What are some aspects one must take into consideration when deciding which university to attend?


I understand that while ranking is important, other aspects should be taken into consideration too (eg. social dynamics, location/climate) before deciding on a university.
What was your thought process before choosing a uni and which aspects are the most important?
Thank you!

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The overarching basis for which you should choose is:

Which university will allow you to perform your best!

Your performance is a function of many things - your mental health (how happy and fulfilled you feel), your ambition, your excitement over the coursework you are involved with.

If you aren’t a particularly strong student and you go to Harvard a few things are going to happen:

  1. You may get very stresssed and perhaps depressed because everyone around you would be finding work a lot easier than you
  2. You are going to perform very badly in any relative competition (your GPA which is often derived from relative curves in classes comparing you to the performance of your class and recruiting for firms that only take a fixed number of people from your college)
  3. You may not form as many close friends as other students as your Harvard experience will likely isolate you from others who are not deeply struggling and stressed

It is much better to be in the top 30% of a reasonable environment than to be in the bottom 5% of a very strong environment.

Here are some factors I would consider:

  1. average salaries of graduates from your university
  2. average salaries of graduates within the sub-sectors of the university relevant to you
  3. quality of financial aid (the more financial aid, the more competitive the student body is because the pool of potential applicants is wider)
  4. number of students at your university
  5. number of undergrads v number of postgrads
  6. climate during Winter and Summer
  7. % of international students (also, if there are any international students from where you are from - can actually be a big perk if there hasn’t been many)
  8. placement record of university into desirable postgraduate studies
  9. quality of companies that recruit on campus
  10. top alumni from the university (what fields are they in, are their any notable alumni?)
  11. size of endowment (the bigger the endowment, the more resources the university has to make the experience better
  12. breakdown of majors/degrees of the student body (helps to show you what the market i.e. the average student attending the school chooses to study and thus, what the university is stronger at)
  13. breakdown of political views of student body (right-wing, left-wing, socially conservative, socially liberal)
  14. breakdown of graduate’s destinations for work (career mix, not for profits, graduate schools)
  15. location (city, rural, state, country)
  16. dorm quality (I personally don’t care about this but bad living conditions can make for a not so pleasant experience)
  17. culture of the university (how do people describe the student ethos and experience - is it pre-professional? it is cut-throat? is it adventure loving?)
  18. quality of professors (number of professors in your specific department)
  19. student/faculty ratio
  20. research opportunities (no opportunities, integrated programs, informal opportunities?)
  21. cost of the degree compared to other options
  22. degree flexibility v focus (will you build a defensible core competency fast or will you building a broad base of skills and exploring new areas or both?)

Hopefully that gives you some initial thoughts!

What should I be thinking about when selecting a college?