How to Choose Where to Apply to College
University applications can be challenging, and sometimes the most challenging part is deciding where to apply. We've broken down everything you need to know about choosing your universities so you can make the best decision about where to study.
Course and Curriculum
The first step is the easiest of all - discard all the universities that don’t provide your course.
Next, read the course curriculum for each university you are interested in. This is one of the most overlooked steps by students. Different universities offer different curriculums for the same major. Some will push you towards independent study, give you more flexibility through elective modules, or assess you through coursework rather than exams.
These differences play a large role in shaping your academic experience. Make sure to read the course content when identifying the right university for you.
If you are applying to the UK or certain European universities, you will have to meet the required minimum grades. This will be assessed through your mock exams or your high school transcripts. Your reference letter can also provide an indication of your academic performance so it is worth speaking to your referee about this as it could give your application a boost.
If you are applying to the US, check out the university’s admission rate. American universities do not have strict grade requirements; instead, they assess your application holistically. The admission rate and average SAT and GPA scores are your best bet to figure out how competitive your application is from an academic standpoint. Don’t worry too much if you find yourself ranking below average but still wish to apply - your application will be evaluated on its other merits too.
Whether you are aiming for top universities or not, rankings are a great indicator to look at once you’ve filtered your universities by course and entry requirements. Make sure to search for both the general ranking and course ranking as some universities can be highly ranked overall but rank lower on specific courses. In this case, you will have to decide which of the two rankings you care most about.
Social Life Considerations
Do you enjoy the hustle and bustle of big cities? Do you want scenic nature nearby? Do you dislike rain and cold weather? All these questions can help you narrow down universities that might be a good fit.
Where you attend university has a big impact on your experience as different countries have different university cultures. If you are keen on a campus lifestyle or are undecided about your major, the US is the best place for you with its large campuses and liberal arts programs. On the other hand, if you would like a structured course and enjoy town-life, the UK offers plenty of great options.
European universities offer a wide range of experiences, so it is worth exploring those as well!
Greek life, sports and other activities may define campus life at some universities. Consider which activities might be most appealing to you and what kind of social experience you hope to have at college. If you have any hobbies you wish to continue, or maybe even start during your undergraduate degree, check out the university or Student Union website to find out more about the available student organizations.
Friends & Family
Finally, being close to family is an important factor for many students. While you may still decide to travel to another country, some countries and cities are more accessible than others. Consider whether having family nearby is a key aspect of your comfort and happiness.
Having friends nearby or at the same school can be great but it can also influence your decision making. Choosing where to study is a big decision that will affect where you live, study, and make new friends for the next few years. While studying alongside your friends is comforting, consider looking further afield for new experiences!
One of the most important practical considerations is the financial cost of your studies. Average college tuition fees in the US are $31,231 for private non-profit colleges. As for the UK, international undergraduate tuition fees vary considerably, starting at around £12,000 and going up to £38,000 per year. European universities have a similarly wide range in tuition fees.
These fees do not include accommodation, transport, insurance and other living expenses. It is worth having a conversation with your family or sponsor about this and researching your funding options.
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