point, it is something that is quite often overlooked and therefore not even considered before making a final decision. You want to make sure that if you can’t drive you are able to get home without it costing you a small fortune and without having to go all round the houses just to get from A to B. A quick phone call or email to the local transportation service, inquiring about timetables could save you some difficulties later on.
- Cost Of Tuition – This is not something that I personally had to consider, as due to my average mark my tuition was free. However I understand, especially in certain countries that the cost of tuition is a major deciding point. Many universities offer student grants and loans to help with these tuition costs, all which need to be considered, so as to determine whether a particular university is feasible. Most universities have departments specifically set up to sort out tuition payments, student help, etc. and a quick visit to ask for some advice about grant/loan applications is a smart move! Nothing could be worse than getting a year into your course and finding out that you can’t afford to continue studying.
- University Location – Although this doesn’t seem like such an important factor, the truth of the matter is you’re not only choosing the university you wish to attend, but also where you are going to live for the next however many years. If you are the sort of person who does not like the hustle and bustle of a busy city, you should probably avoid universities located in big cities, as these won’t be very suitable, whereas a university in a smaller city or in a more rural location may be more appropriate. You must consider more than just the social aspects of the student lifestyle, making sure to look into the availability of “quiet areas”, where it’s possible to concentrate, and not just whether the nearest bar is the popular hangout.
Obviously there are a number of other little things that each individual may need to consider, depending on their situation and lifestyle. But I feel I’ve listed the main points, highlighting the key factors that should all influence your final decision.
Make sure you don’t just choose a university for it’s good name or because it’s where all your friends are going. It needs to be the right place and course for you, as it’s going to make up a reasonable chunk of your life, so make sure you make the right decision.