Tag Archives | university

5 Ways to Kickstart Your Career Without a University Degree 

Photo by Štefan Štefančík on Unsplash

Whether it’s a frugal desire to avoid the financial strain inherent in student life, or simply that you feel university isn’t the best path for you as an individual, there are many different ways to get your foot on the first rung of the career ladder that are worth keeping in mind when looking towards the future.

Apprenticeships
An apprenticeship gives you the opportunity to be trained on-the-job, learning as you go under the guidance of experienced workers already well established in the business. In addition to gaining job-specific skills within the industry that interests you, time will generally be kept aside to allow for some study in the relevant field (typically one day a week), making it a comprehensive way to learn about the role. To qualify, you need to be at least 16 and not in full-time education, meaning it’s an ideal alternative to an academic path for many people.

Internships
An internship works in a similar way to an apprenticeship in some respects, in that it’s a position offered to prospective workers that allows them to gain first-hand experience in the workplace itself. It differs from the former however, in that it’s typically carried out over a shorter period of time (anywhere from a week to a year), meaning less time commitment if you don’t want to be tied down right away, but also in that they are generally offered with the intention of hiring any promising talent into a more permanent position.

What’s more, since an internship is classed as a work placement, you will usually be entitled to payment of at least the national minimum wage throughout the duration of your position.

Working your way up
In lots of industries, it’s possible to apply for an entry-level role that requires little to no specific experience or qualifications, and to simply learn about how the industry works from the inside as you gradually work your way up through the company. This route may take a little more time, but it can bring with it a lot of job satisfaction as you are promoted up the ranks, and would leave you with an intimate knowledge of all areas concerning the business.

Classes and courses
It’s always worth checking out what classes and courses are on offer at your local college or night school. You can find all kinds of training groups and short-term qualifications that can sometimes require as little as a couple of hours, one evening a week for a few weeks, at the end of which you have newfound skills and certificates to put on your CV.

Self-employment
It would be foolhardy to think that everyone could just go it alone in their career and make a success of it right away. That’s not to say that self-employment doesn’t work out for a lot of people, however, and it is indeed a perfectly valid option worth considering. It requires a lot of hard work and self-discipline, but if you’ve got the drive to make it happen, it can lead to many perks, such as complete control over your own working hours and holidays, the ability to set your own rate of pay, and creative freedom with regards to the work carried out and the very business itself.

This article was contributed by guest author Julie Cheung.

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Associate’s, Bachelor’s, Master’s Degrees — Oh My!

Image by Olichel, pixabay.com

You already know that getting a college degree is a great way to get started on obtaining a higher paying career in a field you love, but the world of college degrees can be slightly confusing. How do you know which type of degree is right for you?

Here, we’ll look at the three main types of college degrees — Associate’s, Bachelor’s, and Master’s — along with the pros and cons of each type, so you can make a more informed decision about your college education.

Associate’s Degree

Associate’s degrees are two-year college degree programs that prepare you for working in a certain field or industry. Most Associate’s degrees prepare students for entry-level jobs, and they are offered in several different areas. Examples of careers you can prepare for with an Associate’s degree include administrative assistant, graphic designer, paralegal, information technology manager, and network engineer.

The pros: Associate’s degrees are cheaper to get than Bachelor’s or Master’s, both because they involve the fewest semesters and are usually offered at community colleges, which cost less than four-year universities. With an Associate’s degree, you can graduate and start your career (and begin making money) earlier, or you can use the less expensive community college degree to transfer credits to a four-year school and go on to obtain a Bachelor’s.

The cons: You may earn less in a career when you have an Associate’s degree, and depending on your field, you may be competing for jobs with people who have Bachelor’s degrees. You may also have problems getting a supervisory or management position.

Bachelor’s Degree

Bachelor’s degrees are four-year college degrees with a wide range of degree programs for just about every industry, field, or profession. Common careers that require a Bachelor’s degree include engineering, production management, financial analytics, industrial design, and network security.

The pros: No matter what type of job you’re interested in, chances are there is a Bachelor’s degree program for that type of job. In fact, some fields specifically require at least a Bachelor’s degree, such as law, medicine, and teaching. With a Bachelor’s, you will have increased job opportunities and increased earning potential, as well as more specialized knowledge and skills.

The cons: Bachelor’s degree programs can be expensive and require a greater investment of your time and focus, taking four years to obtain. There are also additional costs you’ll incur, such as room and board, rent, and transportation.

Master’s Degree

Master’s degrees are programs with Bachelor’s degrees as a prerequisite for entering. A Master’s program may last from one to four years, in addition to the four years required for a Bachelor’s. They are highly specialized and usually build on a prior educational foundation — for example, advanced practitioner jobs require graduate-level education.

The pros: Because they are highly specialized, Master’s degrees prepare you for advanced practitioner jobs that are not available to people with lower degree levels. You’ll also have vastly increased earning potential with your additional education.

The cons: Obtaining a Master’s degree is a very high investment in cost, time, and effort. The programs are typically very challenging as well as expensive, and require five years or more to fully complete.

There is no one-size-fits-all education. Depending on the type of job you want and the income range you’d like to achieve, one of these types of degrees will help you achieve your dreams.

This article was contributed by guest author Shae Holland.

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10 Reasons You Should Choose A Community College

Image by Atomic Taco, Flickr

Image by Atomic Taco, Flickr

Would you like to have a wonderful career in an industry you love? Are you a high school graduate, but can’t make up your mind on furthering your education or jumping straight into the workforce? If you’re fresh out of high school or someone who wants to pursue a career in a certain field, higher learning facilities are some of the best routes to take.

One of the biggest dilemmas a person can have is whether to attend university or community college. Both institutions provide great academic courses, training, activities, and athletics, but one tends to be more expensive in total costs than the other – and the decision varies from person to person.

Here are 10 popular reasons you may choose a community college over university.

1. School/Home Balance
Community college offers you a bit more freedom, and allows students to take one or two classes at a time – roughly 60% of students attend on a part-time basis. This offers you plenty of free time to travel back and forth from home, and commuting can save you thousands since you don’t have to live in a dorm.

2. Tuition
It’s no secret that university is expensive. A community college allows you to pay lower costs for shorter 2-year terms and credit hours can be up to 80 percent less than those of a university. The great thing is that these classes will be the same curriculum you would take at university, but for a fraction of the cost.

3. Smaller Size:
Many students are intimidated by a large campus full of people, buildings and miles of sidewalks. The nice thing about community college is that most are comprised of a few buildings and the size isn’t anywhere near that of a larger university.

4. Not Ready
Many students just aren’t ready for university and most have to take pre-requisite classes in order to receive their degree. As mentioned above, you can take these classes at your community college instead of the university, allowing you to save hundreds, if not thousands of dollars.

5. Supportive Services
A community college has great support if you have children, if you’re disabled or don’t have the financial means to attend college. Financial aid, grants, child services, and labs help take the pressure off by paying a portion of your tuition.

6. Open Access
Unlike universities, a community college is more flexible with eligibility requirements. All you need is to be 18 years old and have a (GED) or diploma for acceptance.

7. Class Size
Students are able to interact easier with an instructor since the average class size is around 25 students. Compare that to a university that often sees more than 150 students in one classroom.

8. More Choices
Though a community college is smaller than a university, these schools have a wide range of certificate, diploma, and tradesman courses that can deliver high paying jobs after completion.

9. Option to Transfer
After your first two years of community college, students who want to further their education can easily transfer to a four-year school without jumping through hoops or taking unnecessary classes. In fact, most universities work with the local community college.

10. Faster Employment
A four-year degree is great for the future; however, many people are looking to get in and get out. 2-year programs and certifications allow you to get the training faster for jobs that are available today.

This article was contributed by guest author Stephanie Lynch.

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First Year and Friends

Image by Uwww.audio-luci-store.it on Flickr

Image by Uwww.audio-luci-store.it on Flickr

Arriving that first day on campus can be unnerving and have you wondering if you’re ever going to make any friends. Going to a university far away or without any high school friends may seem scary at first, but fear not: you will make many friends! While high school may have been a bit cliquey, university is full of many people who are new as well and open to making new friends.

If you live on residence, the first thing to do is make friends with your roommate(s). Depending on your living arrangements, you may only have one person to live with, or multiple people. No matter the amount, it’s always smart to be good friends with people you are living with. For the first couple of weeks (if not the next four years!) they will be your best friends. You and your roommates are all experiencing the campus together for the first time, which will help you bond.

For those living in a dorm style residence, you will have an even easier time making friends! The first couple of weeks will be all about getting to know your floormates and becoming great friends with them. Hanging out in the hallway or in a neighbour’s room are pretty common and this definitely helps you bond with your floormates. Get out there and socialize with the people on your floor – they will want to as well.

Worried about making friends when you’re commuting to school and not living on campus? Classes are a perfect location to make new friends and meet other people who will be in your program. It’s as easy as introducing yourself to the person next to you and striking up a conversation with them. Eventually you will end up sitting in your usual spot in class and talking to the people who are usually sitting next to you! Talking to the people around you is the easiest way to make friends in class no matter if you’re in a large lecture or smaller class session.

Make sure to take advantage of all the social opportunities on campus if you’re having trouble making friends in class or in residence. Universities have events, clubs and meetings dedicated to making students friendlier with each other. Clubs are the perfect place to meet people who may be from the same place you’re from or who share the same interests as you. Don’t pass on these opportunities to meet people like you.

Put yourself out there and don’t let shyness stop you from meeting new people. Don’t be afraid to get out and make friends – remember, most first years are feeling the same way you are!

For more help on social life at university check out our 10 tips for a successful first year.

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5 Things I’ve Learned Halfway Through University

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Photo by uniinnsbruck on Flickr

Reaching the halfway point of my university career has been a bit scary. Those two years flew by and soon enough the next two years will be done as well. I find it important to reflect on the things I’ve learned throughout my first two years both in and out of the classroom, and in regards to university as a whole. More importantly, I believe it is essential to highlight the skills I have learned in regards to studying, and how newcomers to university can learn from previous mistakes that I’ve made. Having finished my second year of university and reflecting back on my time of studies, there are many things I feel should be highlighted for new students.

  1. Start the semester strong – Being able to do really well on those early midterms and essays makes a difference. Rather than being pressured to ace your final exam or essay, do well on the earlier work to reduce the stress you’ll have later on.
  2. Find YOUR best way to study – Not everyone works well in study groups or at the library; I know I didn’t. Finding the manner in which you work the best and sticking to it will help you excel in school. By the end of first year it may already be a routine!
  3. Manage your time for other activities – Constant studying will exhaust you and it’s important to do other things while on campus – playing sports, joining clubs, seeing friends, attending parties. Make sure to leave time for fun and don’t constantly think about what’s due next week.
  4. Get enough sleep – Especially for those living on residence, getting the proper amount of sleep can be difficult sometimes. Ensuring you’re well rested for lectures and not being lazy about attendance is good habit to keep throughout your four years. Don’t get too immersed into the party life and staying out late on school nights; your studies should still come first.
  5. Take advantage of the resources on campus – Every university, no matter their size, is equipped to help students deal with the problems they’re having. And even if you’re not in a pickle and just looking to find a job or some information, your school will have the right people there to help you.

I hope these tips help you get through your first two years of university and avoid some of the mistakes that I made. University is a great time – be sure to enjoy your stay!

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5 Tips for Staying in Shape on Campus

Image by Colonnade Boston on Flickr

Image by Colonnade Boston on Flickr

Staying healthy on campus can be tough with so many ways for students to get lazy and ignore their health. Cafeteria food isn’t exactly known for its health benefits, and going to a grocery store to pick up food can be a pain, especially after a long day of classes. On top of that, who has time to go for a run or the money to spend on a set of weights? Luckily, most campuses offer a wide range of activities and groups that can help you stay in shape no matter your schedule. Here are a few tips and tricks I’ve learned.

  1. Don’t give up the sports you played in high school.  You played those sports in high school because you enjoyed them, so why give them up because you’re in university? Most universities have clubs or intramurals for different types of sports – and some even for sports played overseas.
  2. Don’t be afraid of the campus gym. Walking into the gym for the first time might be intimidating, but consistently going helps to break down those boundaries you might have initially had. Develop a schedule that includes time for the gym, and it will most certainly help with relieving stress and creating a healthy body.
  3. Get workout or sports buddies. Friends will keep you motivated when you find yourself not wanting to get out of bed. Having them there will help you have fun while getting a good workout.
  4. Take advantage of the campus. Most campuses have trails for running or biking that are easily accessible to students. During your spare time, take advantage of these resources. They’re close by, and nothing beats fresh air.
  5. Have long term goals. Create fitness goals that you would like to complete by the end of the semester or the end of the year. This will help you stay motivated to exercising, and you’ll be able to see how your body progresses as the year goes on.

It’s easy to ignore your health while at university, but the long term effects can be detrimental to your body. Whether it’s through eating healthy, staying in shape or both, make sure you find a routine to properly take care of yourself. While you may not notice it short term, your body will love you in the long run for taking good care of it!

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The Life of a Transfer Student: a Reflection (Part 1)

Image by pixabay

Image by pixabay

When I graduated high school, I (surprisingly) did not know what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. I knew getting an education was important, and since I liked school anyways, I applied to a few popular Ontario universities and accepted an offer to attend a Visual Arts program at a university an hour from my home. I figured that while I didn’t know exactly what career I wanted, my experience in university would help me figure it out eventually.

When I moved into my university residence, I was floored by how much I loved the school and the people in it. I spent my first semester getting accustomed to university life and attending classes. However, while my classes were interesting, I realized I was not passionate about anything I was learning. I felt uneasy knowing my program was not giving me the life changing clarity I craved, and that I still had no idea what career path I wanted to take. I felt even more nervous thinking I was stuck in a program I didn’t like for the next 3 years.

As fate would have it, on a particularly cold, snowy night, my friends and I decided to go to the theatre to see the movie Avatar. The animation and visual effects of that movie blew me away, and made me realize that computer graphics and design were the kinds of things I wanted to do.

I left the theatre confident that visual art was not something I could see myself doing as a career. Instead, I dove into research about programs that offered the creative outlet I was searching for, but had options for animation and graphic design, things I was truly interested in (thanks to Avatar’s inspiration!).

The university I was attending did not offer programs that related to what I wanted to do, so I chose to expand my research to other schools. I searched for programs with key words like “graphic design” and “animation”, and came across a plethora of programs focusing on these interests.

I contacted a few schools to get more information about their programs, and I ended up being accepted into a university two hours away. Their program offered a university degree with a college certificate so that students are provided with the academic and applied learning of both types of institutions.

I finished my first year as a Visual Arts major, and used the credits I had earned towards my degree at my new school.

While transferring meant another transition into another new school, the process was easier than I had anticipated. The staff at both universities helped me with each step of the transfer process, so I was able to attend my new university in September as a second year student. While the process was at times stressful and scary, it was comforting to know that the decisions I made in high school were not set in stone, and that I had the power to change my mind to find what I was truly interested in doing.

Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me

Image by Kamyar Adl, Flickr

Image by Kamyar Adl, Flickr

I was awash with information during my first year of university. However, no one really sat down with me and discussed some of the smaller – yet still really useful – bits of advice. So, I’ve compiled a list of my own experiences and lessons learned:

  1. There are tons of different places to buy textbooks.

    As a first year student, I put little time or effort into scheduling my classes or being organized in general. Eventually my disorganization caught up with me, and I had to rush out at the last minute to buy several textbooks. Of course I didn’t have the luxury of shopping around: I headed straight to the school bookstore.

    Although the bookstore is almost guaranteed to have the textbook you need, you also pay a heavy premium for the convenience. Textbooks can often be found cheaper from other students, secondhand bookstores, or online. When I started my second year, I met with other students to sell my old textbooks, and bought new ones in the same way. I’ve also had a lot of success with the Toronto University Student’s Book Exchange.

  2. Organization, planning, time management and motivation are key skills to succeed in university.
     
    I was not a lazy or unmotivated first year student, but I was a disorganized one. I didn’t realize, but the Student Federation at my school hands out free student planners at the beginning of each school year. It’s vital to snag a planner early, and then find out the due dates of major assignments, projects, and exams. You can find all of this information in your course syllabus. Go through your planner and highlight any important dates. Organization is vital! If you take a few baby steps now in planning your year, it will pay off in the long run. I stuck to this method for the rest of my academic career, and realize now that there is no such thing as too much planning. There’s nothing worse than forgetting about a deadline.
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  4. In my first year of university I wanted to cycle to school. Great – off I went!
     
    I would lock my bike up outside on a bike rack. However, a few months later I finished class one day and came outside to an empty bike rack – my bike had been stolen. I was gutted, as it was a pretty new bike, and my main way to get to and from school. For the rest of the semester I was relegated to taking the bus. However, when finishing my final semester of first year, I learned that York had an underground, gated and locked, bike cage. I wish I knew about it before. Eventually I saved up enough money to buy a new bike, and by my second year I was back to cycling, and now storing my bike safely and securely.

    After a quick look, most universities offer some kind of bike cage. Although they are not normally advertised, it’s definitely worth looking into. For example, University of British Columbia, University of Calgary and York University all have bike cages.

  5. Here’s a tip I was lucky enough to hear before I started first year: if you haven’t been able to get into a course that you really want, fear not!
     
    The first week of college and university is a big game of musical chairs: students will constantly be adding and dropping courses. There’s a good possibility that if you try to enroll every day, eventually you will be able to get into the course you were after. It’s also best to attend the course, even if you are not enrolled. Explain your situation to your professor, and they can often help with your enrollment, and your previous attendance is a great example of your commitment to the class. Just be careful of class drop/enrollment deadlines, and make sure you have a backup in case you don’t end up getting into your preferred class. This tip allowed me to get into classes that were previously full. It’s frustrating when you desperately want to get into a class that is full, but it’s important to remember not to give up and move on too easily. Keep at it, and eventually your persistence will be rewarded.
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  7. Here’s something I didn’t learn until my third or fourth year: relax.
     
    Your first year of university is not necessarily about blitzing classes and getting A+’s in everything. First year is really about finding your rhythm. And you will find it! First year classes are an introduction to your academic career, and are designed to make your transition as smooth as possible. I will always remember my first year economics professor juggle three balls. He said that each ball represented a part of your life: school, work, and your personal life. You will eventually drop one of these balls – but that need not spell disaster. Know that you will struggle and fail in some areas, and that there is always support to help you succeed.
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The Ontario Universities’ Fair: A Review

York University, University of Toronto, and the University of Western Ontario booths at Ontario Universities' Fair

York University, University of Toronto, and the University of Western Ontario booths at Ontario Universities’ Fair

The 2013 Ontario Universities’ Fair took place on the weekend of September 27-29. With all 21 Ontario universities and more than 121,000 students in attendance (as tweeted by @OntarioUniFair), it would seem the popular annual event was a success. But how do you really know?

We got a hold of Fair attendees Catherine and Christian, grade 12 students from two Toronto-area high schools. Here are their responses from our interview:

Did you know what schools you wanted to talk to at the Fair? Did you have specific programs in mind?
CATHERINE: I knew two of the universities I wanted to talk to, but I was open to other schools. I am interested in French Teaching, and I focused mainly on the universities that offer this program.
CHRISTIAN: Before I went to the Fair I heard that it was going to be tough to get around due to the overwhelming amount of people attending, so I analyzed the top programs and schools I was interested in. I narrowed it down to five schools and programs and stuck to finding out more about those. My broad selection of schools and programs was spread out across Ontario: Queen’s Commerce, Schulich’s IBBA, Brock’s Sports Management, University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management, and Western’s Richard Ivey School of Business.

Did you do research on these schools and programs before the Fair?
CATHERINE: I did research on one of the universities’ websites before going to the Fair. I also received information from an administrator who came to my school last year to talk to us about their French program, and I’ve talked with parents I know whose children attend the university.
CHRISTIAN: I did research on each school prior to my visit. I asked guidance counsellors about specific programs I was interested in, and I researched schools on the internet to find out about admissions.

Did you find it easy to access and talk to the people you wanted to at the Fair?
CATHERINE: Yes. Each booth had well-defined areas where you were able to easily find the representatives.
CHRISTIAN: I found that the better-known universities (Queen’s, York, Western etc.) were hard to get information from as there were hordes of people in front of the booths. Unfortunately, I think the larger universities did a poor job of making their schools approachable, as there were hardly any representatives roaming around. However, weaving through the crowds to get questions answered was entirely possible, and just required some patience.

Did you talk to students or administrators? If both, which one did you find more useful?
CATHERINE: I talked to the administrators at the Fair; I found them helpful because they explained the types of programs offered, and gave me a general feel of what their university would be like.
CHRISTIAN: When approaching universities with questions about admissions, I spoke to students. Their answers provided me with insight on the kind of experience the school would offer. There were few administrators for each booth, and they were almost always occupied.

What questions did you ask?
CATHERINE: I asked many of the same questions to each school: do you have a French teaching program? What courses do I have to take? Do you offer scholarships? How much is residence and what is included? Does your program offer travelling, exchange or taking a course abroad? What teachables do you offer?
CHRISTIAN: My questions were tailored to the specific programs. For example, I asked a Brock representative about their sports management program, and the internship that intertwines with the program.

Did you get the information you were looking for? Were you left with any unanswered questions?
CATHERINE: I got the information that I needed, and much more than I expected. I was left with a few unanswered questions, but they are ones I should easily be able to find online.
CHRISTIAN: I had some specific questions I thought would be difficult to answer, if at all. However, I was pleasantly surprised; questions such as if the iBBA offered an internship in Germany, and whether the sports management program at Brock had a connection with Sportsnet, were answered in a split second.

Did they offer up any information you didn’t think to ask about?
CATHERINE: They made me aware of the changes coming to the teaching program and how it will affect me with more years of study combined with more practicums in the program.
CHRISTIAN: The universities created booklets that contained incredible information from admissions to tuition to programs, and everything in between. These gave me much more information than I thought I needed.

Were you attracted to the booths of any schools you were not originally interested in?
CATHERINE: There were some booths that caught my eye with their French and teaching signs. I approached their booths and talked to their representatives about what programs they offer to make sure I make an informed decision.
CHRISTIAN: One particular booth that stood out was that of the University of Windsor. Their booth was centred around an ice hockey shooting strip, where you could shoot to win Toronto Maple Leaf tickets. The idea was to promote the school’s reputation with their strong tie to Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment. It was a great way to draw students in.

When you left, were you interested in other schools or programs you hadn’t thought about before the Fair?
CATHERINE: After seeing the different universities and learning about their programs, my interest was piqued and I looked up their websites to learn more about how their benefits compared to other universities.
CHRISTIAN: I became more interested in a sports management program after learning about its reputation and offerings.

Did you attend any of the school’s presentations? Did you find them useful?
CATHERINE: I did not attend to any of the presentations.
CHRISTIAN: I attended University of Toronto’s presentation. I definitely found it useful, as it went in depth about offered programs, specifically, the Rotman School of Business and the different majors within the program, which I was unclear about prior to the presentation.

Do you think attending the Fair helped your decision on what schools and programs to apply for?
CATHERINE: I think attending the Fair was helpful because I was able to ask questions that the websites didn’t answer. It was an easy way for me to see what each university offers.
CHRISTIAN: Not necessarily, as my primary choice was not swayed. However, my secondary choices were definitely influenced by the Fair.

What were the best and worst parts of the Fair for you?
CATHERINE: The best part of the Fair was receiving materials on the programs offered, costs, and general information about the university. I liked being able to talk to many different representatives and just have access to other universities. The Fair was unfortunately very crowded (even though I went on the Friday), and it was overwhelming at times because I wasn’t sure what to ask.
CHRISTIAN: The best part of the Fair was definitely being able to get answers to my questions from the representatives; I can’t think of a more viable source than being face-to-face with people from the school. The worst part of the Fair was having to weave through the hordes of people in order to receive booklets and ask questions. This was expected, understandable, and inevitable, with 120,000+ students, parents and educators attending the event within a weekend.

Would you recommend the Fair to other students?
CATHERINE: I would recommend going to the Fair, and if you do, go with your parents so they’re also aware of what the university offers and the costs involved. It is very interesting to find out what universities are out there and it is helpful for those who don’t know what they want to do in the future.
CHRISTIAN: Most definitely! The Fair is an incredible place to get valuable information, receive answers to your all-important questions, and even to meet new people.

For more information on the Ontario Universities’ Fair, visit www.ouf.ca. Ready to apply? Here are some tips on Applying to Ontario Universities.

How Do I Decide Which College or University to Attend?

Infographic by Yokoland. Answers "What qualities were very or somewhat important when you were deciding which undergraduate college to attend?" in survey by the NewYork Times (click to view).

Infographic by Yokoland. Answers “What qualities were very or somewhat important when you were deciding which undergraduate college to attend?” in survey by the New York Times (click to view).

Big decisions often come down to the smallest details. As you grew from a baby to a toddler to a pre-teen, your parents increasingly gave you more freedom to make your own choices. While you may not have noticed it, you’ve been gaining valuable experience in making tough decisions. Now it’s time to make an essential lifetime decision – what post-secondary school to attend. You’re numb from the multitude of choices available. Some of them have sent current students to showcase (through creative, sometimes quirky presentations) how cool it is to go their school; others have sent you beautifully-designed catalogues with pictures of architecturally sound and well-preserved buildings older than both your parents combined, boasting pictures of perfect college students sitting on the greenest grass you’ve ever seen (Photoshop?), happily working on assignments with expensive laptops, soaking up the summer sun.

You try to block out the persuasion techniques and consider all angles as you solve this choice paralysis and make a well-rounded decision. Unlike that car or cool phone, your college degree has no return policy upon completion. It’s important to step back and take a calm look before jumping in. When you do, make sure you’re covering aspects that matter to you too, not just what you’ve been told to look for in a school (brochures aren’t everything). Here are two Ds you should consider:

Your Desire

You love clothes, flashing lights and the runaway. For as long as you can remember, you’ve always wanted to work in the fashion industry. Or maybe you see yourself as a life saver; always looking to help people, you’ve seen every episode of Grey’s Anatomy, and you’re convinced that the life of a medical professional is your calling. As the saying goes, “if you do what you love you’ll never work another day in your life.” This doesn’t simply mean that you should sit around pondering how to turn your NASCAR obsession into a money-making idea; it’s important to be realistic as well. Remember, once you do something for a living, it changes everything; you’re no longer doing it for pleasure, you’re now doing it to put food on the table. You’ll probably still enjoy it, possibly even love it, but it will likely be more demanding because of the responsibilities that go with it. You’ll have to meet the expectations of clients, bosses and coworkers, and slowly but surely, your obsession may start taking on the features of hard work. Look at Mark Zuckerberg for an extreme example. He started Facebook as a hobby; soon after, it became his job (and certainly pays well), but now, after taking the company public, he’s responsible for keeping multitudes of shareholders, the great majority of whom he doesn’t know personally, happy. Find the balance that works for you.

Industry Demand

20 years ago, there were no job postings for Social Media Manager, Application Developer, or Cloud Computing expert, but head to LinkedIn today. They’re EVERYWHERE. At the current speed of technological advancement, the jobs that will become available in the next 20 years will certainly be something most current students are not prepared for.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, the demand for jobs such as Insurance Underwriter, Reporter, Database Administrator, Farmer, and Postal Service Clerk is decreasing. However, regional demand is a great way to gauge the potential return on your educational investment. According to the Globe and Mail, in Canada today, there is a shortage of skilled workers in particular regions for jobs including Heavy Duty Equipment Mechanics, Biologists, Plumbers, Physiotherapists and Welders. These occupations command higher than average income levels, which makes them quite attractive when you’re preparing to save money by skimping on shoelaces for the next four years.

If you have a strong sense of knowledge of your own desire as well as the demand levels in your desired industry, it should not be a challenge to decide who offers the required courses. It’s perfectly normal to be nervous when making such a big decision, but before settling into a certain degree option, make sure you fully understand the importance of the first two Ds.