ClassChoosing which university to study at often feels like one of the most important decisions you’ll ever make. After all, with the costs to get a degree constantly rising, gaining that all important piece of paper is a very expensive undertaking. When it comes to selecting which institution to attend, many people often look at the most prestigious (and generally the most expensive) options.

However, this isn’t necessarily the right move as, apart from a university’s reputation and academic quality, there are many other factors to keep in mind. From the campus culture to location, career support, research opportunities, and more, there are a wide variety of considerations to weigh. If you’re trying to decide which university to call home for the next few years, read on for the top factors you should investigate before you commit.

Career Support

The main reason people attend university is to give themselves plenty of job opportunities. As such, it’s a good idea to check out the career support offered by the institutions you’re considering studying at. While many students don’t pay a lot of attention to career services provided at their college, it’s important to make the most of this extra support.

Most universities have career centers that help students with professional development opportunities, whether they’re studying taxation law, languages, biology, civil engineering or any other focus. To start with, many facilities run regular career fairs on campus to help introduce students to potential employers, as well as give them the chance to find out more about specific companies and job opportunities. These fairs can also often pave the way for internships or other work experience.

Many universities also provide personalized career counseling sessions — in-person or online depending on degree program — that are designed to help students identify, and then achieve, their professional goals.  Session topics, as well as other on-campus seminars and workshops, can run across areas such as resume and cover letter formatting and content; preparation for interviews; networking strategies; and workplace etiquette guidelines. Many good career centers are also starting to include information on ways to utilize social media for networking, job hunting, and developing a personal brand.

Another area that college career centers can help with is actually finding a job. A lot of institutions provide students with access to an online job database where they can find and apply either entry-level positions or jobs requiring more experience. As well, many universities have on-campus job openings that can provide great experience and be a beneficial addition to a resume.

Campus Culture and Facilities

For a large number of students, the campus culture and facilities provided by a university are one of the key factors taken into consideration when deciding on a venue. While study time is obviously important, it’s also a good idea to balance uni life with social interaction and extra-curricular activities.

As such, you probably want to check out a university’s social, sporting, and cultural clubs and activities before you enroll. Consider things such as gyms and other sporting facilities, the size of the venue and number of students attending, on-site dorm accommodation, and variety of social and cultural clubs.

On the study side of things, it can also often be important to look at the research and practical facilities available on campus. Students enrolling in science-related degrees, for example, may want to find a university that provides specialized equipment, well-fitted out laboratories, and even on-site research centers for work placements.

Study Options

If you have particular needs around how and when you study, and for how long, make sure you look at universities with flexible options. Many students can only study part time or via online learning options due to current work or family commitments. Also, some students choose to take on an accelerated degree programme so that they can finish a three-year degree in two years. These fast-tracked degrees are only available at some venues though, so ensure your requirements can be met by any uni you’re considering.

Location

Another factor to take into consideration when selecting a college is its location. While many students might look forward to escaping parental bonds as soon as they can, attending a university that is within a reasonably short driving distance from the family home can often be ideal. If you want to regularly visit your family on weekends and at holidays (possibly to take advantage of free meals and laundry!) you should check out venues that aren’t too far away from home. Alternatively, if you’re looking for a cost-effective way to study, it might be wise to continue to live at home while attending a local institution or take online classes.