The last year of high school is a very distinct year for most people — from prom to last-minute hangouts by the bleachers, it can feel like you’re cramming in the last four years of your existence into a single one. There’s a feeling I can’t quite describe, one where you are both cherishing your current life and preparing for a new one. With March Break in full swing and graduation still a few months away, it might not feel like your high-school days are over just yet, but one question is nonetheless probably looming over your head: Which university should I choose?
The question is an important one, and its answer can set you on a completely fresh path. University is a chance to start over, meet new people, try new roles and test your academic stamina. Will you start a new club? Become president of a student union? Try out for a varsity team? There are possibilities galore!
You should choose your university largely depending on what kind of experience you would like to have. As a high-school student, you might find the scenario hard to picture in its specifics, but think for just a second: What would be your ideal life at school look like? Do you want to be involved in extra-curriculars? Go on internships? Work abroad? Is community important to you or do you mainly care about a program’s ratings? What kind of academic and non-academic supports would you like to see in place? How important to you are a campus’s diversity or a program’s hands-on learning opportunities? Each university will offer these opportunities in different ways.
As a second-year student, I don’t feel my high-school days are that far behind me. I had my eye on York’s Creative Writing program for a long time, so coming here was my first choice. But not everyone knows exactly where they want to go years ahead of time! If you’re still deciding on which university to choose, the following tips are for you.
University encompasses more than academics, but your program is still the central aspect of postsecondary life! Your program should be your number one priority. Choose a university you know has one of the best programs for your field. That way, you know you’ll be going somewhere equipped to provide you with the resources not only for academic excellence but also to help you foster professional connections. For example, when I was in high school, Ryerson’s English program interested me, but they did not offer any Creative Writing options (such as a major/minor). As someone who wanted to focus the majority of my studies on creative writing, not just English, I felt Ryerson was not a fit for me. At the end of the day, your degree is the most important element and what you’ll be spending the majority of your time on.
- Money $$$
The costs of postsecondary education are high (although some change seems to be on the horizon at least in Ontario). Money is a prime matter for university students, and it can become a source of stress when fees are due or when it is time to pay back loans. Make sure to identify the amount of scholarships and financial aid that universities offer, not only to newly admitted students but to current ones as well (you won’t be in first year for long!). If you’ll be living in residence, that’s another consideration as well. Feel free to check out all of the scholarships York offers — hint: it’s a lot.
- Student Life
On to the fun stuff! Of course, the great thing about university is that you’re able to make new connections with a larger variety of people than in high school. The best way to check out what student life is really like is to attend Open House events! They have professors and current students available who will tell you what you can expect. If you missed a university’s open house, you can always get a tour. At York, tours are led by current students and they’re happy to answer any questions you might have about university life. Another tip: check out their social media! Most universities highlight their clubs and student organizations on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages.
Of course, you not only want to have an exciting life at university but a successful career beyond graduation as well. Whether you think you would benefit from an international exchange, volunteer experience or internships, it’s important to check out what universities offer outside of the traditional classroom experience. For example, York offers a broad range of unique educational opportunities such as dual credentials and the chance to study abroad.
Do you need help choosing a university? Let me know in the comments or tweet me at @yorkustudents!