Archive | Colleges

Image by Jazmin Quaynor,

Image by Jazmin Quaynor,

Whether you are finishing up high school, going back to school after a break, or looking into a master’s, choosing the right school for you is tough. It’s a difficult enough decision when there’s only location for your degree program to consider, but with online schooling becoming more and more common, you now have online choices to add to the mix. There are several things to consider when you are looking at schools, and deciding what kind of education experience you want is the first decision to make. What are the pros and cons to traditional and online schooling?

Traditional School

The familiar choice of a traditional brick and mortar school is one that most people end up making. There are plenty of upsides to physically attending school. Sitting in a classroom allows you to interact face to face with your professor and fellow classmates, as well as take advantage of study groups and office hours. Getting to know your professors and classmates also makes for great networking opportunities, which is known to be important for finding work after college. You get the benefits of using on-campus facilities like the library, recreation center, and career center (among others) which are awesome resources for students. Being on campus also gives you plenty of socializing opportunities like joining clubs and participating in campus events.

Of course, with the positives come negative aspects. Having to choose from and attend classes on campus makes your schedule pretty inflexible, which can be difficult if you need to work. With all of the expenses of attending school, it’s necessary for many people to be employed while going to school, and not all jobs are willing to work with school schedules. Another demerit for brick and mortar schools is location. If your local school doesn’t have the degree you want to pursue, then you have to consider either changing your choice of major or moving to another city or state. That adds the extra expense of living on your own, whether on or off campus. While some students intend to do that anyway, the option to stay at home is a comforting one as the cost of school and the cost of living continue to rise.

Online School

While there used to be a negative stigma associated with getting a degree online, these days, millions of students actually prefer online school. Online school is becoming available with several accredited and established Universities, and the online option is an extension of the same degrees offered on campus. This is incredibly convenient for people who work full time or have families and need their school life to work around their schedule, and not the other way around. Online school is also a great option for people with anxiety, or people who don’t care about the social aspects of campus life. Nothing is worse than having to go all the way to campus during homecoming week when you could care less about football. Many people worry about not getting as good of an education taking classes online, but as long as you follow these tips for maintaining focus as an online student, there’s no reason why you can’t get a full and successful education. Learning to focus and succeed in online classes can develop your self-sufficiency skills, which are important in the working world.

Negatives to online education are probably covered by the positives of on campus learning. You miss out on live interaction with classmates and the professor during class. You won’t have all of the networking opportunities you may have gotten by being on campus and participating in academic and social activities, as well as clubs. The lack of face-to-face interaction with professors can hinder students who aren’t quite college ready and need more direction. Unless you are a part of an online program with a local university, you don’t have access to the various campus facilities that other students get. Also, you don’t get the chance to make school your main focus like those who study on campus and surround themselves by like-minded individuals in an academic environment.

Choosing whether on-campus schooling or online schooling is better for you can be a difficult decision to make, but when you take a look at your life situation and your personality, it can help lead you to a decision. As long as you put in the hard work that earning any degree takes, you can get a great education with either choice. Find what’s right for you, and do your best.

This article was contributed by guest author Mila Sanchez.

Image by Nick Karvounis,

Image by Nick Karvounis,

The federal government’s decision to increase sanctions on ITT Technical Institute reinforced how choosing the right college can affect a student’s current and future prospects. In the aftermath of the Department of Education’s decision to bar ITT Tech enrolling new students utilizing federal aid, the institute decided to close all campuses and discontinue educational services leaving tens of thousands of students in limbo.

Now former ITT Tech students who have not completed their degree are faced with a tough decision:
• Attempt to find an institution that will transfer their credits.
• Petition for their federal loans to be discharged.

Both choices are not ideal.

Here’s the thing: it’s easier than ever to vet colleges. The internet has made school stats, credentials, and various other factors about the institution easy to discover. College education is too important, time consuming, and expensive to be a blind gamble. And the rise of public college online programs, has eliminated the need to enroll in a risky program due to geographic limits. With a little detective work, you can save yourself a lot of trouble.

Below are four factors to keep in mind when vetting a school:

Graduation Statistics

Not all student dropouts are the fault of the college, but higher than average drop out rates can be a sign of fundamental flaws in the school’s education or student support efforts. Individuals should not walk into a college program without knowing what percentage of students leave the college without a degree.

While it’s a gamble to attend a college with low graduation, at least you know what you’re up against. You can take measures to ensure you don’t leave the program with student loans and no degree.

You can get a sense of college graduation rates utilizing either the U.S. Department of Education’s College Scorecard website or by doing a Google search of the schools graduation rate.


Check accreditation. According to an interview with Dr. RuthAnn Althaus, Ohio University Online MHA program coordinator, accreditation “provides assurance to students, their employers, and the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) that institutions are meeting rigorous educational standards and are professionally sound.”

Enrolling in a program that is not accredited or has had their accreditation revoked for not meeting standards can have the following consequences:
• College’s ineligibility for federal funds (including federal student aid or tuition reimbursement programs.
• Inability to transfer college credits to other institutions.
• Not accepted as a degree by employers.
• Doesn’t grant entry into careers that require a degree (like nursing or engineering).

You can find accreditation info on the college’s website or utilizing this government database.

You also want to check if the college’s accreditation is in trouble. If a school fails to meet accreditation standards, it will be placed on probation. If the problems are not fixed, they might lose their accreditation.

You can check if a school is on probation by:
• Searching Google for a “Notice of Probation” for the school
• Searching for any articles about the potential loss of accreditation.

Credit Transfer

Switching schools can be a nightmare. The Department of Education analysis of college credit transfer rate revealed that around 40% of college students lost all of their earned credits when they transferred schools.

Students who start at one college and plan to transfer to another school should:
• Figure out if the college has a transfer agreement with any other universities. If they do, ask the college what you need to do to sign onto the transfer agreement.
• If you have a transfer college in mind, check the college website for a list of schools they have a partnership with. (Portland State University’s community college partnership page is a good example of what that page would look like.)
• Call the admissions office or transfer advisors at the school before you sign up for classes to sure your credits will transfer.
• Shop around to other colleges if your first choice won’t accept your credits.
• Check if the college is regionally accredited (most public universities) or nationally accredited (a lot of for-profits). Most regionally accredited universities won’t accept credits from nationally accredited programs.

Students who don’t plan to transfer schools, should still get a general sense of whether the credits will be transferable to a school you would reasonably want to attend just in case.

Financial Stability

If you’re in enrolled in a school that is in financial hot water, you’re placing yourself in a precarious position.

Schools that are not stable financially face:
• The potential to lose accreditation due to not meeting financial standards.
• A loss of quality offerings to students.
• Hikes in tuition in an effort to remain afloat.
• Possible school closure.

The last point, school closure, can be devastating to students if the closure happens in the middle of the semester. Their transcripts will be marred by a semester worth of ‘incomplete’ classes which looks bad and might prevent student athletes from participating in sports.

You can check the financial health of your potential university by searching for the financial information in Google or checking for the school in one of the following articles:
Private College Financial Health Grades 2015: Is Your Alma Mater At Risk?
159 Private Colleges Fail Education Dept.’s Financial-Responsibility Test

The fall of ITT Technical Institute should be a wake-up call that individuals need to expand how potential schools are evaluated before enrolling. The ads, recruiters, and website might market the school as a stellar institution, but colleges are businesses who are reliant on recruiting students to remain lucrative. It’s the individual’s responsibility to do a thorough vetting before enrolling.

This article was contributed by guest author Samantha Stauf.

Image by PublicDomainPictures,

Image by PublicDomainPictures,

It’s graduation season – which means it’s a good time to start thinking about college life. College is a time of unbridled opportunity and freedom, but it’s also a time of unprecedented challenge and work. Done right though, college can open doors for self-discovery, connections previously unknown and can leave you ready to take on the workforce in a blaze.

Here are 6 ways get through your college years grinning:

Mind Your Finances
Student debt is a trending word right now for good reason. With the idea that a degree equals a lucrative job, many college graduates have taken out thousands in student loans. Unfortunately, grads often find themselves saddled with loan payments and no immediate job prospects.

To get your college life started right, avoid the added burden of loan payments. Look for ways to pay tuition without putting yourself in the red. Apply for scholarships, grants, and work-study positions. There are scholarships for just about everything nowadays. It is a good idea to start looking for scholarships now so that you can be ahead of the game.

College years are for experimentation. Take classes in a subject you’ve never heard of, or study abroad for a semester! Your new experiences will teach you invaluable life skills that will serve you well throughout your life. Especially when you’re just starting out, you want to make sure to sign up for a wide range of classes so that you can figure out what you are interested in early on.

Challenge Yourself
If you don’t challenge yourself, it’s hard to gain the confidence needed to accomplish anything. Do things that scare you. Take a hard course. Raise your hand during group discussions. Launch into a challenging field like nursing and push your degree even further with programs like an RN to BSN nursing program. You’ll likely find that you have the ability to do far more than you think you do.

Don’t Forget to Play
Constant classes and deadlines can be exhausting. Luckily, most college campuses are buzzing with student activities and organizations. Take some nights off to soak it in. By taking some time to relax you can actually learn a lot more and work a lot more efficiently. This is definitely an essential part of being a college student.

Colleges are dense with experts in a variety of fields. Take advantage of this! Maintaining relationships with your professors and classmates will make your college experience more enriching and may help you in unexpected way after graduation. Networking is a great thing to do as soon as you start college. That way you can have solid relationships built for right when you graduate college. That can really help give you a foot in the door for your career.

Maintain Balance
Take care of yourself. Don’t let the challenges of college life keep you from being healthy. Take time to refresh yourself, mentally and physically. Learning to have a work-life balance in college will do wonders for you.

College is teeming both with new responsibility and new opportunity. Take full advantage of your college experience, and you’ll be sure to end your collegiate career with a smile!

This article was contributed by guest author Kara Masterson.

Image by NEC Corporation of America, Flickr

Image by NEC Corporation of America, Flickr

Getting into a college of your choice can be difficult. Even more difficult is staying in college and achieving great scores. The trials and tribulations of today’s students are evident in every aspect of schooling. Students think about a lot of things, such as student debt, the difficulty of classes, socialization, etc. Due to these issues, students may choose to skip college, thus making their lives more difficult in the long term. Here are some solutions and tips on how to choose a great college where you will feel relaxed.

Inclusiveness: Feel Comfortable on Campus

Not all people are the same. Therefore, some students might be more laid back than others. These students cannot control how they act around other people, even if they want to be included in groups or friend circles. Unfortunately, issues like social anxiety may present a difficult task to overcome on their own. Because of this, make sure you choose a college where you will feel relaxed and accepted, no matter who you are. It will be easier for you to make friends and you’ll also feel excited about going to college and classes!

Quality and Support: How to succeed at school academically

When you’re choosing a college, you need to think about the quality of the classes and the academic support professors and teachers offer. You don’t want to end up in a college where you won’t be able to learn because the quality of classes is low. Be thoughtful about this!

Affordability: Net Cost

Can you afford the college you want? If there’s one thing killing student morale for studying – it’s debt. Constantly thinking about the huge amount of money you’ll need to pay back is not healthy. Make sure you choose a college you can afford, even if at the cost of loans. If you are unable to pay back the loan, it might be better to choose a college that is cheaper, but where you’ll be able to finish with less worry about loans.

Alumni Success

Ask former students about their lives after college. Did the college they went to pay off? If not, maybe you want to expand your search. Of course, you shouldn’t give up instantly – some students simply don’t want to work after college, so make sure you look into the reasoning behind their disappointment. With a big enough sample size and the right questions, you’ll be sure about your choice. If students can easily find jobs that pay well after they finish the college – it’s definitely a step in the right direction!

Aim For Variety

Find a college with a wide variety of courses and callings so you have options every year. The more, the merrier!

Read Faculty Evaluations

When searching for a decent college, read up on faculty evaluations. These offer insight on the quality of classes and the effectiveness of transferring knowledge to the students. Try to find as much information as possible and if you are happy with what you found, it’s a good sign about the quality of the college.

Consider Auditing Colleges

Before you make a decision regarding which college to go to, it might be a smart idea to consider auditing them before your final decision. Get as much information as you can so you know what’s up!


There are numerous ways you can help yourself reach a decision regarding choosing a college. These are just some tips and steps you can take on your journey to a great college, so be sure to follow them; they will help!

This article was contributed by guest author Andy Bell.

Image by COD Newsroom, Flickr

Image by COD Newsroom, Flickr

These days, nearly everyone goes to college after high school. If you know that college is something you want to do in the future, there are many things to consider before making your ultimate decision. When figuring out which college you want to attend, try to keep these things in mind.

  1. Choose a school that best allows you to reach your end goal.
    If you already know what you want to be in the future, find a school that BEST prepares you for that. For example, McMaster Health Science in Canada is one of the best undergrad programs that places you on a solid route to medical school. If you want to become a doctor, applying for something like this could be one of your top choices.

    If you aren’t too sure what you want to do yet, apply for a school that offers flexible programs that you can taper to your own preference. Programs like these allow students to figure out what it is they really excel at, and in the end this is what counts. The best programs give you the chance to develop to your maximum potential. They train you well, have engaging and inspiring professors, and have opportunities for developing strength of character. It’s important to not just factor in the academics in your choice, but also things that will make you stand out better upon graduating. Look out for co-op and internship programs, which allow you to apply what you learned and give you real world experience. This is arguably where you do most of your learning and is something that all future employers love to see. Remember to choose a school that isn’t necessarily the easiest to excel in, but that allows for the most growth for you on an intellectual and personal level.

  2. College is about YOU and YOUR future, no one else’s.
    If all of your best friends from high school are going to Western, that doesn’t mean you have to as well. It can be daunting to have to make new friends and social groups, especially in such a new environment, but it’s not as bad as it seems. Keep in mind that everyone who goes to college is in the same boat as you. You’re all in a new place, one you’ve never experienced before, and you’ve leapt out of your hometowns in pursuit of something. If you choose your school wisely, it’s almost guaranteed that you’ll meet people with the same values and ideologies as you. In terms of people, college is nothing like high school – almost everyone is more mature, open, friendly, and whole lot more sensible. Trust me when I say that some of your closest friends will be the ones you meet in college.
  3. When finding the right school, make sure to start your decision process AS SOON AS POSSIBLE.
    If you start early, you’re more likely to find the school that best fits your own goals, beliefs and individuality. To do this you’ll require lots of time to figure out what you want to do, research which schools offer that, and travel to these schools to get a better idea of what it’s actually like. Try your best to start early, even if you don’t know what it is you want to do yet. Having a good idea of what prospects lay ahead may also help you decide what it is or who you want to be.

Remember to choose a school that best fits your own values and beliefs and allows you to go where YOU want to go. I chose my university because I wanted to be surrounded by people who value working diligently and who think outside the box. It’s what I wanted and what I believed was best for me – and I’m happy with my choice.

For more knowledge from admissions experts, check out this link.

Image by Jirka Matousek, Flickr

Image by Jirka Matousek, Flickr

College opens doors. For some it grants the credentials to achieve highly technical professional career, and for others it equips them with the skills and knowledge they can use to eliminate what could have been years trudging their way up the corporate ladder.

Entering, remaining in, and succeeding at college can be extremely difficult. Nightmares about student loan debt, an inability to balance life, work and school, as well as the very real reality that you might not be in the right mindset to succeed, has convinced many students to put off college just one more semester. If you fall into one of these categories, don’t give up yet – here are a few methods to ease yourself into college.

Take College Classes in High School
Some high schools do not prepare students for the rigors of college. Many high school curriculums are so easy that students can sleep through them. Get a taste of college and a jump start on your college degree with dual (also known as concurrent or advanced placement) college classes. Students in dual enrollment classes earn high school and college credit for courses at the same time.

Depending on the school district, these courses either take place online, in class, or at a college campus. They are usually significantly cheaper than the traditional college course, and some states and school districts will cover the cost of students enrolling in dual enrollment programs.

Community College
Community college is a solid way to ease yourself into college. The low cost of tuition for community college (students can expect to pay around $3,400 a year in some states) makes pursuing higher education a more viable option. If you’re curious how much in-state or private colleges will cost you this year, check out this article. Due to the steep price of college, many students knock out many of their generic courses through a local community college and then transfer to an in-state school for their junior and senior years.

Community college can also offer a low stress, minimal commitment education. Individuals who aren’t sure if they have the time or mental capacity to pursue a college degree can sign up for a course and just see how it goes. Dropping the course mid-semester if life takes a sudden twist won’t be such a punch to the gut due to the lower tuition fees.

Audit Classes
Some potential students are more concerned with their ability (either mentally or temporally) to handle their classes. The thought of dishing out tuition when the course might be beyond your ability to complete successfully can be daunting. Auditing might be the answer to circumvent that issue.

Auditing occurs when the school and the professor grant a student permission to sit in on a class. Often students don’t pay and they’re not required by the professor to take the tests. Many colleges offer the ability to audit classes to students who aren’t enrolled (but these may come with a cost). Other colleges don’t require students to pay. And others just require auditors to pay the attached class fees.

Arizona State University recently created a program that could change the face of education called the Global Freshman Academy. The academy offers the ability to audit while still giving students the ability to earn credits at the end of the course. The only up-front fee is $45 dollars for each course students enroll in to verify the student’s identity.

At the end of the course, if the student passes and wishes to earn credit for the course, then they can pay for the credits. It’s a fairly innovative process that offers all of the rigors and time commitment without any of the academic or financial stress. Failing or dropping the course won’t leave a messy trail on your college transcript.

Perusing Videos or Podcasts
If all of the above options are too much of a time, money, and brain suck, individuals can dip their toes into higher education by listening or watching professor or guest speaker lectures. For those who don’t live near a college campus, many colleges, departments, and professors upload their lectures online on a variety of platforms. When you have some free time, check out iTunes, school websites, or YouTube for free educational lectures.

College courses can grant the skills, knowledge, and credentials to succeed professionally. Not all students can afford to dive into college, due to personal, professional or monetary constraints. Starting college while in secondary school, enrolling in community college, auditing classes, and listening to educational lectures online is a solid way for individuals to ease their way into college.

This article was contributed by guest author Samantha Stauf.

Image from

Image from

Because technical schools are geared towards preparing you for a specific career, their philosophy and method of education is different from that of traditional colleges. Therefore, instead of spending a lot of time on general education courses that have no impact on your ability to work in your field, your time from the first day will be spent on getting you prepared for work.

At technical schools, you are often learning at an accelerated pace. While some offer bachelor’s degree programs that include some general education courses, most offer one and two year diplomas. There are also some that have certificate programs that are only one or two semesters long. The length of a semester depends on the school. While some might have semesters that are 9 weeks, others have 16 week semesters.

If you are in a bachelor’s or associate’s degree program, there may be some general education prerequisite courses that you have to take. This means that there will be first year English, math and science courses. However, if you are seeking a certificate or diploma, the fact that you are getting ready to enter the workforce means most technical schools will have classrooms that resemble your future work environment. Business and technology programs, like those offered at the Interactive College of Technology, can also include programs that help you receive hands-on experience. A first semester accounting student can expect to find themselves using adding machines and computers, while a student in a first semester welding course will be working with the welding and safety equipment. In each type of study, there are fundamentals to learn and practical applications that will need to be demonstrated. The classes you take from the very first semester will be relevant to the career path that you have chosen.

Your first semester of technical school might also include other career readiness trainings, including learning to write a resume, preparing for interviews and how to conduct online job searches. Because many technical schools have job placement programs, you will most likely be working with a career counselor at some point during the first or second semester. Their success at placing graduates is key to technical schools maintaining a reputation on par with traditional colleges.

Not as much time is spent on social or extracurricular activities at a technical school. Because of this, there are times you may feel as though you are missing out on an essential part of the college experience. However, the education and experience you gain will help you to begin working towards your career goals immediately after graduation.

This article was contributed by guest author Rachelle Wilber.

Image by Sholeh, Flickr

Image by Sholeh, Flickr

Campus day season is upon us. This is a time for students (and their parents) to go to potential colleges and universities before making a decision on where to apply. To get the most out of a campus day, here are a few tips to prepare beforehand.

Prepare a list of questions before you go.

Often, many students, faculty members, and professors will be on hand during a campus day to answer any questions you may have. It’s helpful to think of potential questions you may have about academics, social life, finances, or residence.

Here are some sample questions to get you started:

  1. What are the admission requirements for my program (arts, sciences, business, engineering, etc.)?
  2. What kind of financial aid (scholarships, bursaries, grants, etc.) is available for incoming students?
  3. What kind of courses do first year students in my program typically take?

Have a set plan on what you wish to accomplish during the day.

Universities and colleges will most often post the campus day schedule as well as maps on their website. If you’re driving, using public transit, or even flying in for a campus day, make sure to plan your route accordingly, so you don’t miss any sessions that you wish to attend. There is usually no set agenda for campus days. Choose the information sessions that apply to your interests, questions, and concerns. Faculty members and professors usually run these sessions, so don’t be afraid to ask them any questions you may have. They are there to help!

Take a campus and/or residence tour.

Besides information sessions, campus and residence tours will be running throughout the day. Often, campus tours are facilitated by students. They’ll be able to give you a proper understanding of the ins and outs of the university or college as well as important points of interest. Additionally, if you have any questions, students will be happy to help you as they’re experiencing campus life themselves.

If you’re thinking about living in residence, going on a residence tour can be extremely helpful. Most likely, you will be taken into the residence rooms where students are already living. You’ll be able to see how big the living space is and the different types of residences.

Here are some common questions about residences:

  1. Are there single rooms or shared rooms?
  2. Is there a common kitchen or a meal plan?
  3. What kind of security is available in the residence building?

Imagine yourself on campus.

You may feel like it’s impossible to decide which college or university you wish to attend. But as you attend all the information sessions and tours, imagine yourself on the campus next year. Do you enjoy the atmosphere of the university or college? If you’re going to live in residence, would you like the options available? Do you like the way your program and the courses are offered at this university or college? Ask yourself these questions.

In the end, you will eventually figure out where you wish to attend university or college. In the meantime, attend campus days because they will be extremely helpful in your decision making process!

Here are some links to university and college campus days and tours across Canada:

Image by Julia Manzerova, Flickr

Image by Julia Manzerova, Flickr

Every day we’re faced with decisions. Get up or stay in bed? Check Twitter or scan newspapers? Then you decide what to have for breakfast and what outfit matches your mood for the day. These are pretty simple choices that don’t require much thought. But when trying to decide what educational qualification you need to have for the career you want, you’re better off making a thought-through decision based on data.

3 ways to decide if you should go to college or university

  1. Figure out what you want: It can be tough sometimes, but you need to have an idea of what kind of work you’re interested in. Finding what interests you the most is the first step. In high school, did you get excited about technical classes where you had to design things and use tools/instruments to construct or take things apart? Or were you more of a numbers person who found finance and accounting really easy? There is only one expert who understands what gets you excited and what you enjoy – and that expert is you.

  3. What is the industry demand?: Once you have an idea about what kind of work you’re best suited to, the next step is to find out what the industry trends are predicting. Are there lots of opportunities? What influences the industry? Is it a growing or dying industry? If becoming an administrative assistant is your goal, you’ll be disappointed to learn that this is not a growing career path. These kinds of jobs are affected by technology. There are dozens of software applications used to automate most of the tasks previously performed by administrative assistants.
    One way to learn about the industry is to search for the governing body for that career group. Examples of governing bodies for Accountants are the Certified General Accountants or Certified Management Accountants; for Plumbing it’s the Canadian Institute of Plumbing & Heating; for Supply Chain it’s the Canadian Supply Chain Council. Most professions have governing associations with local chapters where you can meet and learn from professionals who are already doing what you’re interested in.

  5. What qualification is required?: If you followed the first two steps in this process, you’ll know what qualification(s) you need to have to get the job you want. Compared to university and college student recruiters who conduct education fairs at your high school, industry professionals are in the best position to tell you what education is needed for that career path. The fact remains that where you get your education should be determined by the nature and requirements of the job you want. A couple expecting a baby and in need of a new car should be looking at buying a spacious car rather than a 2-seater convertible. Same thing applies with university or college education – it has to fit your purpose.


How not to decide between college and university

  1. Following the crowd: All your friends are going to university. If you follow the crowd, you’ll never get past them. Besides, you may be interested in a different program compared to your friends. Don’t let them control your future.

  3. Selecting a college or university just because your parent(s) went there: Unless your parent currently has the kind of job you want and other industry experts in this same profession have also recommended that college or university, don’t decide just based on your parents’ emotional attachment to their alma mater.

  5. Deciding based on the cost: Money is the basis of a lot of decisions. How much is the tuition? Do I have to take a student loan? Can I get scholarships? These are important questions that require answers. But simply choosing to study at a university or college based on the tuition or amount of scholarships offered is not the best way to go. Do what you can to attend the best school for you.


Check out more free advice on making your college vs. university decision.

Image by COD Newsroom, Flickr

Image by COD Newsroom, Flickr

The Ontario Universities’ Fair takes place in September every year (in 2014 you can check them out from September 19-21). When I attended, oh-so-long ago, I remember feeling confused. There were so many schools in attendance and I had no idea what to say to them. General questions that popped into my head, such as “is it a good school?” or “is it a popular program?” had no merit – every school would answer “yes” and it didn’t help me figure out which school I actually wanted to attend. So that you don’t end up wasting your precious weekend hours, here are a few tips to make the trip a useful one:

Before you go…

Tip #1: Figure out your top fields of study

Many students don’t know the answer to “What do you want to be when you grow up?” You’re young. You can’t be expected to plan out your entire future at the age of 17. But for the purposes of selecting a program to study, try to have an idea of what interests you. That’s what high school is for. Which classes do you prefer? Which ones do you excel in? If you can narrow it down to one field, great. If not, pick two, max three (if you have more than that, you’ll be exploring a General Arts or Undecided program). The good thing is, you still have another 3-4 years of studying in this field to figure out a career that’s right for you.

Tip #2: Rank your priorities

Figure out what will make or break a school or program for you. Will you cross a school off your list if it’s a long commute? Will you favour a school that boasts smaller class sizes? Make a chart (if you’re a visual person) listing all the schools you want to talk to, along with all the features you want to know about. When you ask your questions, you can easily check off ones that meet your requirements.

Tip #3: Do some research on schools

Before attending the fair, use your priority list to find out the top schools in the province, and the top schools for your specific programs of interest. If you can narrow your search down to the top 5-10 schools, you have a fantastic starting point.

Tip #4: Figure out whereabouts you want to study

Do you want to live at home or in residence? Do you like the big city feel or small town? If you’re open to anything, that’s great – just make sure to keep your budget (or your parents’ budget) in mind. Speaking of which…

Tip #5: Decide on a general budget

Remember that different schools and programs can run you varying costs. Residence and meal plan costs can add up and you may need to explore student loans. If commuting to school, you may need to consider costs of public transportation or purchasing a car. It’s best to have the “money talk” with your family and decide what you’re comfortable spending or borrowing.

While you’re there…

Tip #6: Try not to feel intimidated

Be prepared for a lot of students, parents, and booths. Be patient and remember these students are all in the same spot as you, and are likely asking many of the same questions. Feel free to listen to what other students ask; maybe the reps will answer a question you didn’t know you had. The fair will hand out a map of the area so you can easily find which booths you want to target. You may need to wait in line to speak to a representative, so it’s best to arrive with sufficient time. The Ontario Universities’ Fair has a great online resource you should look at before you attend.

Tip #7: Talk to student representatives

Many schools will bring current students as representatives, and in some cases, they are even better at answering your questions than administrative reps. Picture these current students as the “future you”. Ask them how they like it. Ask them what their favourite parts of the campus and program are – and more importantly, their least favourite parts. Students are likely to give you an honest view of what you can expect.

Tip #8: Pick up program-specific pamphlets

Many schools might tell you that the program details are online. If you’re a more visual analyzer, pick up the pamphlets there to bring home and you can directly compare the details for each school. The more information you have, the better prepared you’ll be to make your decision.

Tip #9: Ask about everything

There are no stupid questions. Ask about eligibility, the program, and costs. Ask about the campus. Ask about services offered to students. Whatever you can think of, now is your time to ask it. You’re not on the spot here – the schools are. Grill them to your heart’s desire. The Ontario Universities’ Fair put together a great list of questions to give you a starting point.

Tip #10: Be organized, but don’t limit yourself

You’ve prepared your questions and your top schools. Chances are you’ll make a beeline for those when you arrive – and that’s good. Take notes, because you’ll likely forget a lot of the answers when you leave. Once you’ve finished talking to your preferred schools, keep an open mind about everything else. Maybe there’s a school you forgot to research in advance. Maybe there’s a presentation starting soon about a school you haven’t talked to.

Good luck at the fair! For more tips, follow @OntarioUniFair on Twitter, or check out our review of the 2013 Ontario Universities’ Fair.