“Which uni should I go to?” It’s the age-old question that nobody but you can answer. Well, nobody but you should answer.
You could probably get someone else to make the decision for you, but ultimately, if you’re going to spend upwards of 3 years studying at one university, you want to ensure it’s the right fit for you.
So how do you go about doing that?
We’ve put together a list of questions to ask yourself, which will help you choose which university to go to.
Personal questions to consider
There are a few things you need to think about in relation to your future university and your personal circumstances. Practical stuff like how far away it is from your home, if the uni offers the programs you’re interested in, and what kind of financial assistance they provide for students. Here are a couple of things to research and ponder before you settle on a university.
What do you want to study?
This is probably the most obvious question, and one of the first things you should research when looking at universities. When considering a university, ask yourself the following.
It doesn’t have to be a specific program – you may be interested in a broader subject area (like health) where you can explore a range of potential degrees (such as a Bachelor of Nursing, Bachelor of Pharmacy (Honours), Bachelor of Health Sciences etc). If you’re still a little unsure about what you would like to study, check whether the uni has options to switch to other degrees that interest you, should you realise the one you start with isn’t quite for you.
If you check entry score thresholds at the start of Year 12, you can plan your study schedule to work towards the ATAR you need to get into your preferred program, at your preferred university. It pays to be organised!
When comparing entry score thresholds across universities, however, be sure to investigate why some may be higher than others for what might appear to be the same program. Some universities will offer programs with an additional honours year, which may mean that you’ll need a higher ATAR to get into it, but you’ll finish your degree with more knowledge, experience and qualifications.
Even though we discuss university rankings in a little more detail below, we think it’s relevant to mention that you can check how the uni you’re considering ranks for individual subject areas too. View the QS World University Rankings by Subject and discover which university is best for the subject area that interests you. Click into the subject area to filter by location, or search for a particular university.
When wondering ‘which Australian university should I go to?’, location will have an impact on your decision. While some people can move to a different city or state to attend uni relatively easily, others are restricted to universities in their local area for various personal reasons such as health, family commitments and finances. Here are a few questions you can ask yourself to help you determine which Australian university fits with your living circumstances.
Is your financial situation preventing you from applying to universities outside of your local area? UQ offers accommodation scholarships for potential students who wish to move to study at their preferred university.
If you aren’t particularly keen on moving long distances to attend uni, you might first consider the universities in your local area as these will be the most convenient option. Don't forget that many Australian universities have multiple campuses in both cities and country towns. It’s worth checking if the uni you’re thinking of attending has a campus close to you, and whether that campus offers face-to-face classes for the program you’re interested in.
If there are no universities in your local area and you are unable to move to study, or you need to fit your study around existing commitments, considering online programs may create more options for you when it comes to tertiary education. Some universities offer entire programs online, while others offer partial online studies with components you will need to complete face-to-face.
Unfortunately, many science-based university programs are unsuited to study by distance, as lab work is an essential part of the learning experience.
Most universities will offer equity scholarships for potential students experiencing financial hardship. They also tend to offer scholarships to high-achieving students, students from minority groups, rural and regional areas or disadvantaged backgrounds. It’s always worth checking if you’re eligible for a scholarship at the university you’re considering.
Furthermore, it’s important to take note of other ways a potential university may help you out financially during your degree. Do they have a second-hand textbook store? Are there support programs to help you maintain a student budget? Do they offer discounts or free events for students? These things may seem small-scale in the overall decision-making process, but expenses can add up when you’re a student, and you’ll want to know that your uni can support you if the going gets tough.
General questions to consider
These are the big questions everyone’s concerned with. They relate broadly to what each university you consider offers and how they compare to one another on a national and global scale. So, let’s delve right into one of the most important things you’re going to want to know.
What are graduate outcomes like?
The whole point of going to uni is to get a job and kickstart a career in an industry you’re passionate about, right? In that case, you’re going to want to know what graduate outcomes are like – or put simply – how likely you are to get a job after you finish your studies.
Did you know? UQ graduates have gone onto work for global companies such as Google, Amazon, Microsoft and Apple.
Some employers may feel that the reputation of the university an applicant attended doesn’t really matter, as long as they have the degree and the skills needed to do the job. But for recent graduates, a university’s reputation can sway opinions, especially if a particular employer has had a trend of positive or negative experiences with recent graduates from one university. So, does it matter which uni you go to? When it comes to employability, it definitely can.
Do some research and see if you can find out what current employers and recent graduates are saying about graduate employability. Do employers often look for recent graduates from the university you’re considering? Are recent graduates satisfied with their level of preparedness for the workforce? A great place to start is by looking at QILT’s Employer Satisfaction Survey, which measures how well graduates from Australian higher education institutions meet employer needs. You may also be able to find interviews and testimonials with recent graduates of the uni you wish to attend.
If you’re a hard facts and figures type of person, you may be more concerned with data on how many graduates actually get a job after their studies. Check the website of the school or faculty you’re interested in at the university you’re considering for stats on graduate outcomes. Alternatively, you can delve into QILT’s Graduate Outcomes Survey to compare universities in Australia when it comes to employability.
71.4% of UQ's graduates secured full-time employment 4-6 months after completing their studies in 2021, according to the Graduate Outcomes Survey.
What are the global and national rankings?
This is another one for fans of straight-up stats. There are many higher education ranking bodies out there, but some of the most popular and authoritative include:
Your university experience centres on studying your program, but it’s also about so much more. At uni, you can join clubs and societies, attend events, go on study tours, secure internships, participate in workshops and embrace international study exchange opportunities. So, does what university you go to matter when it comes to making the most of student life? Absolutely.
If you’re interested in international exchange or study programs, it’s worth seeing if the uni you're considering is affiliated with any others internationally. Often Australian universities will have partner universities in other countries.
If slightly shorter international study opportunities are of more interest to you, check whether the uni (and faculty or program you’re interested in) offers international study tours, where an entire course will be dedicated to travelling to study a particular topic. The uni may also arrange international internships or summer study programs.
When researching the program/s you’re interested in at a particular university, see whether they mention if you will have the opportunity to undertake an internship or Work Integrated Learning (WIL) experience, and where students have completed these in the past. Implementing what you’ve learnt in class, in a real-life setting, can enhance your employability and solidify your new skills. If your uni has strong connections with industry professionals, you could find yourself interning at world-leading companies, where an internship can soon turn into a job if you put your best foot forward.
It’s time to look at the fun stuff. What’s uni life without gigs, night’s out, book clubs, social sports and festivals? Don’t forget to check out what kind of social life you can expect to have at a uni you’re considering. Head to the university’s events page and see how regularly they organise new and exciting activities for students. Don’t forget that schools and faculties will also run events specific to your study area of interest, and student-run clubs and societies will organise activities specific to your more niche interests and hobbies.
How to decide which university to go to
There's only so many pros and cons lists you can write. Sometimes the best way to really lock in a decision about which university in Australia is right for you is to go and experience it. Attend open days for the universities you’re considering, or take a tour of the campus online – this will help you get a feel for the place and the community.
There are so many things to consider when choosing a university; we've really only scratched the surface here. The most important thing, however, is to think on the things that matter most to you and find a university that can fulfil them. And if you can’t find answers to your questions straight away, don’t be afraid to ask!