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How Do I Begin to Choose a Uni?

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Very carefully!

High school students are now asked in grade 10 (average age 15)  to think about where they’re headed after graduation (average age 17).  That way they can select the right courses in grade 11 and 12 to keep options open.  So how do you decide whether a gap year, a community college certificate or diploma or a university degree is the best fit for you?

For parents wanting to help, it’s not remotely likely back in the day!  Check out YouTube’s “Did You Know/Shift Happens 2012“.  Did you know:

  • Today’s learner will have 10-14 jobs by age 38;  other sources indicate that Gen Y-Zers will change careers 6-8 times in their working lives;  no gold watches in this snapshot!   
  • 1 in 4 employees has been with their current employer less than 1 year;  1 in 2 employees has been there less than 5 years;  what used to be perceived as job-hopping may actually strengthen adaptability! 
  • The top 10 jobs in demand in 2010 didn’t exist in 2004;  students are preparing for jobs that don’t yet exist!
  • For students in a 4 year technical degree, half of what they learned in first year will be outdated by 3rd year

When I partner with high school students, I often see:

  • Little self understanding;  while it’s good to be in the moment, an investment of this much time and money deserves thought about who you are, what motivates and inspires you, what your work-life priorities are, how you learn best (in a classroom or on the job);  often a gap year is an excellent transition from high school to post secondary education  
  • Students following in their parents’ footsteps (“my grandmother and mother are both Mechanical Engineers so…”) or tagging along with the crowd (“my friends are all going to  study biz in Toronto so…”);  what worked well for your rellies then may not work so well for you now  

The question is:  what’s the best plan for you?  Here are some resources to get you thinking:

  • A career assessment that goes beyond your career interests will help you focus on careers where you’re most likely to be successful;  then you can focus your time and money on courses and programs that will get you there on a  timely basis
  • Economic studies (e.g. The Ministry of Economic Development, Trade and Employment) showcase what jobs are here today and predict what jobs are anticipated in the future.  For instance, Environment and Health Care are sectors likely to continue to provide meaningful work…although individual jobs will continue to evolve   
  • Macleans’ “2013 University Rankingsand ”Guide to Canadian Universities (they’re different) will give you an excellent overview to which university will suit you best
  • Ditto The Globe and Mail’s “Canadian University Report
  • Hang out on your campuses of choice, staying in rez (can you survive dorm life?), eating in the dining hall (this isn’t like home!), sitting in on a class or two (how big are the classes or are they on-line?  who’s teaching:   a prof or TA?), getting a feel for the culture of the campus (do you feel like you fit in?) and the city (what is there to do after class?).  The “official tour” will only share so much!

Today, students may go to university first for a broad based degree (e.g. General Arts) and then on to a college for a specialized certificate or diploma (e.g. Accounting, Human Resources, Marketing).   Others may start off at College and complete a university degree once they start working.    The new articulation agreements between universities and colleges facilitate smoother transitions.  Consider co-op programs (great for experiential learners) and internships (e.g. www.careeredge.ca) where you earn as you learn.

Today “Your career is not point A to point B.  It’s more like a meandering stream”.  (Clare Tattersall, Huron University College). 

Get to know the real you, have a plan but be open to new opportunities and enjoy the journey.