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Choosing a University in Canada

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Important Points to Consider

April is a very busy month: This is the time when the Canadian universities have responded to applications sent by students and the offers are on the table. Students must select their final choice of Canadian university and pay their registration down payment by late April or early May.

This can be a very stressful time for many students and their families. You need to identify what factors are important in choosing a university and what likelihood there is that these values will come to fruition at the university you choose. We encourage a ‘Best-Fit’ model: By this we mean, where do you see yourself thriving?

Here are some factors to consider when choosing a university:

Curriculum Choices:

  • Look at the program planning map or stream for the core courses and electives recommended for your concentration, major, or degree
  • Find out the 1st and 3rd year courses’ titles and descriptions and read their course outlines for specific content that interests you. Make sure you fully understand what you will be studying, not what you think you will be studying
  • Check to see if there are broader faculty requirements such as a foreign language requirement or a quantitative requirement.

Co-op or Internship:

  • Does your program have a co-op and/or internship component?
  • With the help of Career Services during co-ops and internships, students prepare their résumés and are interviewed before they are placed in employment
  • Co-ops and internships allow students to combine classroom learning with on-the-job experience. Sampling an industry before entering it and tackling career-related, non-academic challenges will help you prepare better and acquire the skills necessary to be successful in the labour force

Teaching & Learning:

  • Investigate lecture style classes versus small discussion groups. Large classes might be more conducive to those students with effective executive functioning skills and for students who show independent learning skills and will take the initiative to meet their professors in office hours
  • Students who thrive on academic discourse and small group discussions may prefer a smaller-scale, intimate group
  • Investigate average class size for the university as a whole and for your program or faculty

Residence and Campus Life:

  • For recent high school graduates, embarking on university life for four years and leaving home for the first time can be a daunting experience. Most will not have the ‘how-to-guide for independent living’ to call on when they land in university accommodation. Choosing the right residence with a preferred room layout and meal plan is crucial to a first-year student starting out
  • It’s important to know the difference between traditional style and apartment living arrangements, or single and double-rooms
  • It is important that you feel your personal, academic, and social needs are met and that you are comfortable in your home away from home

Costs and Expenses:

  • Be sure to investigate how much you will be paying: Not all programs cost the same at all universities
  • At many universities, business and engineering programs may be more expensive than others
  • Many universities have similar tuitions but vary greatly in the price of residence/accommodations
  • If you are going away to university, sit down and figure out travel costs together with your family: Will you be able to fly home for special holidays?
  • Daily life expenditures add up, so work together on a university budget that takes into account all expenses: books, school supplies, transportation, pizza money, and clothing

Best-Fit Model

The ‘Best-Fit’ model of selecting universities provides students with realistic options that are educationally sensible and economically sound. The basic idea of this model is to recognize that everyone chooses to attend university for different reasons, and although the reasons may vary, they should be defined and tangible and should reflect you as an individual and your values.

Although you will likely receive assistance and suggestions from a variety of sources, you and your parents – or benefactors – must be fully aware of your expectations of the university experience.

Ask yourself these questions: How do I learn best? Why am I suited for a particular major? Which universities can provide me with the best opportunities and a bright future? Where do I see myself in five years?

Asking these questions in your research and exploration process is the starting point to ensuring that you will have a positive and memorable university experience.

Contributed by:

Melinda Giampietro and Edwin Liew
Options Solutions Independent Educational Consultants
www.optionssolutionsed.com

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