When it comes to picking a college, there are so many possibilities. Sometimes it can feel like there are too many. If you’re unsure of what to look for, it can feel quite overwhelming to make such a huge decision by yourself.
Don’t worry, we’re here to help! This article will help you outline some crucial things to consider when choosing a college to make sure that you're making the best decision for whatever experience you’re looking for.
Ready to browse programs all over the world?
Discover your perfect study abroad program.
1. Consider your own priorities
The students who struggle the most when picking a college are the ones who aren’t sure about what they’re looking for in the first place. To avoid this, spend some time thinking about what you want in the future. What does your ideal life look like in a few years, and what can help you get there?
The biggest things to consider when choosing a college are individual and based on your own preferences. So, first think about your personal development goals. How much does a school’s location or size matter to you, and what is your budget? If you choose to study abroad, you should know that many countries offer international students longer visas to search for a job after graduation. Is this something you want to take advantage of? Studying at a university can shape the rest of your life, and it’s best to have some intentions (with room for flexibility) as you make a decision.
Now, make a ranking of your own list of priorities to compare the pros and cons of different programs and locations. Ensure that you consider short-term aspects like your social life as well as long-term goals such as your career path.
2. Check out the courses and teaching staff
You might be surprised, but university rankings aren’t very helpful when planning how to choose a college. Looking at schools on a much smaller scale will tell you much more. If you want to study a specific subject, check out the school’s department of your subject of interest.
One of the most important things to consider when choosing a college is how the course content differs between schools. Imagine that you want to study business, for example. When looking at the business department, you might find that one school has more courses in sustainable business leadership while another has more interesting classes in international business management. Your decision could have just gotten much easier!
Find more detailed information about future courses, class sizes, faculty involvement, and opportunities like internships and research assistant positions through a school’s department. Do some research on the subject you’re interested in and reach out to the schools for more information.
3. Make sure the university’s support services and facilities are up to your expectations
When you’re picking a college, you’re also choosing a second home. The library, gym, and housing options as well as mental health support, career services, academic advising, and international student services are all a part of your future experience. Make sure that these are what you’re looking for!
The size of the school is also an important factor for many students. Larger schools may have more name recognition, which could give you a step up on your resume. They might also have a broader range of courses and more social activities.
On the other hand, you could also benefit by picking a college with a smaller student body. With smaller class sizes, it’s easier for students to form relationships with professors. This could lead to more personal attention in the classroom and greater support for individual success.
4. Match the location and social scene to your lifestyle
When you're learning how to choose a college, don’t forget about your life outside of classes. Your social life is complementary to studying, and different schools’ social scenes are important things to consider when choosing a college. There are many ways to make friends, try new things, and develop your interests depending on the school and location you choose.
Universities usually have sports groups, clubs, and societies to keep you busy while studying. If you’re interested in any particular activities, take a look at what different schools already offer! Keep in mind that it’s usually possible to start new student clubs too.
Your lifestyle will also heavily depend on the location of your new school. Would you rather live in a town, small city, or metropolis? How is the public transport system, and is accommodation readily available?
All of these questions are important for your future and are good questions to ask colleges. However, don’t be afraid to venture into the unknown! This is a great time to immerse yourself in a new international environment.
5. Ensure the cost of living and tuition are in your budget
Of course, of all the things to consider when choosing a college, the cost is likely one of the most important. Your daily expenses will vary depending on the school. If you’re studying abroad, it will differ depending on what country you’re from.
Tuition often becomes a centerpoint when students are learning how to choose a college. Yet, it's also wise to look beyond the tuition and see what other fees apply to your stay. Look into the locations of schools to find the average rent and be aware that some countries advertise a weekly rate while others typically have a monthly rent.
Some good questions to ask colleges would be about the possibilities for student housing and student discounts for other living costs. Regardless of this possibility, spend some time thinking about things like your weekly grocery list. Check out the local supermarkets to see how much you’d be spending and see if your budget can meet that. Our country guides can also give you some insight into average living costs.
There are several options to approach budgeting for your education. One way is to look at loans, where you would borrow money and eventually pay the amount back. Another option to consider is applying for scholarships and grants. There are a huge number of scholarships available from individual schools, foundations, governments, and businesses. With this type of funding, you wouldn’t need to worry about paying any money back.
Of course, you could also look into finding a part-time job as long as it doesn't interfere with your studying. Some schools even have job listings that are only open to their students.
Do you need a scholarship to study abroad?
Check out our scholarship directory to get the funding you need.
6. Talk to current students and get to know first-hand what a school is like
Even if you already have some good questions to ask colleges in mind, the students who are already at a school truly know best. So, as you are figuring out how to choose a college, talk to current students online to learn more about real experiences.
Unibuddy gives you a free platform to chat with current students at specific schools and in some of the most popular destination countries. You can ask international students about their experiences at a school to get a realistic idea of what life there is like. Each student ambassador’s experiences at a school will be different, but their insight could still give you a better understanding of your prioritized factors than a school’s advisors can.
In short, picking a college becomes much easier once you think about your personal priorities and realistic limitations. If you get stuck, look to current international students from your country or in your preferred country to get some advice that you may not have considered before. Studying abroad is a huge decision, but a worthwhile one that is full of personal growth and adventure! So, take your time, choose the right program for you, and enjoy.