It’s always a mixed blessing, the beginning of a new year: the many opportunities a fresh start offers can also bring with them a bit of nervousness around making the right choices. Some of you are facing a really big decision right this week: with the OUAC deadline coming up on January 11 (today, folks!), you are choosing the university at which you will spend the next four to five years, setting you on the path to the future you have imagined for yourself. By this point you will have done your homework by identifying a program of interest to you, will have looked up its prerequisites and may have compared the pros and cons between a number of different university campuses. Now, I make no claim to be unbiased, but I’ve sat down and, with a little help from some friends, drawn up a list of the six reasons why I think York U makes a great choice.
1. Academic Opportunities & Flexibility
York University is one of the largest universities in Canada — and that’s a good thing! It means that you can choose from among more than 200 programs (some of them unique) in 11 Faculties. It means that we draw innovative minds and leading experts to our campuses as professors, and that you can participate in cutting-edge research in 25 Research Centres and Institutes, potentially contributing to insights that will transform the future in fields as wide-ranging as global health, digital learning or sustainable business solutions.
A large university also allows for something else: flexible offerings. Maybe you have a few different interests that you’d like to combine — in which case a double major might be right for you. Or you have a life full of a variety of responsibilities (school, work, family), which means that you will benefit from the possibility of taking classes at night or on the weekends, and from choosing among traditional in-class courses, online courses or courses that offer a mixture of both (blended classes). As a person who wears many hats, I have found this flexibility incredibly helpful to leading a somewhat sane and balanced life.
2. A Progressive, Career-Connected Education
Ultimately, most of us get a university education to find fulfilling and rewarding work after graduation, so it’s important that what we learn in school has practical application later on. At York, your classroom will sometimes have four walls, while at other times it will resemble the Costa Rican rainforest, but either way you’ll gain lots of hands-on experience that will give you not only practical skills but also a professional network. At York, we call this type of learning experiential education, and my fellow blogger Sam recently wrote a fab post about what that means.
What does all this look like in practice? Fatima, a fourth-year student in our highly-ranked Kinesiology program, studied abroad on York’s very own EcoCampus in Costa Rica. “It was a life-changing experience,” she told me. I myself did not go quite as far afield, but my placement in fourth year (I was in the Work & Labour Studies program) really showed me the impact of current research and how governments and organizations can use it to eliminate barriers for marginalized communities in the labour market.
York also has a wide variety of free workshops, programs and resources that will give you the tools to achieve your career goals. Our Career Centre, which will support you up to two years after graduation (and believe me, I have taken advantage of this), hosts a number of programs, career fairs and workshops such as “Creating a Professional LinkedIn Profile” and “Professional Etiquette” to get you started, besides giving you access to available job listings. Check out what my colleague Daniel had to say about Career Centre services, as well as his take on the TASTE program, in which alumni take current students out for lunch to talk professional futures.
Speaking of alumni, we have some incredible ones that could become part of your network: Catherine Zahn, for example, serves as president and CEO for the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), while Jennifer Keesmaat is the chief planner and executive director for the City of Toronto. They and many others are leading transformation of their industries, making numerous contributions to society in their daily work.
3. Campuses: Beautiful & Accessible
I’ve already mentioned York’s EcoCampus in the middle of the Las Nubes Forest Reserve in Costa Rica and open to students from any program. Closer to home, we have the award-winning, boundary-pushing spaces of the Bergeron Centre for Engineering Excellence and the modern 120,000 square feet of high-tech labs in the Life Sciences Building on York’s Keele campus, as well as the green and cosy learning environment of our bilingual (for some people, trilingual) Glendon campus in mid-town Toronto, which is also home to Radio Glendon. I will be the first to admit to you that I wasn’t sure about York until I walked onto campus and knew this was going to be my other home. For you, the next generation of students, there is more to look forward to: a new Student Centre at Keele, a completely new campus in Markham, and — yes, indeed — York’s own subway stop.
Because that is another reality at York: we’re a commuter campus, with all the services (e.g. online registrarial services, flexible learning options and the Atkinson Centre for Mature and Part-Time Students) and transportation options to prove it. For many of us who have chosen to live at home for financial and other reasons, accessibility via the TTC, GO, the YRT or Viva, as well as by car, of course, makes life a lot easier. I can get to York’s Keele campus much faster than I can downtown, for example, and my friend Suman, a fourth-year double major in History and English, says she particularly appreciates the variety of options she has for commuting. And spending an hour on that bus or train doesn’t have to be wasted time either — just ask Garima, our blogger studying at the Schulich School of Business.
4. Community: Vibrant & Diverse
The York U experience extends beyond lectures, research and papers. Between Orientation and Frosh Week or participating in leadership-development opportunities, you can build a well-rounded university experience. With more than 300 student clubs, you will be able to find an activity or resource that suits your unique interests. You can access student clubs through YU Connect, which gives you a club directory and allows you to track your involvement in extracurricular activities. Read Garima’s story about how her involvement with the Rotaract Club of York University took her all the way to Washington, D.C.
New students will learn the ropes of University life through York’s innovative YU START program, which guides and informs and, best of all, lets you communicate with especially trained upper-year students for the inside scoop on anything from class prep to taking advantage of College offerings.
5. Excellent Support Services for and beyond the Classroom
Now, let’s face it: as exciting as coming to university can be, it’s not all fun and games, and all of us (let me repeat that: ALL of us) sometimes struggle, whether it’s with class assignments, the greater responsibilities of living away from home, balancing our academic, work and social lives, health challenges or just purely and simply the sense of feeling a bit out of place at times. That is why it’s extra important to know about the support services, both academic and otherwise, that York U offers to help with those rough patches in the road. My fellow blogger Sam put together a list of the 15 most important resources you should draw on while at York, whether you need some help writing a paper, would like to improve your time-management skills, need an escort to walk you to the bus at night, are going through a difficult personal time, want to learn about accommodations offered to students with a diagnosed disability or anything in between. As Lucia, a Dance major now in her third year, put it so well: “The Writing Centre helped me a lot, especially during my first year. There are many resources at York — you just have to take the initiative to use them.”
6. Financial Assistance
I’ve left this one for last, but we all know it’s a biggie: financing your education and budgeting for your life while at university require good planning and possibly some assistance. With automatic and merit-based scholarships, awards and bursaries, York University seeks to support your academic goals. For example, the Student Life Award was designed to provide $500 in supplemental support to students who qualify for an entrance scholarship to assist with the additional costs of student life such as books and eating on campus.
You can also help yourself by seeking on-campus employment. Work/Study positions, such as writing for the YUBlog, help pay the bills, give you valuable work experience, enrich your professional network and, being on campus, flexibly adapt around your class schedule. My colleague Clivane has written about her experience with a variety of Work/Study roles, and Megan has put together two fabulous posts on student money matters, one on the basics of financing university, the other on how to create a workable budget.
There you have it: I know it’s a long post, but I hope I have been able to show you why I have so thoroughly enjoyed and cherished my time here at York. If you have any questions, please comment or tweet me at @YorkUStudents. And wherever you decide to apply: good luck and have fun!