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The Most Important Factor When Choosing a University

By Nandini S

Updated July 7, 2021 Updated July 7, 2021

According to UBC student Nandini Sood, researching universities is important to get a subjective understanding of the universities, as well as to understand how these schools competed against each other.

After four years at school working towards college acceptances, and the year-long push in finishing applications and the nervousness of receiving decisions, the work is finally done.

The decisions are here and now it's up to you to choose where to go. It shouldn’t be hard… right? These are all universities you love, so no option can possibly be bad; but which one is the best?

Burdened by the daunting task of choosing a university that would be the best fit for me, I had many variables to consider.

From a university’s ranking to its location, I had many questions that I needed answered. However, being among the first few people in my family looking at a university outside of my home country, these questions were going unheard.

The pressure to decide increased as the enrolment deadline approached. How was I going to find answers to my very personalised interests? Just a little bit of advice from a senior in my school made my approach clearer: research.

How to research universities

The first and most important step I took was identifying what I wanted in a university, while considering my personal and career goals. Some of these included the location, ranking for my major (psychology), openness to international students, and flexibility in terms of specialisation.

The three universities I'd shortlisted, Boston University, University of British Columbia and New York University, Shanghai, all fit with these ideals to a varying degree.

To consolidate my thoughts, I created a pros and cons list for each of the universities and wrote out every possible detail, including my admiration for Boston University’s striking red school colours (a SOLID pro!). This table formed the foundation of my ongoing research.

Next, in filling out this table, I talked to people I knew in the respective universities. This included watching YouTube videos published by students, especially for those I didn’t know anyone attending the university.

Through this, I gained an idea of the actual functioning of the schools, and arguably most importantly, whether or not the students liked their school.

UBC ranked high in student testimonials, which seemed to be somewhat influenced by its beautiful campus. Finding out about the beach on campus was another huge pro for UBC that I hadn’t previously factored in.

These conversations with students were a welcome course for advice that also helped me during my first year. Ultimately, it helped me realise that a high-ranking university is only as good as its students perceive it to be.

Getting a subjective understanding of the universities I was considering was important, but it was also important for me to objectively understand how these schools competed against each other.

It is quite rare to know someone transferring from one of the universities you’re considering to another, or to know a mother with three children - one in each of your three universities who can give you advice. Even then, their experience may not provide you with objective insight.

Therefore, websites such as QS can provide insight into the rankings and statistics of each of the universities. These statistics can push you in favour of one university or another, as they did for me.

Finding out UBC offered a significantly cheaper average tuition than BU urged me towards UBC. The extra US$20,000 to be paid for BU, unfortunately, didn’t feel worth their beautiful red school colour. This objective information allowed me to quell my confusion and finally commit to UBC.

Overall, my experience in choosing a university hopefully attests to the importance of research. From getting suggestions from your seniors, to understanding the fee structure, the various components of research are necessary to choose a university you will love. Through my very confusing decision, I have grown immensely fond of all the schools I was considering.

My decision to attend UBC is one I will never regret - though I’m sure I would have said the same about the other schools! In this process, it was important to recognise that no choice was bad, but there was going to be one school that fit me perfectly. As I attend UBC and interact with the people around me, I feel immensely grateful to the research I did, which urged me to pick UBC.

This article was originally published in July 2021 .

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