Career & Education

How do I choose the right university?

Career Advisor

Carolyn Marie Smith

Sunday, October 29, 2017

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Dear Career Advisor,

I am currently in sixth form doing a mix of subjects from the arts and business areas. Although I have not yet made a decision as to the exact type of job I will do, I am fairly comfortable with the career direction I want to take. However, I am having a challenge deciding which institution to attend for my university education. How would you suggest I go about this?

Yours truly,

Renaldo B

Dear Renaldo,

It is good that you already have the career direction you would like to pursue settled in your mind. Your next priority will be to decide what your needs and preferences are as it relates to academic offerings of institutions; remaining at home or moving away to college; emigrating; opinions of family and friends; your social interests; your financial support system; and your gut feeling. Making a choice among these can indeed prove challenging. Try not to rely on the opinions of others; do your own research.

What to look for when deciding on a university:

• Programme offerings — Are the programmes in line with your career goals?

• Programme flexibility — Are there optional modules and flexibility in programme selection? For example, are you able to take a minor in another discipline?

• Accreditation of the programme — Is the programme accredited?

• Reputation and ranking — How is the institution viewed by the public?

• Work placements of graduates — What percentage of graduates land jobs within six months of graduation, and in what industries?

• Teaching excellence — Do lecturers place a high value on skill development and mastery?

• Location — Are there visa or other restrictions to relocation?

• Employers' assessment of graduates' competencies

• Fees and financing options

• Value system — Is the value system of the institution in line with your own?

Take a structured approach

1. Use a ranking tool — You may find it useful to create a comparative table to help you analyse and rank your options.

2. Research a number of institutions and decide on your top 10.

3. Rank each of your top preferences against the criteria listed above, narrowing down your options to the top three.

4. Visit college fairs (this may include local as well as overseas universities).

5. Attend university open days — These can be very useful in providing you with an insight into the programme offerings, facilities, student support systems, and culture. If you miss the open days, most institutions will facilitate private visits and tours.

6. Review and update your ranking spreadsheet and narrow down your preferences to the top two.

7. Apply to each.

8. Evaluate the acceptance offer(s) then decide on the option that suits you better.

I trust you will find these suggestions useful in guiding your university selection process.


Career Advisor

Carolyn Marie Smith is associate vice-president of student services at Northern Caribbean University in Mandeville, Jamaica. Submit your questions to her at




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