College and Career

How to Choose a College or University

October 9, 2020
students how to choose a college or university

Guest post written by Marcia Windsor Waite, StudentJobUK

The academic year may only be beginning, but open houses for colleges and universities are right around the corner — and before you know it, you’ll be writing your personal statement and submitting your applications. This might be a daunting thought, but choosing your institution is an important step in your academic career.

Here’s how to decide what college or university is the best fit for you.

Make sure you choose the right subject

Your major or course of study is an important decision. You’ll spend several years studying this subject, so make sure it’s something you love learning about.

It is also important to consider the future of your degree — what potential careers might you be looking to pursue, and how can your degree help you get there? What are the job prospects of your degree and how much can you expect to earn? While you don’t have to decide your entire future right now, these details are important to think about before choosing your major.

Look over the course content and class structures

You can view the course content on either the university website or in prospecti colleges provide. It is important to do this to get a feel for your courseload and see if the classes will address the topics you’re interested in. I also recommend looking at how you are assessed in your modules. For example, some courses might be purely exams, whereas you might prefer doing more presentations, papers, or group work, so it’s important to keep your learning style in mind when selecting your college and major.

Consider the university rankings

It is also important to consider the university rankings, which have several different categories. Some rank the overall university, while others rank specific courses. Depending on whether you’re in the US or the UK, you can look at at The Princeton Review’s college rankings or the Guardian’s university rankings, which allow you to assess potential institutions by subject area as well as a breakdown of more categories. For example, “student to staff ratio” is an important factor to consider — the higher the ratio, the bigger your classes will be, meaning less personal familiarity in classes and less time to ask the professor questions. 

It is also important to consider the course ranking — although the university might be in the overall top 20, you might find the specific course you want to do is ranked lower, and vice versa.

Explore the campus facilities, student groups and sports

Whether you love playing hockey every Wednesday for the university team or enjoy debate team and student government, it’s important that your college or university fulfills you in ways other than academics.

To make sure you can get involved in the extracurriculars you’re interested in, check what societies the university has to offer. Participating around campus is also another way to make friends — and can look great on your CV or resume. University is not all about studying. 

looking at campus to choose a college or university

Look at the student accommodation 

For the majority of people heading off to college or university, it will be your first time moving away from your friends and family. It is, therefore, incredibly important that you feel at home and safe in your accommodation. Don’t worry about making friends, though — everyone is in the exact same position as you, so you’ll certainly be able to find like-minded students to hang out with.

Visit the city and campus 

Although it is going to be far more difficult to visit campuses during COVID-19, it’s still important you get a feel for the city you’re attending college in and make sure you like it — after all, you’ll be living there for several years, so it has to feel like home. It’s also helpful to consider factors like the standard of living in the city and how long it would take to get back to your hometown.

Even if you are unable to visit the actual campus and city you’re considering, speak to current and previous students to ask about their experiences there.  You can also use Google maps, look at photos and watch Youtube videos of the city to help you build up a picture. I cannot recommend this enough — when I chose my university, I picked it without visiting the city or even looking into it, and when I got there it was not what I expected. 

Take These Steps to Choose Your College or University

choosing a college or university after graduation

You can never do too much research when it comes to deciding on your future university. It’s an extremely important decision, so it’s vital that you are in a city you love, studying a subject you’re passionate about. Remember to make the most of college or university, join all the societies you’re interested in, ask the questions you need to, and enjoy both the learning and the social aspects of student life.


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