Finding your university match comes down to one simple question, does it have the characteristics you are looking for? There are a lot of factors to consider when researching universities; and naturally, each student’s emphasis will be different. By identifying your needs early on, you can eliminate numerous schools and focus on the things that matter most. The categories below each include a list of questions you may want to consider when researching universities and striving to find your perfect fit.
- Does the university have the major(s) I’m considering?
- Does the university have other majors that interest me (in case I change my mind)?
- What is the academic reputation of the university? What about the reputation of my major(s)?
- What are the professors like? What have they accomplished?
- What is the fouryear (or sixyear) graduation rate?
- What is the freshmantosophomore retention rate?
- What is the average class size for introductory courses? For advanced courses?
- What is the studentfaculty ratio overall? In my potential major?
- What accreditation(s) does the school hold? What about my major?
- What are the qualities of the academic facilities (e.g., libraries, labs, etc.)?
- What kind of research opportunities exist on campus?
- Do I want to attend university in a rural, suburban, or urban area?
- Do I want to be far away? Or close enough to travel home on the weekends?
- What is the weather typically like during the academic year?
- What kinds of recreational opportunities and amenities are in the area?
- What is the transportation system for students who don’t have a car on campus?
- How safe is the surrounding area of the campus?
- What is the relationship between the university and surrounding community?
- What are the local employment opportunities for students looking for internships and part-time jobs? Recent grads looking for full-time positions?
- Can I live off campus? Does the school provide assistance with off campus housing?
- If I want to stay on campus, is housing guaranteed/available all four years?
- What is the average cost of living and general quality of life?
- What is the social scene on campus?
- How do students spend their free time on campus? Off campus?
- How many students live on campus full-time?
- How many students stay on campus during the weekends?
- What percentage of students remain on campus during holiday breaks?
- What fun and engaging activities are available to students through the school? In the community?
- How friendly and welcoming are the students and staff?
- What is there to do when I’m not in class?
- What kinds of extracurricular opportunities exist on campus in art, music, theater, community service, athletics, etc.?
- How many students participate in extracurricular activities?
- Are there clubs, societies or pre-professional organizations related to my major? Or intended career?
- Can students start their own clubs?
- What athletic conference and division is the school?
- What are the student demographics?
- What is the overall student body population?
- What is the overall average class size? In the academic program that interests me?
- What is the overall student-faculty ratio? In the academic program that interests me?
- Are most courses taught through lectures? Or are there opportunities for interaction and discussion?
- Are the courses taught by a professor or a teacher’s assistant?
Cost, Financial Aid, and Affordability
- What percentage of students receives financial aid? How much on average?
- What percentage of students graduate with debt? How much on average?
- Are international students eligible for need-based scholarships? Loans?
- Is the school need-blind or need-aware in admission?
- How many years does it typically take students to graduate (each year is another year of tuition, and oftentimes financial aid and scholarships do not extend beyond four years)?
- What kinds of university scholarships are available to students (awarded by academic achievement, through college departments, etc.)?
- What kinds of work-study opportunities are there for students?
Campus Support & Career Services
- How will the school help me determine and achieve my career goals?
- What is the postgraduate job placement rate (in positions related to students’ degrees)?
- Is there a career services office? What does the career services office offer?
- What kinds of experiential education opportunities, such as internships, co-ops, and volunteering, exist on and around campus?
- Are career services available after graduation?
- What academic services are available?
- What kinds of writing support or other tutoring programs does the school offer?
- What health and wellness services are available, such as mental health counseling and fitness facilities?
Addressing these questions will help you reach your goal of finding your ideal university. Figuring out what’s important to you will help you narrow the field when choosing a university, and you may discover some options that weren’t initially on your radar. Selecting a university because your friends are going there or because of where it ranks on a list does not take into account who you are and who you will become. College is a match to be made, not a prize to be won. Therefore, finding a good fit requires time and thoughtfulness.
By Dr. Shanell Leggins
Guidance Counselor at KIS International School Bangkok, Thailand.