Ready, Set, Go! Now’s the Time for High School Students to Explore Their Higher Education Goals
The new school year has just begun, but for students planning to head to college or university over the next two years, now is also the time of year to begin preparing for the future. By starting their research early, students can set themselves up to be ahead of the pack when it comes to being as competitive as possible for their preferred schools and programs.
Many programs of study require certain courses and extracurricular participation to qualify for entry. That means grade 11 students need to start thinking about which courses of study they may wish to pursue in the future. The earlier students begin the process, the better they can prepare to be competitive in their favoured field or university/college program later on.
Ready: Explore the Options
Starting to think now about what happens after high school gives students the chance to spend some time dreaming and discovering what options are out there. For Canadian students, a great place to start this process is by browsing MacLean’s University Rankings Guide. This ranking system is different from the American Ivy league system since it’s tied more to student satisfaction and employment outcomes than private value. The best program for your child may be at a school that doesn’t necessarily have an overall high ranking, but that boasts excellent teachers and outcomes. Each faculty and program has a unique culture and cadre of professors and instructors, one of which could be an ideal fit for your child.
Exploring a university’s website and studying their program calendars might spark some ideas for fields of study that a student may not be aware of. Also, while it may seem that a university degree is preferable, college programs offer more hands-on training that might be more suitable and could translate into a job directly after graduation. As well, many colleges and universities now offer combined or applied bachelors degrees that might better suit a student’s long-term goals. At this stage of the game, keeping options and possibilities open is preferable for students who haven’t yet settled on their career preferences.
Set: Research Your Top Choices
Once a student has a vague idea of which fields they’re interested in pursuing and which school offers the best options for them, meeting with people from those schools is the next step. Most schools host open houses throughout the year, and those start during the fall before applications are due in early spring. You can find a list of upcoming national and international open houses by visiting https://www.scholarshipscanada.com/Events/Index.aspx. Taking campus tours and meeting with current students and staff can help students and their parents gain firsthand experience about a potential school’s campus culture and fit for a student. Many international schools also attend open houses and school fairs across Canada, so students can meet with representatives and instructors who can answer questions about their institutions and give guidance on any exams or extra documents that might be necessary.
Go: Starting the Application Process
This is the time to put various deadlines in your calendar and to create a checklist for each of the institutions being applied to. Depending on the province you live in, the application process will vary slightly. In Ontario and BC, for instance, students staying within their home province apply through a central application centre, which allows them to apply once and have relevant records sent directly to various universities or colleges. Typically, students applying to schools within their province will be given an online access code in October or November of the year before they wish to enrol in post-secondary school. Students wishing to apply outside of their home province will need to use different portals. Some programs require students to submit sample essays and reference letters from teachers or other mentors. These are important documents that shouldn’t be left to the last minute. Teachers are asked to write many letters, so it’s ideal to ask for letters and to submit any questionnaires for referees to fill out at least four weeks before they are required. Checking in with referees a week or two before documents are due is a courtesy that will ensure that all documents are submitted in a timely manner.
For people pursuing fine arts educations, auditions are held in major cities across the country on certain dates, so preparing audition pieces and in-person interviews may be required and should be prepared for well in advance as well.