The basics
Study abroad : Applying to University

Choosing a university: The basics

How do you decide which is the perfect university for you? Here are a couple of questions you should ask yourself to help make your decision...

campus tour - choosing a university

Choosing a university to study at is a major decision in a student’s life. There are so many to choose from around the world, all with their positives, that it can be hard to decide. Plus this decision will shape your learning, the people you meet, the places you see and the career opportunities that are available to you once you graduate.

Hopefully you’ll have done some research already about all the options available to you (and if you haven’t, do so now by downloading a prospectus or asking any questions you have). So while you’re weighing the pros and cons of different institutions, consider the following questions and factors below which should help you decide:


1. What’s your “gut feeling”?

Your “gut feeling” is that first, instinctual feeling you have when you encounter something new. You might not know why you feel a certain way about something, but it’s overwhelming and won’t go away. How do you feel about a particular university? Is something putting you off? Or do you keep coming back to one which you have a good feeling about?


2. The local area

Studying in a small town compared to a big city is completely different. Many who choose to study abroad prefer to study in or near a major city because it’s more likely to have all the essentials. However that doesn’t mean you should automatically dismiss lesser-known locations. Avoid the tourist hotspots which you can always visit on your own and see a more authentic side to that country. You can still get a city-experience but you can visit somewhere which is a bit more alternative – it makes for a more interesting story to tell.


4. Old vs. New

Do you want to study at a university which is centuries old and steeped in history; or do you want to study at a young university in an emerging study destination? This might depend on a few things, particularly what you are planning to study. An older university might be a better fit for more traditional subjects such as literature or law because the subject has deep roots with that institution; meanwhile, a modern institution might be more progressive with brand new facilities for multimedia students (on a similar note, an important figure in your chosen field you inspires you may have studied at a particular institution). Then again it might be the actual “look” and “feel” of an institution which sways your decision – does an older building put you off, or do you have more faith in a brand new institution?


5. What do other students say?

You’re not the first person to be in this position though it might feel that way sometimes – you’re never alone! There have literally been hundreds of thousands of international students before you so it’s always worth looking around to find out what their experiences have been like. With the internet and social media, students can share their experiences easily.

Remember, you can find out what other international students really think of an institution you’re interested in by reading our international student reviews here on Hotcourses Abroad.


6. What do the experts say?

Every year world university league tables are published, ranking the top universities in the world according to education experts who judge them based on key performance indicators; these include factors such as how many graduates find relevant careers after graduating and the quality of research which takes place there. The most notable and respected rankings are the Times Higher Education World University Rankings, which are published each October – take a look and see which universities rank highest for subjects you want to study.


7. Student population

Do you want to study somewhere where there is a thriving international student community? Or would you rather feel like one-in-a-million and study somewhere where there are more domestic students from that country so you can learn more about the culture? You might also want to do some research and find out the teacher-to-student ratio in a university’s department; this will depend on whether you are happy to work independently or whether you expect more one-to-one time with your professors.



Read more:

Can't choose a country to study in? Read our guide, 'Choosing a country to study in: The basics'

Can't choose a course to study? Read our guide, 'Choosing a course to study: The basics'


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About Author

campus tour - choosing a university

Paul Ellett is the editor for Hotcourses Abroad. His role is to plan, produce and share editorial, videos, infographics, eBooks and any other content to inform prospective and current international students about their study abroad experience. When he's not thinking about student visas in Sweden and application deadlines, Paul is an avid fan of comedy podcasts and Nicolas Cage films.