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Eight Questions to Help You Choose the Right University or College

By Christine Nguyen

PUBLISHED February 23, 2017 • 4 min read

Sure, getting an education is your ultimate goal but you should have a good time while you’re there too. A school that’s well-known for your program might be the most obvious choice but there are also personal and practical aspects that can make or break your postsecondary experience. Here are eight questions to ask yourself when choosing a school.

1. Is it the Right Fit Academically?

Renowned professors, research and internship opportunities, academic reputation, type of courses offered, exchange programs — these can all add to the strength of a program. Ask yourself what’s important to you and which school would provide the learning experience you’re looking to have.

2. Do I Want to Stay at Home or Move Out?

The dorm life can be a fun and enriching experience but can be a huge addition to your debt load. Cost of housing, utilities, and food can add up to as much as an extra $45,000 over your time at school — that’s on top of your tuition costs! You’ll also need to factor in costs for travel between your hometown and school.

3. How Far Away Do I Want to Be From Family and Friends?

Being away from family and friends can lead to homesickness, not to mention long-distance woes if you’re leaving your sweetheart behind. With time, as you settle into a new routine and find new friends, homesickness can be temporary; however, distance will always be an inconvenience.

4. Am I Being Pressured to Go?

Your dad went to McGill. Your grandpa went to McGill. You obviously need to go to McGill too … right? Maintaining family tradition can be important, but it shouldn’t be your only reason. Don’t be afraid to change things up and start your own legacy.

5. Do I See Myself Living in [Insert City Name]?

If you’re a born and raised city kid who can’t live without a nightlife, a rural town might not be the best fit for you. A new place to call home can be an exciting adventure, but how far are you willing to stray from your current lifestyle?

6. Can I Afford the Cost of Living?

The average cost of a one-bedroom apartment in downtown Vancouver is currently $1,599. Compare that to $996 in downtown Halifax. Your cost of living will vary depending on where you’re moving for school so figure out if you have the means to afford it.

7. Is the Campus Culture a Good Fit With my Personality?

Finding a campus culture that fits your needs and personality is important. Is a vibrant postsecondary experience something that is important to you? Or are you primarily looking to attend class then head home? If you don’t mesh with the culture, your experience could fall flat. See what kind of reputation the school has and whether there are extracurriculars that cater to your personal interests.

8. Do I Prefer a Big or Small Campus

Universities and colleges come in all shapes and sizes. A large campus and student population might feel overwhelming for someone who prefers a more personal experience than a smaller campus offers. If you like the thought of a tight knit community, a small campus would be better suited for you. If you want the anonymity of a crowd and are excited at the thought of attending an 800 student lecture, you’re probably better off at a big campus. The best way to truly find out if a school is right for you is by visiting it. If possible, go out for a visit and get a feel for what the school’s all about before you apply. If you aren’t able to make the trek, another alternative is to pop into a local university or college fair in your area. By answering these questions, you should be able to narrow down your school choices. Now the next step is figuring out your financial plan for the school year!

This article is intended as general information only and is not to be relied upon as constituting legal, financial or other professional advice. A professional advisor should be consulted regarding your specific situation. Information presented is believed to be factual and up-to-date but we do not guarantee its accuracy and it should not be regarded as a complete analysis of the subjects discussed. All expressions of opinion reflect the judgment of the authors as of the date of publication and are subject to change. No endorsement of any third parties or their advice, opinions, information, products or services is expressly given or implied by Royal Bank of Canada or any of its affiliates.

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Career Planning & Development Education