Factors to consider when Deciding on University

Since you’re only a few months away from high school graduation, you need to decide which university you’ll study at.  No doubt you want to attend a top-notch university, but how do you choose the right one?  Here are factors to consider when deciding on which university to study at:

Does the university have programs in my majors?

Make a list of majors that will be the starting point for your search.  You may think that you should hold off on deciding your major until you’re attending college, which is partially true.  In most cases, you’ll make the final decision on your major much later, but now you’ll narrow your choices for a university by focusing on a few areas of study.  Be sure to include any areas that are your strengths, even if you’ve never considered majoring in them.   For instance, if drawing political cartoons is one of your talents, then you can add art to your list of majors.

Next, find the names of universities in your home state, as well as in other states, that have programs in your majors.  You may find that most state universities have several programs for one major, which can be an asset.

Then make a list of private universities where your majors are available.  Here you can include well-known names, such as Harvard, Yale and Cornell, as well as smaller universities.  At this stage, don’t consider tuition or other costs.

After this step, use an Internet search engine to locate online universities with your selected majors. Now that you have a list of universities that you’re interested in applying to, you must do the all-important research phase.  

Do I meet the basic requirements to apply for the university?

Generally, most universities will have certain basic admission requirements that you must meet, such as a minimum threshold for GPA and SAT/ACT scores.  Some universities may not have any requirements, but to find out you must go to university websites or order brochures.  At this stage, you should eliminate any university whose requirements you don’t meet, unless you can make changes.  For instance, you can retake the SAT to get a higher math score.

Where is the university located?

After checking the universities’ admission requirements, you have to factor in location.  You may want to be thousands of miles away from home, or you may not.  Consider how far you’re willing to go and look at the location of each university on your list.  Perhaps you want to be close enough to drive home every weekend, or you don’t want to leave home, in which case an online university or a close-by state university will be a good choice.

Another factor to consider when deciding which university you’ll attend is what type of location you prefer, such as urban or rural.  If you want to move to a new environment, then you might choose a university located in a different setting.  However, if you prefer familiar surroundings, then you can choose a university accordingly.

An additional factor regarding location is weather.  Perhaps you’re a native southern Californian who hates snow or a New Jersey resident that enjoys blizzards.  If you’re particular about the climate, then you want to research the types of weather common at the universities’ locations.

Does the university culture make a good “fit” for me?

You also want to consider the general culture of the university.  For instance, how many students are in each class?  How large is the campus?  What types of extra-curricular activities are available?  Is the curriculum mostly liberal, conservative, or a balance of both views?  Can the curriculum be customized or changed for the majors that you’ve selected.  Additionally, is the student body inclusive or divide along race/ethnicity?

To get answers for all your questions, you can use university alumni sites to talk with previous students.  Also, university websites may have videos that you can watch to get a feel for the university, or you can go to www.youtube.com to view channels from numerous schools.  For instance, Harvard has separate channels for their business, public health, law, and other schools.  Plus, you can go to college fairs to interview university representatives.

Lastly, you should take the time to visit a few universities that you are seriously considering.  You will want to visit classrooms, speak with faculty and students, and tour the campus, probably with a parent or trusted friend coming along to provide an additional perspective.

How much will the university cost me?

Finally, you want to an educated estimate of the cost of attending each university.  You want to factor in registration and other fees, tuition, books, and parking.  If you’ll live away from home, you have to add in additional costs, such as food, housing, and other expenses.

While completing this step, don’t be startled at the final costs—state universities can cost $5,000 or more, per year.  If you attend an out-of-state university, you will pay higher tuition rates, at least for the first year.   But you should keep in mind that these universities offer financial aid, such as grants and loans.  Also, the federal government has the Pell Grant, for low-income students working towards their bachelor’s degree.

Pell Grants are also available for private universities, where the costs are generally much higher.  On the other hand, these universities offer more financial aid than their public counterparts.  For instance, Harvard provides full-tuition grants for very low-income students.

So, costs should not be a major factor in choosing which universities to apply to, but you do want to do to be aware of this factor.

In a nutshell, you have to consider your majors, as well as university requirements, location, and culture.  Cost should be a minor factor in deciding on which universities to apply to.  When the research phase is complete, you will apply to universities who have made the cut. Then, from the institutions that have accepted you, you will choose the one university that you’ll attend to make your career goals a reality.  And it will be the right choice.