For most degree courses, you’ll be studying at the university of your choice for at least three years. That’s a long time. Plus, you’ll be using your degree for the rest of your working life to secure a good career and higher-paid work. For these reasons, picking the right university is something you need to consider carefully. Whether you’re applying from a public school in your native country or a Shanghai international school, this guide is designed to give you some advice on how to choose a university that’s the best fit for you.
What comes first, the university, or the course of study?
The course of study. No matter how prestigious, well-located, or attractive the university is, if they don’t offer the right program for you, then that university is not a good choice.
When searching for your uni, you should already know what you’ll be studying. You should be 100% certain that this is the right degree program for you, so be sure to discuss it with your teachers, parents, friends, and anyone else that will listen — the more you talk about your options, the easier it is to see if it’s a good fit for you. Get some more info on picking the best field for you here.
How should I search for universities?
Now you know which course you’re going to be studying, it’s time to pick the university. There are plenty of websites where you can search across thousands of unis.
TopUniversities.com lets you search unis across the world by course and location. BachelorsPortal.com allows you to search for global universities by discipline, subject, location, format (full-time or part-time), attendance (in-person or online), duration, and even tuition fees. This makes the process of comparing multiple unis a lot simpler than reading through hundreds of prospectuses.
What should I bear in mind when trying to pick the best university for me?
Here are just a few important considerations. Remember, everybody’s different, and the best uni for your friend isn’t necessarily the best uni for you. At the end of the day, you should choose a uni that you feel excited to attend.
The university ranking
You’re probably aware that universities are given international rankings to help students compare them. These rankings will differ a bit depending on which ranking organization the data is from. This is an excellent way to compare how respected the uni is quickly.
TopUniversities.com uses QS World University Rankings, which is one of the leading ranking publications. Very prestigious universities such as MIT, Harvard, and Oxford are usually near the top of this list.
The ranking of a university should come into the equation to some extent, although it is not the be-all and end-all, and you should base your choice on other factors too. Read more about how QS ranks universities here.
The program ranking
Did you know that degree programs are also given a ranking? This helps you to compare the quality of the major itself at different unis. You may find that the subject you want to study is ranked relatively low, even though the university as a whole is ranked very well. Read more about how QS ranks degree programs here.
Perhaps you’re ready to go globetrotting and don’t mind moving across the world to attend the uni of your dreams. Or, perhaps you know that you want to be somewhat close to your friends and family and will look for universities more locally.
Other considerations are what the university surroundings are like. Do you want to live in a big city that never sleeps, or would you prefer a more rural campus university? Choose wisely since this will be your home for the next three years or more.
Some universities have their dormitories, teaching buildings, and even nightlife all on one campus. Others have their facilities spread out across a city. Think about if this will affect your choice.
If you’re an avid tennis player, you’ll want to look for a uni where you can continue playing. You might want to take up a new sport or activity. Take a look at which clubs and societies are offered at the university
Lots of students look forward to living in dormitories (halls) in their first year of uni. You’ll meet tons of new people, and for many, it’s the first taste of life on their own without parents around. You’ll want to make sure the place you’ll be living is up to standard. You don’t have to live in the uni accommodation though. You might choose to rent your own place nearby, or if your family is in the same city, you could live with them.
University can be very expensive. You must budget for both fees and living costs. If you or your family will be paying out of pocket, think about how much you can afford or talk to whoever will be paying first. Some programs and universities cost more than others.
It might be possible to obtain a scholarship where the university waives part or all of the fees. In some countries, uni is free but usually only for citizens of that country.