Don't Underrate these Criteria when School Shopping

This is the second part of a pair of articles intended to help students identify important criteria when applying to and choosing a university.

By Xavier Royer — January 18, 2023


Don't Underrate these Criteria when School Shopping

This is the second part of a pair of articles intended to help students identify important criteria when applying to and choosing a university. In part one, I discussed how flawed the ranking system is, and why it should not be the chief factor in deciding where a student should attend. This article will point to other factors that should pull students. This list is not exhaustive. Rather, these are criteria that often get overlooked or undervalued.

Location... Including Weather!

Some students feel silly thinking about location, but it absolutely matters. Location can be impactful in many ways. First, the size of the community the university is in can be important. It would be ridiculous to look at a university like Suffolk University in Boston and Midlands University in Fremont, Nebraska without taking into account the cities the two are located in. Distance from home can be a push or pull factor for many students as well, both for those wanting to stay close as well as those who want the adventure of moving somewhere far away. Finally, the weather is not nothing. Snow is real, particularly in the Midwest and New England regions of the United States. If bundling up to attend a class on a (literally) freezing morning through a few (or many) inches of snow is a deal breaker, it is ok for that to be a deal breaker!

Sports and Sports Culture

There are a number of people who will vehemently disagree with me that this should have any stake in a university decision, but my argument to them would be that they are failing to look at the university experience in a holistic way. I will meet them halfway and say not to attend a university just to attend sports, but I will give prospective students permission to incorporate it as an important factor. Having a well-followed football, basketball, or other sporting program on campus can not only be a great social and recreational opportunity on the weekends, but also brings campus together in ways that universities without that sports culture struggle to do. It is worth considering that this can work both ways. If a student is sports-phobic, a smaller university without that kind of culture might help that student feel less like an outsider.

Intramurals, Clubs, and Extra-Curriculars

A great extra-curricular can be a cornerstone of a university experience. Some universities take extracurriculars seriously while others do not prioritize it as much or are at least more selective about what they support. Being able to be part of a fun intramural league, debate team, model un club, or whatever a students *thing* gives students not only something to look forward to, but a connection to the university.

The Food

Remove this from a discussion about a university for a second. Almost everyone enjoys food, and mealtime is often an important and sacred time to refuel both physically and mentally. Take food quality and amenities seriously. You owe it to yourself.

Dorms

I was told at three of the four universities I visited "the dorms are small because we do not want you spending a lot of time there." There is a bit of truth to that, but it is mostly an excuse. Living conditions can really alter a college experience, including academic performance. Students should not be expecting a mansion, but features like having their own space, bathroom, kitchen, etc. as well as being somewhere clean and well maintained can make a big difference.

There are of course dozens if not hundreds of other criteria students should consider when choosing a school. This is just a short list to get students thinking in terms that cannot be found in a google search. Students should visit all the schools they can, and be vocal about their preferences. Parents will often have different preferences than their kids and will often pressure them towards what they would do. Parents can be a good resource for making a college choice, but I will end this article by reminding both students and parents alike that it is the student making the 4-year commitment and who will be putting in the work.

Xavier Royer

Xavier Royer

I am currently a full time instructor at a William Penn University, a small private university in Iowa. I am the lone political science faculty member there. In my time teaching, I have already connected with an incredible cohort of students in ways I could never have expected. Partnering with SAGE will allow me the opportunity to help even more students across the globe navigate those tricky questions.
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Don't Underrate these Criteria when School Shopping
Don't Underrate these Criteria when School Shopping
January 18, 2023
This is the second part of a pair of articles intended to help students identify important criteria when applying to and choosing a university.