21 Tips to Select the Right University For You [2020]

How do you tell which schools are good? What factors should you consider before choosing the right university? It can be daunting to find the right university for you, but our experts will help you with the essential factors you must consider while shortlisting schools. Learn more about how to choose the right graduate schools to apply to and narrow your list by considering these 21 important factors.

When it comes to selecting a university, the “one-size-fits-all” theory becomes redundant. As we all have unique needs based on our ambitions and our means to realize these ambitions, an Ivy League school may not be the right fit for many of us. To help you select the right school for you (be it in the Ivy League or not), we’ve put together a list of 21 factors for you to consider while shortlisting the universities for your higher education.

Type of program

This is usually the most critical factor for every student to consider as selecting a program involves other factors that can be crucial in determining one’s future. By doing your research on each university’s program, you’ll be able to determine variations in each program, which could influence your decision on whether or not to pursue that program.

In addition to browsing a university’s website, you could turn to the Admissions Office at each university for more information on the programs offered, such as credit requirements, curriculum and the degree earned upon completion of the program.

Some universities offer a lot more flexibility in their programs than others, so it is always wise to do your research on these and pick universities that cater to your style of study. Brown University, Amherst College, Hamilton College and NYU Gallatin School of Individualized Study are just some universities that offer programs with open curricula.


Ensuring that your targeted university is accredited, can significantly benefit you. Degrees earned from accredited universities are highly-valued by employers, and additionally other universities, which will be a blessing if you plan to study further.

Universities are also more likely to accept your credit scores from an accredited university over one that isn’t. This factor is especially important if you plan to transfer to another university after completing a certain number of credit courses. If you wish to know whether the university you are interested in is accredited or not, you can look it up here.


While you select a university to apply to, you will have to consider if you can afford to study at this university. Tuition for your program would depend on the type of program you opt for and its duration. Tuition at private universities is generally higher than tuition at public universities. In addition to the tuition fee, you will have to consider living expenses as well.

Your living expenses will largely depend on the location of the university. Universities located in small towns or villages are generally less expensive than one in a large city.

Some of the most expensive programs in the world:

  • Bard College’s Bachelor of Music program
  • The University of Cambridge’s Doctor of Business program
  • Harvey Mudd College’s Bachelor of Science program
  • Wharton School’s Executive MBA program
  • Sarah Lawrence College’s Bachelor of Arts program
  • Doctor of Medicine program at Tufts University School of Medicine

A few of the least expensive countries for higher education include Germany, Malaysia, Norway, South Africa, France, Argentina, Taiwan, and Poland.

Course flexibility

A course’s flexibility isn’t something that international students typically consider. However, it is worthwhile to know that universities are increasingly offering more flexible programs to students, which can be quite beneficial.

Flexible programs are great for students who have financial constraints and need to work in order to support themselves for the duration of the program. In addition to this, flexible programs are a good option for people who need to travel a lot.

Students with disabilities often prefer flexible programs as they provide them with more freedom in terms of timings as well as location, with the option to study from the comfort of their homes. Another benefit of flexible programs is that most of the instructors are trained to foster a feeling of inclusiveness in their classrooms.


Do you love all the natural beauty that comes with living in a village or perhaps you would rather live a fast-paced life in a thriving city, or maybe you love the close-knit atmosphere of a small town? Whichever scene you prefer, you will find a university in an environment that is right for you. In addition to lifestyle preferences, your university’s location also matters when it is time to look into companies close by for internships or jobs during the course of your program or jobs after you graduate.

In addition to career and internship opportunities, a university’s location could also affect your access to networking opportunities. Another reason to consider a university’s location is financing, as universities located in cities are usually a bit more expensive. Last but not least, a university’s location can influence the activities and experiences on offer for a student, which can help with your personal development.

Admission Rate

By checking the admission rate of your target university, you can learn a lot about the kind of students that are accepted by the university and better understand your chances of being accepted. While the general perception is that universities with low acceptance rates usually accept students with the strongest profiles, the reality is quite different.

There are a couple of factors to consider while comparing the admission rates of universities. Quite often, universities that have a low acceptance rate may be easier to get into, depending on the number of applicants the university receives that year.

On the other hand, a university that has a high acceptance rate may have had more students applying as well, so while considering the acceptance rate, it is always wise to check how many applications the university received. Another important factor is the enrollment rate at each university. Some universities have high admission rates, but low enrollment rates. This statistic will give you an idea of how other students view the university.

Admission Criteria

A majority of universities post the GPAs and standardized test scores of their students online. Checking these scores will help you figure out your chances of gaining admission at this university.

While there are several other factors that may eventually influence an admission committee member’s decision, the prerequisites mentioned on the website along with the academic details of former students should give you a fair idea of what kind of student profiles appeal to the university.

Graduation Rate

By considering your target university’s graduate rate, you will have a fair idea about the number of students that graduate from their university. This, in turn, will help you figure out the opportunities and possibilities in store for you as an alumnus of the university.

These rates should be easy to find on the internet. As per a 2015 study, the countries with the highest graduation rates (in order) are Canada, the US, Japan, Germany, Israel, South Korea, New Zealand, the UK, Ireland, and Australia.

Campus Facilities

This is, perhaps one of the more underrated factors in university selection. By researching the facilities available to you at your target university, you will not only know which options can be useful to you personally but educationally as well. A well-stocked library and efficient laboratories could positively impact the education you receive, thereby giving you an edge with your career. Excellent dining options are definitely a bonus.

For those of you that have a strong appreciation for aesthetics, a few universities renown for their beautiful campi include the University of Sydney (Australia), Royal Roads University (British Columbia), Princeton University (New Jersey), Cornell University (New York), University of Salamanca (Spain), University of Otago (New Zealand), Trinity College (Ireland), Dartmouth College (New Hampshire), University of London (UK), Queen’s University (Ireland) and University of Cambridge (UK).

Academic Support

Universities that provide strong academic support should definitely earn some extra points in your shortlist. Academic support staff can aid you during the course of your program by providing you with valuable resources.

Many universities have a separate building for academic support staff. Support can be in the form of counseling in terms of career guidance, emotional well being, part-time jobs and assistantships, credits and extra classes, accommodation, networking, and internships.

For those students that are unsure of their career path, these counselors can not only help them figure out the best career path but also advise them on the best courses to take to help them along the way. In addition to this, if students have trouble understanding how many credits they need or how to divide them between semesters, the office can guide them on how many credits they need and how to balance them out during the course of their study.

When it comes to part-time jobs, the support staff can help students find jobs on campus or provide them with details on available teaching and research assistantships. The support staff can also help students find internships and connect students to alumni that can potentially help the students.

Faculty to student ratio

Depending on the kind of instruction you prefer, the faculty to student ration will give you a good idea of what to expect from a class. Universities generally post details about the class size of each of their programs.

If you prefer lots of individualized attention, seek out a program at a university with a small class. Larger classes are better suited for students that excel when surrounded by many classmates and do not need too much individual attention.

A common misconception among students is that class sizes depend on the size of the university. Some universities with the lowest student-to-staff ratios include Medical College of Wisconsin, Oregon Health and Science University, Rush University, Showa University, University of Nebraska Medical Center, John Hopkins University and Medical University of Vienna and Tokyo Medical and Dental University.

Financial Aid

If you are worried about how to fund your higher education, you should have ample opportunities to apply for financial aid. You can apply for scholarships, federal or state grants, and student loans.

To better understand your chances of being awarded financial aid, universities publish data to show the percentage of students that received financial assistance. Some universities that offer high need-based financial aid include Princeton University, Harvard University, Rice University, Amherst College, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Yale University, Pomona University, California Institute of Technology, University of Pennsylvania and Vanderbilt University.

Practical Training

This is an excellent parameter to feature into your shortlisting process if you are keen on gaining hands-on experience while studying. Quite a number of universities that offer practical training opportunities as a part of the curriculum, these days, usually in the form of lab work, practicum, and internships.

Some universities that offer practical training programs include Campbellsville University, Sullivan University, Wichita State University, New Jersey Institute of Technology, Vanderbilt University, and Virginia International University.

Retention Rate

While shortlisting universities, a university’s retention rate is a good indicator of its students’ satisfaction. As happier students are more likely to return to their university, targeting a university with a high retention rate is a good idea. Your chances of being happy at this university are that much higher.

University Size

This parameter, which focuses on an individual’s preference, may not be the most critical factor to consider as you narrow in on a university. If you prefer exploring a large campus and thrive in lively settings, a large university should be a good match for you. However, if you prefer smaller settings with friendly faces around each corner, small universities are a good choice.

Job Placements and Career Services

Often overlooked, this is a great factor to consider while selecting a university as some universities offer many resources and services that could give you a good head-start. Doing your research on a university’s alumni will also give you a good idea about your job prospects after graduating from a particular university.

While you could check the university’s website to get an idea about their former students, you could also connect with them at college fairs or forums. Universities with an active career services office can help you in a number of ways, such as by counseling you when required, helping you prepare for an interview, reviewing your resumes, and helping you search for jobs, among others.

Some universities that are considered to have the best career services on offer are Northeastern University, Pennsylvania State University – University Park, Claremont McKenna College, Bentley University and Clemson University.

Professors and Department of Study

While studying at a top university does come with perks and bragging rights, a university’s department can play a huge role in the job you get. Many universities that do not feature in the global top 20 or belong to the Ivy League have exceptional departments that are well-respected among potential employers.

Researching the professors of the relevant department of your targeted university is also a good idea. Not only will you better understand how their background could potentially help you grow, but you will know if their research interests tie in with your own. In addition to their background and research interests, former students are more than happy to discuss their experiences with and opinions of professors, online.

Dining Options

While most universities, these days, have dining halls and restaurants or cafes on campus that cater to a variety of dietary requirements, it makes sense to ensure that your own needs will be met. Meal plans are a blessing for students, so search for meal plan options that would work for you.

According to Best Value Schools, some of the universities with the best dining halls are Bowdoin College (Brunswick, ME), Virginia Polytechnic and State Institute (Blacksburg, VA), University of California-Los Angeles (Los Angeles, CA), James Madison University (Harrisonburg, VA) and Cornell University (Ithaca, NY).

Extracurricular activities

If you hope to pursue a specific extracurricular activity while you study, check if your selected university offers this particular activity. While most extracurricular clubs center around music, sports, arts, dramatics, culture or science, some universities have some unusual clubs.

Here are few:

  1. The Fine Cheese Club at Scripps College is all about its name, whether it involves trying to find the best pairings with different types of cheese or making the cheese itself.
  2. Goucher College in Baltimore has a club called Humans vs. Zombies, which pits students against each other in one of these two avatars, making for a real horror experience, where the focus is on surviving.
  3. The Freewill Folk Society at Bates College focuses on exposing students to a range of American folk traditions, some of which include knitting, bluegrass music, group singing, and dancing.
  4. The Tree Musketeers club at Northern Michigan University has its members honing their tree-climbing skills, using different techniques.
  5. The College of William and Mary in Williamsburg has a Wizards and Muggles club, which is self-explanatory to any Harry Potter fan. In addition to an exciting sorting ceremony, the university also has its very own team.


Generally, every university is particular about the measures they take to ensure a student’s safety. However, you can look up these safety measures to know if they work for you.

Here are some of the safest student cities in the world:

  1. Kyoto, Osaka, Kobe (Keihanshin, Japan)
  2. Zurich (Switzerland)
  3. Tokyo (Japan)
  4. Copenhagen (Denmark)
  5. Quebec (Canada)
  6. Tampere (Finland)
  7. Singapore
  8. Munich (Germany)
  9. Vienna (Austria)
  10. Brno (Czech Republic).


Now, more than ever, networking is crucial to growing your career. Universities with a massive alumni base are more likely to provide you with more opportunities by helping you connect with them.