what I wish i knew before applying for university

Though grade 11 and grade 12 is crunch time to consider post-secondary or university direction, some students as early as grade 9 and 10 are considering where they want to go in their career, and how they can get there. The journey of getting into your dream program can be filled with a mix of emotions ranging from anxiety, excitement, fear, and relief. Having been through the process personally, here are a few tips I would pass along:

  1. Supplementary Applications Matter

    Though grades are often a large portion of a student’s application, universities also desire well-rounded students who have character, experience, and commitments to things other than academics. With this said, supplementary applications are an opportunity for you to illustrate who you are outside of the classroom – where are you volunteering? What are the latest books you’re reading? What extracurriculars have you invested in? This is your time to shine! Make sure you get your friends, family members, or tutor to proofread your application to ensure that it’s the best that it can be!

     

  2. Work backwards

    In high school, my limited knowledge of career pathways resulted in primarily entertaining conventional careers such lawyer, doctor, teacher, or nurse. Now having exposure to the workforce, I see that there are numerous unique careers that I might’ve pursued if I had known about them in high school! Doing things over, I would have browsed LinkedIn to see what kind of jobs are out there and the pathways people took to get there. I would also speak to my parent’s friends and co-workers to gain insight into what they like or dislike about their jobs and ask for any advice. Lastly, I would volunteer in different settings (office, health care, school etc) to gain exposure and a better understanding of what I like and excel at. Perhaps you might discover a completely new pathway you wouldn’t have explored otherwise!

     

  3. Keep your grades up even when you get accepted

    From March break onwards in your grade 12 year you’ll hear teachers reminding you to keep your average up even if you’ve already been accepted into a university. Though you’re probably rolling your eyes at them in doubt, there is value to their advice. Many students have had their letters of acceptance rescinded because their marks dropped since being accepted to a university. These students may have had to retake courses in the summer or even stay back a semester to improve grades and reapply.

     

  4. Attend a University Fair

    The Ontario University Fair is held annually in September and is a great opportunity to meet university representatives and students from almost every university in Ontario. From collecting handbooks with information about acceptance averages and dorms to talking with students who can speak about the best and most challenging aspects of each program, you’ll get a true taste of each university all in one place. If you are unable to attend the Toronto university fair, most high schools hold their own. Be sure to check in with your guidance counsellor as to when yours is held! Additionally, most universities hold open houses for students to check out their campus and meet students or teachers. 

     

  5. Beware of “Private School Courses”

    It might seem like an easy shortcut to complete courses at private schools or through unconventional routes, but use this option with caution, as some universities do not accept private school marks nor look highly upon them. In the long run, also consider the knowledge you might be missing out on and how that might impact your grades down the line.

Between what your parents, teachers, guidance counsellors, friends, and everyone in-between is telling you about applying for university, remember to do your own research and take time to gain perspective through this process. Though university may seem like the end destination of a long journey of learning, it is merely only the beginning!

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