By the SMU Social Media Team
When faced with uncertainty, Frodo Baggins could turn to Gandalf. Harry Potter deferred to Dumbledore. But without a wise old wizard on standby, who do you turn to when making one of the biggest decisions of your life—which university should you attend?
With thousands of highly reputed institutions in different parts of the world, and so many different courses to choose from, it’s no wonder that pre-undergraduates are plagued by decision fatigue. Here’s the upside: there are immensely helpful resources out there, some of which are at your very fingertips.
Your parents and older siblings
If they attended tertiary institutions, talk to them about their experiences, both good and bad. If they have already stepped into working life, ask for some insights about their careers, and the kind of degree that is most highly valued at their workplaces. You can also ask them to connect you with their well-respected friends, who can offer up their own points of view. Your family and their networks can be very helpful when it comes to winnowing down your choices.
Tutors and guidance counsellors
Whether you’re in junior college, polytechnic or an IB school, your school’s tutors and guidance counsellors are the most accessible professionals who can offer great insights. So feel free to tap on them for advice and observations they have gleaned from interacting with pre-undergraduates and undergraduates, as well as university educators, through the years.
Alumni and older peers
Reach out to alumni from your pre-university institutions or older peers from interest groups such as your dance, choir or sports teams. They would have faced this same decision fairly recently, and can provide up-to-date knowledge about the specific institution they currently attend. Talk to them about the culture and the curriculum of their universities, and see if it sounds like a good fit for you.
Check out the wealth of online resources designated to guide you in this decision. One of the most important publications you will get from a university is the ‘undergraduate prospectus’. This is often available for download via the university’s admissions website, and is typically updated each year during the application period. What is a prospectus? It is basically a catalogue that presents the key things you need to know and to give you a glimpse of the degree courses available. In the prospectus, you will find a host of information needed from curriculum details and course offerings, to key statistics and career prospects. Be sure to look at the information holistically to assess the best fit for you.
Join message boards such as Reddit to chat with current students or graduates of any of your shortlisted selections and gauge whether they’re happy with their school. Make sure the universities you are interested in have extra-curricular activities that you enjoy, as clubs and interest groups can be an easy way to make friends.
Though virtually everything can be found online these days and you will undoubtedly come across many photos of the universities you are considering, nothing can replace the experience of actually being on campus. Sign up for campus tours so you can stroll the grounds, sit in on an information session, or even speak to a current university student to help you understand if this is the right school for you.
University open house
These are filled with people who have been through the system, as well as admissions staff and faculty, who are ready to answer any questions you may have. These events are also useful for finding out what student life is like and getting a sense of which universities are seen as ‘strong contenders’ for the careers you’re interested in.
Above all, don’t be overwhelmed, and don’t think you’re going through this alone. You have many avenues to explore, and lots of people around you who have valuable insights to offer. Just remember to filter out the noise and focus on making a choice that you think will help you feel most happy and fulfilled.
Keen to take the next step with SMU? Learn more about our undergraduate programme today.