Choosing an educational institution:
How to make the right choice

By Marie- Hélène Collin and Sandy Vignola- Pétrin, guidance counselors at BrissonLegris

So you’ve decided which program you want to take, and your plan of action is clear – except for one thing. You haven’t decided which college or university you want to attend! For some, making this choice can be an anxiety-ridden or stressful process. This is understandable as there are many different elements that must be taken into consideration when deciding which institution is right for you.

Many universities and colleges offer the same or similar programs, and it can be difficult to decide which school to apply to. Each institution has its own strengths and weaknesses and each may appeal to different people based on its own merits. Ultimately, the most effective way to work through any uncertainty you have is to take the time to reflect on what you’re looking for before making your decision.

What criteria should you consider when making your decision? Below are a few important elements to keep in mind as you evaluate your options.

  1. The reputation of the institution

The first step you should take is to gather information on all the institutions you’re interested in. Once you sit down to evaluate all the information you have, you can assess the following elements in detail to determine which school meets your needs:

  • International reach. Often, the provenance of a school’s faculty can be indicative of the global reach of the institution, which may be an important factor if you want to participate in international exchanges or programs.
  • The student body. A culturally diverse student body can indicate a worldly learning environment that includes unique perspectives and practices.
  • Specialized research and learning centers. These centers are often connected to certain programs offered by the school and prepare students for specializations in their field.
  1. The impression you get during a visit

The only sure way to get a feel for the environment of an institution is to visit in person. Most schools offer at least one “open house” session per year, whereby prospective students can tour the campus and take in the atmosphere. Open houses also provide an opportunity to meet students and teachers who can offer valuable insights about day-to-day life at the institution.

  1. Location

Ask yourself the question: Am I willing to attend a school that is far from my home, knowing that I will be forced to spend more time travelling, rather than studying? If the answer is no, you may want to consider choosing a school that is close to where you live.
If the school you really want to attend is far from where you live, you may want to consider living in the institution’s student residences. Of course, you will need to find out if this is a possibility at your preferred school.

  1. Your personality

    Some schools are renowned for their openness and diversity, traits that may translate into a more ‘liberal’ culture; other schools may have a reputation as more conservative or serious-minded. Regardless of which you prefer, choose an institution that aligns well with your values and your personality. Taking the time to reflect and develop a little self-knowledge can be very helpful in guiding you to where you will be happiest; for example, if you are an artistic person, it may be wise to consider attending a school that emphasizes innovation and creativity.

  2. Your grades and education history

Admission criteria can vary substantially from one institution to another, even for the same program. It’s important to find out about schools’ admissibility requirements, especially academic requirements, for example if there is a particular grade you need to have achieved in a course to be considered for admission. Most schools provide this information publicly.

  1. Your personal criteria: what are you looking for?

    Ask yourself: what exactly are you looking for from your educational experience? Write down what is most important to you in terms of what you want to achieve and what you want to get out of your experience in higher education. This might include:

  • Social and cultural activities, community events and outdoor activities
  • Sports programs for students
  • Environmental programs
  • Access to a professional and educational development center
  • Health services
  • Special assistance for students with particular needs
  • Access to international exchange programs
  • Work-study programs
  • Online courses
  • Bilingual or trilingual programs

To sum up, it isn’t an easy task to choose the educational institution that’s right for you. Take your time to really think about what you want out of your experience based on the criteria that are most important to you. Find out as much as you can about your potential choices. By doing this, you will improve your chances of finding what you’re looking for.

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