17 Jan 2017

How To Pick Your University

In a couple of months, many of you should be getting your admissions decision (and some of you have even gotten into schools EA or ED). For a few, the decision will be easy, especially if you gotten into your dream school. However, I’m here to discuss with those of you who may have a hard choice ahead. Picking the right school will impact your happiness and satisfaction goal for the next four years!

As with many of my posts, I like to use my own background to facilitate discussion. If you read my last college-related post, you know the schools I got into. The first non-UC school I got into was University of Chicago. At the time, I thought this was the best school I would gain admissions from and if that had been the case, I would have gone to University of Chicago. Now I know many who would say that you should not pick a school based on reputation and for the most part, I agree. However, as a Thai student picking a school in America, I recommend you pick a school with a high reputation. The reasoning is that many of you are planning to come back to Thailand to live and work. The work culture here is based on reputation and it would help you a lot more if your future company has heard of your university. Second, even if you do decide to stay in America and work, employers are more likely to hire an international worker with a brand-name education.

Another aspect you should consider is location. In the end, I was deciding between Stanford, Yale, and Harvard. I was very fortunate to have had these options, so it allowed me to look at location as a factor. I grew up in San Diego, CA and for me, I thought getting away from home was a big deal. That’s why I eventually went with Yale because it was all the way on the other side of the US. There are many who would like to be closer to home and for those folks, studying on the West Coast is probably better since it’s closer to Thailand.

You should also think about whether or not you can handle a small city. Yale was in New Haven, which was the last stop on the Metro-North railway that goes to New York City. I knew that if I wanted to, I could go to NYC in less than 2 hours (in a very convenient mode of travel). At the same time, Yale was enough of a community where I wouldn’t really feel the need to leave. Will your future school be in a big city? Do you even prefer that? And if you do need a big city, can you substitute it with a school that has a nice community? These are the things you have to think about. I know too many students that end up hating their university because it was in the middle of nowhere (even if it had a good reputation).

Finally, and probably the most important part of all, how is the fit? My dream school as a kid was Harvard. I applied early action (EA) and was deferred. Then I was waitlisted. At that point, I have heard from Yale and decided to visit the school. I LOVED the visit! The weather and campus was gorgeous. The people were friendly. I enjoyed sitting in on the classes, and I could really imagine myself going there. Eventually I got off the waitlist at Harvard and visited the school. It was nowhere near the same. I didn’t get the same vibe and just didn’t feel like I belong. So even though Harvard has always been my dream school, I turned around and picked its rival and never looked back.

Once you heard from all your schools, I suggest you visit if you can. Regardless of reputation, location, sports, or whatever else you might consider, “fit” is the best way to guage if you’ll be happy. Fit is an intangible metric, but it truly is the most important factor. If you can’t visit, then read all sources you can find. Go look at YouTube videos. Talk to alumni and older friends about your school options. Remember, you’re going to be there for the next 4 years. Make sure it’s a place where you can create wonderful memories.


There are many factors in picking a school and this barely scratch the surface. Should you pick a private school over a public school? Should you do an accelerated Bachelor’s/Master’s Degree program? If you’re confused, feel free to stop by and talk to us. We’re happy to help in any way possible!

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