You've decided to take the plunge and head to university or college. But how do you decide where to go? There's no right or wrong choice, but, since you'll be investing a few years of your life and thousands of dollars, perhaps a little planning is in order.
Ask lots of questions
Start with yourself. Decide what's important to you and take a look at how different schools stack up.
Would you be happy in a city? Do you prefer intimate classroom settings? Are there professors who specialize in your area of interest? There are many things to consider, including:
- Degree options and programs
Talk to people who know you well; they may be able to suggest schools or programs you hadn't thought of. The questions you ask will reveal what's important to you and the answers you get will help you narrow your choices.
- Guidance office: Your school's guidance office should have brochures and course catalogues for universities and colleges across the country. You can also attend information sessions organized by your high school. Don't be shy about asking questions - it is their job to answer them.
- Open houses: Many universities and colleges host "Open House" days for prospective students to take a tour, talk to current students and professors, and get a feel for the campus.
- Other Resources: If you can't get to a school to take a tour, go on the university's website and take a virtual tour, read about facilities, programs, applications and admissions requirements.
- Other students: Nothing beats talking to current students and graduates. They will give you a firsthand account of what they love or hate and how they have benefited from attending the school in question.
Consider all the details
- Cost: Depending on the school, tuition, living, and maybe even travel expenses will vary.
- Co-op: They are a great way to get practical experience in your field of interest while funding your education.
- Student-to-teacher ratio: At larger schools, first and second year lectures often accommodate hundreds of students. As you become more specialized your classes will become smaller, but if one-on-one time with your prof matters to you, a small school may be more your style.
- Reputation: MacLean's University rankings (see Related Links on the right side of the page) explore the strengths, weaknesses, and reputation of Canadian universities.
- Career Services: Does your school provide a well-connected network of recruiters and employers? Keep this in mind.
Above all, be realistic. It's tough to get into university or college these days. Not only are grades important, but it is crucial to be well-rounded to prove a fit to the schools you are looking at. When all is said and done, you're going to have a gut feeling about what's right for you. Go with it.