The Importance of Choosing a University Based on YOU and not Its Ranking

Make certain the university you choose 'fits' you. 

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I was motivated to write this blog today after speaking with another family about the different options for universities to study in. Each time I meet a family I ask them what the student's goal is to studying abroad and

90% of the replies are, "I want to get a great education and get some job experience in Canada. Then perhaps return home, or stay on if I can. But I want to study at the #1 university in Canada."

I am always amazed by this response and then must explain the reason why the #1 ranked University may not be for them.  I think it is similar to buying a shoe. If you see a shoe you love, but it doesn't fit well and you still buy it, you will be miserable and possibly in pain every time you put it on. Studying at a university that does not 'fit' you is the same. 

A university for an international student becomes their home, and I think we all agree that to be happy and therefore academically successful they need to be comfortable, feel successful and ‘fit in.’

So while looking at a school’s ranking may be important a few other factors should also be considered.

Do you match the academic level of the other students at the school?

Malcolm Gladwell, a Canadian journalist, and author of such books as ‘Outliers,’ ‘Blink’ and numerous other books, gave a fascinating talk, at the Zeitgeist Americas 2013, about the ‘academic fit’ of a student at the university they attend. His talk summarized that about 53% of students who successfully graduated from STEM degrees (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) had the highest GPAs of the freshman year students. While the students with the lowest GPAs were only about 15% of the graduating class.

This did not matter if you compare the students from the best-known universities such as Harvard, or other less known universities. If intelligence is the only requirement to graduate successfully, then we can argue that every student entering Harvard, or the University of Toronto will graduate.

BUT, they do not. Why?

If you graduated top of your high school class, and never struggled to learn and suddenly you are not at the top in university, and many people already know the topic, or learn quicker than you, how soon will it take for you to become discouraged and feel overwhelmed?

If you are at the top of your class perhaps your professor:

  • Will notice you.

  • Hire you as a teaching assistant.

  • Recommend you for a job.

  • Give you a recommendation.

All of these will help you get a job upon graduation.

If you struggle each day in class, barely get a passing grade,  how will you be any different than the majority of the other students?

There are many factors to consider when choosing a university, among them the quality of education given at a university and perhaps ranking, but as Socrates said, “To know thyself is the beginning of wisdom.” and I would add, the way to being successful at university.


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