Factors to Consider When Applying to College or University

We’re nearing the end of November, and if you’re like most grade 12 students in Ontario, you have already applied or are in the process of attending virtual events and tours with your prospective colleges or universities. Since January is the deadline for post-secondary applications, it’s important to think about your choices and weigh out your options. As you consider your ideal college or university, think about what you want, your strengths, and your interests.

Let’s look at some factors that will help to ease your decision-making.

Type of school

Knowing what programs a school specializes in is the most important factor in selecting a school. For example, if you want to be an engineer, choosing a school dedicated to liberal arts and the like will not be beneficial. Therefore, you’ll need to narrow down which schools are known for your program of interest.

My recommendation is to speak to your guidance counselor about your interests and the field you would like to pursue as a career. They can help you narrow down a list of schools that match your field of study. Also, spend some time researching the top colleges and universities in Canada and around the world. An example of statistics you might find useful is found in “QS World University Rankings 2021”, which you can find in the Top Universities website (link is also in the ‘References’ list below). 

Cost of tuition

Believe it or not, the cost of higher education can be the reason why a student picks one school over another. Make sure to research how much tuition and fees cost at the schools of your choice. However, do not push away the thought of your dream school just because tuition fees may be high. There are many financial assistance options such as scholarships, grants, or OSAP (Ontario Student Assistance Program). OSAP is “a financial aid program that can help you pay for college or university” (OSAP, 2020).


The location of your prospective college or university is another important factor in choosing a school. For some, staying close to home allows them to be near their family and/or save money. Others, on the other hand, might want to move away from home to be more independent. Whatever your reasons, the location of your school is important as you will be there for the majority of your day.

If you decide to live off-campus, you should also factor in the commute of taking public transportation or driving and parking, since these can all add up as expenses.

On-campus living

You’ll be spending most of your time on campus if you choose to move to a school further from home. Therefore, it is crucial to make sure you’re comfortable and secure. In order to do this, check out the residence halls, ask questions, and observe the following:

  • Who is eligible for housing?
  • What types of rooms are available (singles or doubles)?
  • Are there communities for students with similar interests?
  • Do the colleges/universities offer on-campus services such as pharmacies, medical care, counseling centers, etc.? 
  • Do the colleges/universities have recreation centers, fitness classes, pools, or other amenities?

Student activities

Many students enjoy staying active and involved in extracurricular activities while they study. Check out if any of the student organizations or clubs on campus align with your interests. Joining a club or organization will help you network, make friends, and de-stress. A way to hear what students think about your chosen school’s student life is to look at testimonial videos on their website. Doing this will help you gauge their thoughts on what kind of student life that school can offer.

I hope these factors can help you narrow your search for your dream college or university. Remember to document your research of each program and school that piques your interest, so you can make the best decision. After all, your college or university experience will be enriched by the friends you’ll make, the communities you’ll be a part of, and the program that will help you achieve a rewarding career.



Ministry of Colleges and Universities. (November 20th, 2020). Learn about OSAP. Retrieved on November 22nd, 2020 via https://www.ontario.ca/page/learn-about-osap 

QS Quacquarelli Symonds Limited. (2020). Qs. World University Rankings. Who Rules? Retrieved on November 23rd, 2020 via https://www.topuniversities.com/university-rankings/world-university-rankings/2021 

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