The decision to attend university is an important one.  It represents significant investment of your time and money, and for that reason, you don’t want to get it wrong!  Alumnus Peter Benedict St Andrews is proud of his alma mater years after graduation – here are some tips to make sure that you will be too!


Teaching vs Research Institutions

While it is the case that the purpose of all universities is to teach, not all of them are considered “teaching institutions.” Some universities emphasize research over teaching.   This does not mean that they don’t take teaching seriously, of course, but it does have an impact on how many courses professors teach, on their involvement in extracurricular activities, and on how often they take research leave. Research universities tend to be much larger, with graduate and undergraduate programs.  This means that classes will be much bigger, and are often taught by graduate students rather than by professors.  Research institutions also place a very high priority on the research output of their faculty members – this means that professors may have less time to spend with undergraduate students.  However, research universities can be very exciting places, with visiting scholars, international students, well-published professors, and a wide range of courses and programs.  Teaching universities, on the other hand, tend to be smaller, and to have a much higher ratio of professors to students.

Online vs Traditional Education

Many universities now are offering courses or entire degrees entirely online.  For some people this is a great option because it allows them to work remotely and flexibly so that they can balance education with family or work obligations.  They may also appreciate distance education because it means they don’t have to relocate to another city. Other students might find this approach to be very isolating – they prefer to have interactions with other students and to have an active extracurricular life including student clubs and sports teams.


A university’s reputation is also important.  This is especially true if you are attending an online institution.  Some of these may not be fully accredited which would mean that your degree may not be accepted for graduate programs or professional programs.  Spend some time exploring the reputation of the university in the field that you are interested in.  Do its graduates have trouble getting jobs or are they snapped up by employers who know that the school produces qualified graduates?  If you have family or friends who are alumni of the university you are considering, be sure to talk to them about their experiences.  The university will certainly have an alumni association, and the stronger and more active it is, the more likely that its graduates had a positive and rewarding experience.

These are just some of the things that you should consider as you make your decision about university.  Remember to spend the time researching your options and that you make an honest evaluation about what is important to you.