The Student's Guide: 5 Things to Consider When Choosing a Northern California University

A happy female student is sitting on the grass

Did you know that there are 90 universities in Northern California? And there’s a good reason for it. California’s $2.6 trillion economy is larger than all but half a dozen countries worldwide. This is the home of some of the largest tech companies in the world. The people in California are known for being warm and welcoming. We stand open to the world. California is also famous for its warm weather, stunning coastal beaches, and hoppin’ cities. From Hollywood to Silicon Valley, California has it all. But why do so many non-California residents choose a university in Northern California?

Nationally, Northern California is a significant contributor to the agricultural, aerospace, and manufacturing sectors, which is why many universities have created high-quality and affordable programs that focus on engineering and technology, among other fields. Because of its size, Northern California is a large area, which allows students to choose just about any field of study. And some of the nation’s top universities are right here in Northern California. This area is known for the high quality of its academic institutions. And with some of the biggest and most influential companies here in Northern California, our universities provide highly-educated and success-driven graduates for their recruiting programs. Here at SFBU, we are proud to sit right smack in the midst of some of the top technology companies in the world. And we are also proud to have had some of our students move on to jobs at these very companies.

Are you a prospective student considering California as a destination for higher education? Certainly, there are some considerations. Universities in Northern California and around the San Francisco area have a lot to offer, but Northern California is not for everyone. Let’s take a look at the top 5 things you should consider when choosing a Northern California University.

1. Location, Location, Location

It isn’t just about where you buy a house or start a business. Universities in Northern California are spread across a wide geographic area. If you are a local student, you may live at home or with relatives. However, international students who travel here to study may need to consider distance and public transportation. Not everyone will have a car. Fortunately, San Francisco has been ranked as the second best city for public transportation.

Expenses must also be considered. Certainly, leaving home and striking out on your own is exciting. No longer living under your parents roof and socializing with other students is going to be fun, but you must also be self-reliant. There are a lot of activities that students attending a university in Northern California can choose from when it comes to things to do. Not everything is free. But fortunately, our geographic location offers tons of opportunities for great outdoor fun which is generally free or inexpensive.

The good news is that one of SFBU’s scholarship programs provides housing assistance. And, our housing options allow for ease of access to local restaurants and activities. As with your normal application, we recommend completing your housing request as soon as possible as housing assistance is provided on a first come first served basis. Getting your paperwork in early is important no matter what university you apply to.

2. University Type, Size, Quality, and Reputation

Every university in Northern California offers a different student experience. The type of experience prospective students receive is entirely up to them. Older universities are generally more research-oriented and offer more traditional courses. You will also find a large cohort of newly graduated high school students at older, more traditional universities. On the other side of the coin, smaller, newer universities are more vocationally oriented, so you will find an older cohort and more part-time students.

Universities also vary in size. One of our neighboring universities, the University of California, Berkeley, has over 42,000 students. That’s a huge number where lectures are given to hundreds of students at a time. Here at San Francisco Bay University, we focus on a smaller cohort of students so that our professors can pay close attention to individual student successes.

Also, consider the quality and reputation of the institution you plan to join. Every university has its own reputation and quality varies from one to another. We are proud to maintain a solid 5-Star rating on Google and several other online listings and review sites.

3. Area of Study

The program you choose will play an important role in the university you choose. At San Francisco Bay University, we offer programs in the following disciplines:

There is a method behind the disciplines our students have to choose from. Being a Silicon Valley-based university, we feel some of the best job opportunities available to our graduating cohort are right here in our area. And the degrees they can choose from fit right in with what the companies around us require. We also offer an Intensive English Program because we offer generous scholarships and tuition grants and we get a lot of interest from international students whose first language might not be English.

Obviously, there are programs and disciplines that are not present. We don’t have drama or liberal arts programs. Certainly, these are important areas of study, but they may be better suited for other locations and academic institutions. Here at SFBU, we looked closely at students evaluating what a Northern California university might need, and we chose our courses accordingly.

4. University Facilities

Facilities differ by university because they depend on the building and the university utilities. Some universities have huge, old libraries. Others have massive research facilities. Still, you don’t have to impress with advanced facilities. Sometimes an open, clean campus with spacious classrooms, recreation areas, outdoor spaces, and big communal areas is all a student needs. We’ve put together a great virtual tour of our campus, which is big, beautiful, and brand-new.

This is not just an important consideration for what facilities the university has. What facilities they don’t have is also important. Sports might be important to you. If the university you choose does not offer sports facilities or have a sports program, and this is something you want, then a Northern California university just might not be for you!

Also, consider lingering COVID restrictions and impacts on university facilities. For example, here at San Francisco Bay University, we are still unable to offer food services in our diner due to COVID restrictions. Other institutions may be facing the same problem. Fortunately, we have a ton of great dining options within walking distance of our campus.

5. Resources and Support Systems

As a new student, you’re going to have a lot of questions. Look for a university that has your long-term success in mind. You may have housing questions when you arrive, but you may need career advice before you graduate. The university you choose should be able to provide these services to you. Make sure the counselors you work with view and help you as a whole person and not just a student.

Before choosing a university or college in California, make sure the school can accommodate any medical or special learning requirements you may have. When dealing with the homesickness and pressure that comes from attending a university, make sure your university has adequate counseling and health and wellness services.

Writing and tutoring services are generally ubiquitous among institutes of higher education, but you still want to check the quality and availability of those resources. Are they conveniently accessible should you need them? Finally, do they offer comprehensive access to alumni services? You will always be a part of the institution you graduate from. How accessible they remain after graduation matters.

Certainly, there are more considerations. Embarking on a journey of higher education is no small matter. Wherever you choose to get your next degree, keep these tips in mind and you’ll be sure to make the right decision. Think you may want to choose San Francisco Bay University? Call us at 510-803-SFBU.