University choice (for your undergraduate degree) is probably one of the most important education decisions in your life (after taking the decision to go to a university in the first place…)…
…I would not be overly stressed about it though – I said one of the most important education decisions, not career and definitely not life decisions. There are countless examples of people ‘making it’ from lower-tier schools, or with no school at all.
Back to the topic though. If you are lucky enough to be able to go to a university and have a choice among multiple schools, there are a few considerations. I will stay away from recommending specific schools, as there is no right answer, but I will give you a few points to think about (in no particular order).
- Brand / quality of education. Brand helps. It attracts top employers to campus and opens doors to internships and job offers. It usually also attracts better professors and students, and that’s why you go to school in the end – to be surrounded by smart people to learn from. I bundle brand and quality of education together, as there is often a strong correlation between the two (not always though) and quality of education is difficult to judge independently.
- Employers / Graduate schools. Checking where schools’ alumni go to work or study (for graduate degrees) gives you an idea what the prospects are. Two questions to consider here – (i) how quality/selective/prestigious the employers/schools are?, and (ii) are these the employers/schools where I see myself? The first question gives you some indication of quality of your school (as it is sort of a validation by an external party); the second question points to the right fit for you specifically.
- Location. Putting financial considerations aside, location of the school is important. It helps to choose a city, country, or a continent where you may actually want to stay after school. It makes the recruiting easier, as more local employers are likely to show up. It also helps with building a stronger local network, as you can grab a coffee with local people before/after school more easily; in addition, your fellow students likely thought similarly, and more of them are likely to stay around after school. There is also an argument to be made to choose a location based on what you want to study/ do after school – as some cities have strong reputation/career opportunities for specific fields (NY/London for finance; California for technology, etc – and this may apply to your country/region on a smaller scale too).
- English. For non-native English speakers and for universities outside the Anglo-Saxon world, the opportunity to study in English is a big plus. Other languages may be beneficial for specific regions/career paths, but English is no doubt the pre-eminent global language.
- Financials. Last but not least – your budget, access to financing and scholarship options may play an important role.