How to Pick your University and Programs

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With the snow and holidays quickly approaching, the end of the year is a very joyous time. It also brings about the time of year when University applications begin to appear and deadlines for submissions are circled on your calendars.

University might still be a year away, but if you want to get in, January 16, 2013 is the date you must remember. You should already be juggling a few ideas in your mind of where you want to go, but let’s try to narrow things down.

It is not uncommon that most grade 12’s still do not have a clear defined end goal for universities. Unless you have a passion driving, you will need to come to a decision rather soon.

After working with many students and seeing many of them graduate successfully, this article will hopefully provide some insight and information on picking the right university for you. The two main factors are: pursuing your passion, and career opportunities. Let’s examine each of these factors, and then look at picking your university.

  1. Pursue Your Passion

Picking a university program should not be taken lightly. It in no way should be compared to picking a course in high school; you are making a commitment of four years. These next four years could be the best time of your life if you pick well, or be a colossal waste of time and money if not. Since you will be spending four years of your life here, make sure you pick something you love.

Something that always comes up is the money factor. “I should go into something that will make me a lot of money.” This is definitely a lure that most universities will use to draw you in. Pick something that interests you first, because this is how you will excel. The money can always be incorporated afterwards. I tell my students a lesson learned from personal experience. One of my teachers has a friend with a completed accounting degree and a CA designation. Working at one of the Big 4 accounting firms, his salary is  at least 50% higher than most of his friends. However, he absolutely hates his job.Waking up everyday is a chore and his only salvation is the weekend. This is not a situation where you can grow and stay positive as a person. Passion is what keeps us going, not money.

So what are you passionate about? Ask yourself this question and give an honest  assessment. Are you good in building things? Then maybe mechanical or electric engineering might be a good choice. Designing? Or do you like computation? Take some time and think it through carefully! It won’t be easy for some people; knowing yourself and who you are is often the hardest part.

Your next step is to research university programs that fit your passion. Make sure you research beyond the website descriptions! Look at your course for the next four years –is this what you want? Further research can often turn up more descriptions. For example, MIT provides open course notes on all the courses they provide. Since most programs are similar for the first two years in your undergraduate programs, this will outline a better idea. Here is a link to their website: http://ocw.mit.edu/index.htm

With this research, you can envision how your next four years will look like. Maybe you have interpersonal skills and want to start your own business in the future. With some research, you might find out that a particular university has an entrepreneurial course offered by a professor who is an industry expert. Information like this will be valuable when you make your decision.

  1. Research your Career Opportunities

This is where the money aspect is incorporated. You want to make sure that the program you graduate from will offer job opportunities. The problem is that it is often difficult to foresee how certain industry will perform in the next 4 years. In hindsight, career  prospects are determined by two things: industry growth and your competition.

Your first step is to research the types of jobs available to a specific industry. Say for example, you want to get into the insurance industry and you want to study actuarial science. What types of jobs are available in this industry? Spend time looking into job sites such as Hotjobs.com, Monster.com and Workopolis. Furthermore, you can look into the actual insurance companies to get an idea of what types of jobs are available. Most company websites will offer a careers section where you can see the types of jobs available and their descriptions. See if it is something that might interest you.

Industry prospects are one side of the coin. Some industries are more stable (e.g. accounting) and some are more susceptible to fluctuation (e.g. IT). Keep this in mind as you go through your decision.

Another source you can examine is from the Canadian and US government. Both countries post their projected job growth and trends in each of the job categories, such as finance, biology, chemical engineering etc. The US government, for example, provides detailed information on all the fastest job growth areas. This will be valuable  information to look at as well.

Ontario job trends

http://www.tcu.gov.on.ca/eng/labourmarket/ojf/findoccupation.asp
US occupation outlook handbook
http://www.bls.gov/ooh/

The flipside to this is your competition. It breaks down to simple supply and demand. If  there are more people competing for the same job, your chance of getting the career you desire is limited. For example, in the teaching field, the government is cutting funding to schools, but there are more people entering teacher’s college. In this imbalanced situation, you can imagine the job competition in this field will continue to be more
difficult.

This research and information might not give you 100% assurance, but at least you have a rough idea of the field you are getting into and your options. This is a proactive way to tackle your career options rather than leaving things to fate or luck.

What university should I select?

When I advise my students to select university, school reputation comes first. This is because when you graduate and look for a job, the employers look at the name of your university first. This is why universities battle among themselves to make a stronger reputation than each other. You might have an outstanding GPA from your  school, but you might end up losing to your competitors from a reputable university. This might sound unfair, but employers pick the candidates from the best universities, even in the initial resume screening stage. This means that students from reputable  universities get more opportunities.

A second important factor is co-op. Many students might overlook this factor, but through co-op, you will be able to land several jobs, gain experience, and build connections with multiple employers. If you have an outstanding performance at your co-op job, the prospect for you to come back for a full time job is very high, bypassing all the job competition.

Put yourself in the shoes of the employer. Would you rather hire someone who has worked for you before that you can trust, or someone who is fresh out of university with no work experience? Co-op is a chance for you to shine before you even graduate.

My average isn’t high enough to get into the university I want!

My advice is to stay an extra term or year, in order to build up a better transcript. It is  much better to sacrifice an extra year in high school, than wasting 4 years worth of tuition and time at a 2nd or 3rd tier university with limited prospects. We also offer private credit courses, where our students perform far better. In 2012, 83% of our students (including both credit course and tutoring) got admitted to their first choice university. We offer support to our students, and it is most rewarding when we see them entering into a university that fulfills their passion.

Take a help of Tutoring Mississauga to build good skills for the future.