How to choose a university

23 March 2021

Which university is right for you?

It can be a daunting question!

“Instead of looking at each school and comparing, create your own priority list. How do these unis rank against your priorities?”

These are wise words from OzTREKK Ambassador and Macquarie MD student Emma—and these are words we stand by as well.

blue running shoes with three arrows
Decisions, decisions! OzTREKK can help you choose wisely!

We’ve provided a few areas for you to consider as you establish your own personal university priority list. It is by no means an exhaustive list but summarizes many aspects we’ve heard over the years. We want you choosing a university that feels right to you and we hope that some of these insights help you to be confident with your decision.

Instead of asking “What is the best university?” you might want to ask yourself “What is the best university environment in which I will thrive?”

Adventures in Metrics
University rankings are often used to help you understand more about your options. This may hold especially true when considering international institutions with which you may not be as familiar. However, if you’re under the impression that rankings are an easy way to figure out which uni reigns best, well, that’s just fake news.

This isn’t to say that rankings aren’t helpful. If you’re using ranking systems to aid your decision-making, be sure to consider the metrics being used and whether those metrics are important to you.

Do you value how many research citations the faculty has had, or how many staff members have won Nobel Prizes and Fields Medals, or do you favour student surveys and student satisfaction ratings? Which factors are most important to you and which are going to impact your personal experience as a student or outcome as a graduate? Just some food for thought.

It’s not All Sunshine and Rainbows
Unlike a certain country (ahem, -20°C winters) with which we’re all familiar, Australia’s got the hot, sunny-weather thing going for it. You won’t have trouble getting yourself out of bed to seize the day in Oz.

Outside the daily forecast, there are other reasons to ponder uni location. We urge you to take a little think about the type of environment that’s going to best carry you through your degree.

You can expect a certain amount of adventure when studying in Australia; however, you may not want a location that’s so different from your normal that it negatively impacts your experience and your studies. Are you seeking a large cultural community, or do you get anxious in the frenzy of a big city? There is no right or wrong answer; we have students excelling in every environment.

We’ve had many students choose a university solely because they have family living in that location. If Aunt Ethel in Brisbane is offering you her spare bedroom rent-free, you’re saving money, you’ve got your own personal support group, some free meals, and an Aussie insider within your reach. That’s a completely acceptable (and often recommended!) reason to choose that location over another.

Be aware that location can also have a huge impact on your expenses (more on this shortly!). Cost of living varies dramatically between locations. So, if you know money is tight, think twice about the city you are looking to call home for the next few years. Let us know, too—we’ll be honest with you!

The Ratio of Fish
You often hear the terms “big fish in a small pond” or “a small fish in a big pond” used to depict cohort size. We’re not sure that using “big fish” or “small fish” are fair terms, as they imply a kind of hierarchy among said pond-dwellers. However, your experience in that pond is impacted by the ratio of fish, as well as “type” of fish you are.

Analogies aside, let’s take a moment to “pond-er” this.

A large cohort can be a great fit if you’re a social butterfly who’s willing to take the lead and make connections. You can create an impressive network for yourself and that may be important to you later in your career. In Meyers-Briggs-land, think personalities that start with “E.”

Close-knit connections with classmates and faculty members do tend to form more naturally in smaller cohorts and can take on that “family” feel. So, if you’re a bit of an introvert, perhaps a smaller cohort is more suitable for you.

Being part of a community—whether it’s one that’s formed naturally or one you’ve curated—is going to help carry you through homesickness and hard times. Your study buddies will come out of this, as well as lifelong friendships. So, if possible (and to get back our fish analogy), try to place yourself in a pond with a “school” that matches your style.

Kraft Dinner Connoisseur 
Studying internationally is expensive, no matter how you look at it. But when you consider that 60 grand could be the difference between some uni options, you may pay a little more attention to your budget.

Many students will simply look at the annual tuition per program to gauge whether a program is affordable. However, there’s more to it than that.

Tuition fees rise annually, so factor this in when you’re calculating tuition over the course of the degree. Also, a $5,000 difference each year adds up to $20K over a four-year degree.

Location and the cost of living tied to that locale also play a big part in overall expenses. Completing a four-year degree in Adelaide, for example, could save you upward of AUD $40,000 in living costs compared to studying in a big metropolitan city like Sydney.

Australian states also have different rules about public transportation concessions for international students. New South Wales, for example, requires international students to pay regular fees, while other states like Queensland include internationals in their student discounts. If you plan to use public transport regularly, these costs can add up.

In short, there’s a fine line between being on a smart budget and having to eat Kraft Dinner for your entire degree. So do your research, make a budget, and make sure you’re not over that line.

Need help choosing the right uni for you? We’re just an email or a phone call away!


If you have any questions about choosing an Australian university, please contact OzTREKK at