Ask Google or someone you know what university you should go to, and you’ll likely hear similar things.
Most often its generic advice like go to the one that is ranked higher, easier to get to, or that has the course that sounds better, which is all well and good. But it is generic advice, and as in choosing a university you’re making one of the most important decisions of your life, you need guidance that is more personal and conscious of the myriad of unique and very subtle factors that come into play.
For this reason, it pays to take a step back and rather than looking for more “right” answers, considering if you’re asking the right questions.
By asking the right questions, what once seemed like an impossibly overwhelming task of choosing the right university can become what it is: one of the most important, but also exciting and liberating, stages of your life.
What’s Important to You
Sure, university ranking tables and guidebooks can give you a rough idea of what a place and course is like, but they’re systems are based on the value markers of others.
For instance, “student friendly” to one person could mean something completely different to the next. Opinions about services, transport, nightlife, and culture, although more measurable, are equally as open to subjective debate.
What it comes down to is what you yourself value most. Maybe you value a high staff to student ratio and less the university’s reputation. Maybe you value its library and societies more than its clubs and happy hours. Or maybe you value integration with the community and charitable work more than its proximity to shopping malls.
Whatever is most important to you, don’t let it be drowned out by generic measurements and the values of other people. Find out and use it to inform the process of choosing your ideal university.
Real Life Skills
The purpose of university courses may be to qualify you for entering the working world. But qualifying you is a whole lot different from preparing you.
This means that, no matter what results they get, students can leave uni with a vastly different outcome, according to factors like their particular experiences, the city in which they studied, and the extra-curricular activities they engaged in.
So, when choosing a university, remember, as well as choosing a place to study a profession, field, or skill, you’re also choosing where you’re going to study life, too. Find a place that will force you out of your comfort zone as quickly as possible and throw you into new challenges, so when you graduate, you’re already one step ahead of the game.
The Bigger Picture
When choosing a university, it’s easy to focus on solely the quality and content of a particular course itself. But although it may not seem like it at first, it will pay off immensely if you relax your focus and orientate your perspective for the long game.
What this looks like is asking questions such as, ‘What’s the university’s reputation and influence on a global level? What are its greatest and most revered research projects? Does it have links or partnerships with organisations that I’m interested in working for? Are any of the people I admire members of its alumni?’
Asking these bigger picture questions will not only help you whittle down your top three or five universities to one, but also help ensure you a successful and enjoyable career in the long term.