How to Decide Where to Go to University Without Losing Your Mind

By: Emma Jones

Graduating and figuring out what to do with your life can seem like the most daunting task of your life, but rest assured, you will make it through this. Whether you’re just starting to freak out about the mega-decision that lies in your future, or reaching the full-on panic zone, here is some guidance to help you chill out.

1. You don’t necessarily need to go to university

It’s true that for lots of career paths, you will need a university degree to get where you’re going. It’s also true that university can be an amazing place to broaden your horizons, meet interesting people, and learn about the world. That being said, going to university isn’t a prerequisite for having a fulfilling, valuable life.

Maybe a different kind of post-secondary institution is better suited to what you want to do with your life. Maybe you don’t want to go to post-secondary at all. There is a lot of hype around university, and people will often talk about it as if it is the default option. Just remember that there is absolutely no shame in choosing not to attend university.

2. Take your time

You do only live once, but that doesn’t mean that everything is a race. It can be tempting to go for the security of early admission (and there’s definitely nothing wrong with doing that), but if it’s April and you’re still not 100% sure where you’re going to be in September, that’s ok too. Giving yourself time to establish what your priorities are can save you lots of stress in the future.

You can take your time once you get to university too. Even though a standard degree program is four years, lots of people will switch their major, transfer schools, or become part-time students so that they can work at the same time--meaning that it’s not unusual to take five, six, or even seven years to graduate. Don’t be afraid to take time off between high school and university. Don’t be afraid to take time off somewhere in the middle of your degree if you need a break. Take the time you need to take care of yourself and figure things out. You’ll get there eventually.

3. Figure out what you don’t like

Especially if you’re the kind of person who is interested in a lot of different things, it can be really hard to narrow them down to the one thing you want to pursue for the rest of your life. I found it really helpful to, instead, start by ruling out the things you definitely aren’t interested in, and start sorting it out from there. Hopefully once your list of potential interests gets a little shorter, you can start to categorize the areas you potentially want to get involved in. It’s possible that you will change your mind a million times once you actually get there, so don’t be afraid of that either!

4. It’s not all about the school

Even though you will obviously looking for a university where you can get a good education, keep in mind that you will also (hopefully) still have a life outside of school. It’s a good idea to think about all the other things the university, and the surrounding area, has to offer. For me, things like bike lanes, a good public library system, and lots of urban greenspace are huge priorities, so I looked for those things as well as good schools. Figuring out what kind of city you want to live in can help you narrow down your options.

5. You will be ok

Take a second. Take a deep breath. I know this can feel like the biggest, most stressful decision of your life, but I promise you can make it through this. This won’t be the be-all, end-all decision of your life. You have the power to change things if you get to school and decide that you’ve made a horrible mistake. You will be ok!

Emma Jones