Choosing which university to study at is one of the first big decisions most people make in their life, and the implications of that decision can be massive. Not only will it have an influence on your career, but it will also likely affect who ends up becoming your life partner, who your best friends will be and what experiences may change the course of your life (for better or worse). For most students, their choice usually boils down to the following factors:
- Academic reputation: the number of students that apply to the highest ranked university (where they still have a reasonable chance of being accepted) is staggering. According to a survey conducted by the Higher Education Policy Institute, 87% of students believe that a university's reputation is important when deciding where to study. Most students believe that a high ranking automatically leads to a better job, but be weary that rankings can be misleading (e.g. general vs. specific rankings). In addition, spotting noticeable differences between a university that is ranked 54th and 72nd is sometimes virtually impossible.
- Location: many students select universities that are near home, in a familiar location or are a dream destination. Costs (the next factor) can have a large influence on this. Are you able to afford living by yourself, or do you still need to live with your parents or a caretaker?. Do you want to be in a big city or a smaller town? Is the university close to home or farther away?
- Cost: tuition and living expenses can vary significantly from university to university. Studying in the US or UK may be a dream, but the high tuition fees will leave you graduating with massive student debt. According to data from the European Association for International Education, the average tuition fee for universities in Europe is €7,000 per year. If you’re studying in a field where finding a high-paying job once you graduate is extremely likely, this may be a less important factor (assuming you have the financial means to cover the 3-4 year study period).
- Student support: many students fear studying, as it is one of the biggest transitions you make in your early adolescence. Applying to universities that have strong measures in place to make students feel at ease can have a massive impact on your student success.
Overall, there are many factors to consider when selecting a university. Although the number of options is huge, make sure you conduct research that goes beyond looking at the Times Higher Education ranking. Where are you most likely to have a great time, learn a lot, and be ready for an exciting career?