How to choose a university

Want to know how to choose a university like this one? Read on below ... photo by CC user queenscollege on Flickr

With the stretch drive for university applications looming in the new year, you are no closer to narrowing down your desired post-secondary institutions than you were back in September. With much of your focus taken up by getting good grades and shoring up your extracurricular activities in your senior year of high school, you need to take some time out from your busy schedule to draft a shortlist of colleges that make sense for you.

For that, you need a framework to figure out what schools matter the most. This guide will help you to learn how to choose a university that will meet your post-secondary education needs, so get out a pencil and notepad and get ready to take some serious notes…

Which schools specialize (or are at least above average) in what you want to study?

Above all else, this is what matters the most. As much fun as college can be, you are paying good money in pursuit of an education that will grant you career opportunities that a high school diploma simply can’t grant you. As such, you owe it to yourself get into a school that has a sterling reputation in the field in which you want to study.

For instance, you you seek to be an engineer, gaining admission to a university such as MIT or Stanford would a dream come true, as both institutions are at the forefront of research in the high tech industries defining the 21st century.

To what degree will distance from home play a factor?

Your dream school may give you the best chance at gaining a job in a hot career field, but if you get homesick to the point of paralysis after spending anytime longer than a week, going to school in California when you live in New York might not work out well for you.

On the other hand, if you can’t wait to get the heck out of the house and start living your life independent from parental interference, going to a well-regarded school within an easy drive of your hometown may not be the best idea given the hovering nature of many parents these days.

Picking a school that meshes well with your desire for connection with your family or your desire for autonomy is also vital, as there are a variety of schools of exceptional quality near or far from where you presently live.

Which universities have costs that can you sustain comfortably?

With the amount of student loan debt surpassing consumer debt for the first time in American history this year, ensuring that a college does not blow out your budget is of vital importance. What good is that flashy new entry level job if the lion’s share of your income go towards massive interest payments?

While Ivy League schools cost a mint as per their reputation, there are plenty of more affordable private and state schools that have an academic reputation that is almost as good as their loftier competition, making them a better value for you in the long run.