How To Choose A Quality University

Last Updated on June 28, 2019 by Estrella

How to choose a quality university
How to choose a quality university. Photo by Nicole De Khors from Burst.

What do you look for when shopping for a university? Whether they have the program you want is certainly one factor. How good that program is would be another. Leaving financial matters aside, there are some intangible qualities that I believe are worth looking for, in addition to the academic reputation in your major. Here are my thoughts on how to choose a quality university.

I’ve had the good fortune to attend two fine universities. One of them is relatively small and private; the other, relatively large and well known. The one I would like to talk about in this article is the first university I attended as an international student.

The small student population turned out to be an advantage. Class sizes were small. I could stop by the office of my professors anytime, without an appointment, and discuss the lecture in class. Their office doors were always open, and they were never in a hurry. I could talk with them for as long as I want.

One of the core requirements was Introduction to Philosophy. For some reason, I just couldn’t grasp one concept in particular. So I stopped by my professor’s office to ask her for further clarification. She would be patient and start from the beginning. We must have had this conversation half a dozen times. Yet, each time, she would explain as if it was the first time. There was no hint of impatience that I did not get it the first time, or the second, or even the fifth.

I lived in the dormitory on campus. The custodian who took care of my dorm, Farrell, was a most joyful person. She always had a cheerful smile when she greeted me. On Christmas Day, she would come to the dorm and give each of the international students a gift. She didn’t want us to feel alone and forgotten. I shall always remember her kindness.

One summer, I was flying home to see my parents. My flight was actually right before the final exam, so I asked my professor if I could take the exam earlier. He was completely accommodating. So I took the exam early, then left for the airport.

Now, not all smaller universities are like this. This particular school has a core value of caring for its students. And they take their job seriously. Some of the students later return to work for this school, and continue the value of nurturing the entire person. Their motto of Body Mind Spirit is not merely an advertisement. They live it. Even though the student population doubled since I graduated, this university is still committed to the same kind of care for their students.

These are qualities that the parents of international students would appreciate. What a relief knowing that their children are in good hands, living in a foreign country all by themselves. Money cannot buy this kind of care. And these are the intangibles that I consider as criteria when choosing a quality university.

If you find this article valuable, you might also like How to balance your life as a new immigrant.

Estrella Chan coaches immigrants and international professionals in English fluency, interview skills, and public speaking.    To schedule a session with her, please email

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