How to decide on a university

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Choosing a university can be difficult, but once you take into account the obvious things such as your grade ranking or your financial situation, adding in your personal preferences and what you consider important can cut down the list even further. If you’re unsure of what college to pick, considering these factors may help you pick the perfect university for you.

Educational philosophy

Choosing a college is about much more than the status or the name. College becomes a very important aspect of your life that changes your environment for 4 years or more. Looking into the education philosophy of a college can save you from 4 years of struggling. For example, if you are an undecided major or have interest in various areas, look for colleges that match that mentality, especially colleges that offer 1 year of general studies, such as Stanford. If you prefer personal help from teachers, look for colleges with a smaller student to faculty ratio, so you can get the attention you require.

Location

Looking into the living costs and your personal preference of areas is very important in deciding your college. Many students prefer colleges in big cities, but some prefer a more close-knit community and a calmer lifestyle in more rural areas. Researching the location as well is integral.

Don’t procrastinate

Deadlines vary depending on the institution, but applications typically are due by January for regular fall admission. Experts suggest getting started on the application process by the start of your senior year in high school. Plan plenty of time for college visits, taking standardised tests, writing essays and asking for letters of recommendation.

Getting student opinion

If possible, taking trips to colleges can help you get a feel for the environment, as well as giving you one on one time with attending students, where you can get genuine unfiltered opinions on the school. Some schools with great reputations may be really bad for the students, so it’s best to do your research. If a trip is out of the question, take a second look at the campus via a virtual tour or reach out to college officials or students with any follow-up questions.

Look past the initial price tag

College can be incredibly expensive, but some universities brag extremely low tuition fees. However, you should always do your research and look for any hidden costs or look into the living cost of an area before deciding to apply. While private colleges tend to come with a higher price tag, there may also be more institutional aid, which means students and their families may not pay the full tuition cost.

Compare financial aid awards

If you’re looking to graduate from college with little or no debt, carefully compare financial aid packages. It’s wise to look beyond the tuition and see what additional costs apply, like housing and meal plans. Understand the difference between free money – such as grants and scholarships – and loans, which you’ll have to pay back eventually. Some colleges offer generous financial aid packages meeting full financial need, meaning those students are not required to take out loans.

Delve into departments

College rankings can be one tool in the decision process, but don’t forget that academic prestige can be examined on a smaller scale, too. Research the departments you’d be studying in. Especially in the higher ranked schools, choosing by subject is very important as some schools that may have lower ranks overall may have high ranks in your specific subject.

By Ruelle Sittampalam