Thanks for joining us for today's online Q&A on college and university decisions with guest expert Diane Gooch, who's in student recruitment at Centennial College and has an extensive background in career counselling and preparing high school students for post-secondary education.
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Q: Hi, I'm a Grade 12 student, I have an image of what I want to do in the future, but I am unclear about how to put it together within a "higher education" setting. I want to make sure that the decision I make by January/06 is one that I can, a) live with, and b) be flexible with. I want to combine a few things that I am REALLY good in and that I love: exercise science, acting, and sailing. I want to study exercise science and acting so that I can combine both of these areas and work in a television environment. Another alternative is to combine excercise science and my passion for sailing (plus a bit of business administration)and possibly work for a yacht club (?). I can visualize myself clearly doing all the things I am passionate about but don't know which universities will allow me to combine them and offer me a proper degree (maybe even a dual degree) that will be acceptable in the real world out there. Please help me give my self a realistic direction which will reduce my feelings of anxiety. My decision will affect the rest of my life and I want it to do so in a positive way.
A: The best way to make sure that you make a decision that you live with, is to make sure that you make an informed decision. That is to say you need to carry out your research, and have one or more back-up plans. It is great that you know what you are good at and what you love to do, so many people are not at that stage. What you need to do now is consider why you are good at those things and what it is about them that you 'love.' We often make decisions based on our own exposure to something and for some, that may be a limited area. Once you see what it is you like about something; maybe it is the way it makes you feel, either physically or emotionally, the challenge or dealing with the 'unknown,' you can start to relate and research how these can be linked to jobs and careers. Seldom are individuals lucky enough to combine all their passions into one occupation, but may have a career that will allow them to continue with other interest, say as a hobby or through volunteer work.
Q: What type of high school courses do you need to become a child and youth worker?
A: For entry into a Child and Youth Worker program, applicants are required to have their OSSD including the minimum of 12C English. There may also be non-academic requirements (depending on the college) such as experience of working with children between the ages of 5-18 years, this could be through high-school co-op, community service, volunteer or paid employment. Letters of reference may be asked for, completion of a questionnaire (why are you interested in this career?) or the applicant invited to the college to attend a mandatory information session at the college. Check with the colleges you are interested in to see what their specific requirements are.
Q: What is the usual average a student needs to receive an academic scholarship in college/university?
A: Scholarships can be administered in one of three ways:
* To the student who has the highest grade
* To all the students who have a certain grade or above
* There is a fixed number of scholarships and they start with the student at the top of the list and work down the list until the all the scholarships have been awarded. In this situation the minimum grade can vary from year to year.
Usually you are looking at 80's and above; in some cases the higher the grade the higher the amount is. You should check with the institution as to what the policy and criteria are and whether it is looking for an overall average, top six subjects or a specific subject. It does vary.
Q: I am interested in becoming a RCMP officer. What college provides the best program for my career choice?
A: Regardless of whether a college or university program is studied, there are other non-academic requirements specified by the different forces, but will include things such as no criminal record, a valid driver's licence, first aid and/or CPR certification and physical requirements (vision, hearing and physical fitness). Those wishing to become a police officer are advised to check with individual agencies for the specific requirements.
A number of colleges offer Police Foundation programs which prepare students physically, academically and emotionally/mentally for Police College. A Police Foundations program is not normally a mandatory requirement but does give a valuable foundation and skills which will later be utilized in the field. Probably the most popular degree students study prior to training as a police officer would be criminology (and associated subjects). A newer program that could be considered is the degree offered by Georgian College, Bachelor of Applied Human Services - Police Studies. This combines the practical and technical strengths that you get from a college with the theoretical background of a bachelor degree.
Q: What is the most difficult thing when entering college?
A: This varies from student to student. For some, it is the financial side of things, for others it is the learning style. There is certainly more freedom than high school (e.g. for most programs, attendance is not taken every class). Or it may be something such as not being with the same friends you had in high school.
Q: Hi, my name is Raashida and I was just wondering if I need Grade 12 calculus for the nursing program at Centennial HP?
A: The minimum admission requirements to be considered for the Nursing (BScN) program at Centennial College in collaboration with Ryerson University and George Brown College are: Six Grade 12U or M credits including; English 12U, biology 12U, chemistry 12 U, math 11U or M (overall average in the range of 70% required with a minimum of 60% in each required subject). Having the minimum requirements does not guarantee admission into the program.
Q: What type of high school courses do you need to be an interior designer and what college would you recommend?
A: The minimum requirement for a high school student to attend college direct from high school is their Ontario Secondary School Diploma. You are also usually required to have a minimum of 12C English. The specific requirements will vary from college to college, but in addition to the academic requirements you are mostly like to be required to submit a portfolio and each college will have their own criteria for assessment. Usually an art program at high school would set the foundations needed to start building a portfolio.
You can go to OCAS (Ontario College Application Service) to search which colleges in Ontario offer interior design programs.
Q: What would you recommend to someone who has no idea what they want to do for the rest of their life?
A: If you have no idea what your future career goals will be then there is help out there! If you are a high school student, then your guidance office will take you through the process, many community agencies offer career services (which may have an associated charge if you do not meet the criteria for their service delivery) and colleges often run workshops through their continuing education (or part-time studies) where your can explore your interests, beliefs, values etc and link these with your research for future career goals.
It is also important that you do your research - carry out informational interviews with people in jobs and careers you are interested in. Be sure to ask them about the negative or downside to their jobs as well as the good side so that you can make your own informed decision.
Q: How do I find out which college would be better for me?
A: This is a decision you have to make for yourself based on your individual needs. Some questions to ask yourself and/or the college would include:
*Does the college have the program I am looking for? Do I have the admission requirements?
* Do I have to move away from home? How long will it take to get there?
* What are the graduate employment statistics? (i.e. how many students from the program found employment? How much are they earning?)
* What supports are available to students? Including financial assistance, assistance for students with disabilities? What is the exact cost? What are the additional expenses?
* How do I get the practical experience? Workshops/labs, placements or paid co-op?
* How long is the program?
* What are the college's KPI (Key Performance Indicators) results? (These indicate how happy current students are with services and how satisfied employers are with the graduates from the colleges.)
* What are the facilities like?
College websites often answer many of these questions, but the best way to see if a college is right for you is to go and visit it. Most college have open houses and March Break activities for potential students and you can also participate in campus tours.
Q: I am planning to go into theatre arts and I am aware there is an audition process. I would like to know some facts about the audition process.
A: The audition is there to see that you 'have potential' for the program to build on. You are usually given a short piece to prepare for and a piece to read which is 'new' to you on the day of the audition. You should check with the institutions you are considering to see what their audition process consists of and how long the auditions run, whether it is a group or individual audition and how many people will you be auditioning in front of.
Q: How do you choose the right college courses for your future career?
A: Most college programs are directly related to working in a specific job or occupational area, so choosing the right program can be done by looking at the program name or the types of positions graduates are working in (found in college calendars and on college websites). For example, if you wanted to work as a chef you would be looking a culinary programs, for working in a day-care centre you would look at Early Childhood Education or Early Childhood Assistant.
If you have no idea what your future career goals will be then there is help out there! If you are a high school student, then your guidance office will take you through the process, many community agencies offer career services (which may have an associated charge if you do not meet the criteria for their service delivery) and colleges often run workshops through their continuing education (or part-time studies) where you can explore your interests, beliefs, values and link these with your research for future career goals.
Q: How much does college cost?
A: The cost will vary slightly by program and college but as a guide for 2 semesters (1 year) based on 2005-6 for a post-secondary program:
Tuition and mandatory fees $2,000-$3,000
Books and equipment $300-$900+
Don't forget to budget for fun, food and transportation!
Q: I am interested in being a social worker or child and youth worker. What programs do you suggest I enroll in that relate to this field? How long is the program? Do colleges have any partnerships with universities so I could carry over my years in college to university to get a Masters?
A: If you want to be a social worker you are looking at a university education. Colleges offer programs in Social Service Worker and Child and Youth Worker. The Ontario College Application Service (OCAS) has a website, www.ontariocolleges.ca where you can search and find which colleges in Ontario offer these programs. The Social Service Worker program is 2 years and the Child and Youth Worker program is 3 years.
Many colleges have agreements with universities to allow their graduates to go on and study at university, the grade averages required and the amount of advanced standing given varies from program to program and from institution to institution. You would need to complete your university degree, following you college diploma prior to going onto graduate studies.
Q: Our son is in Grade 11. In two years, he wants to buy a beat up VW van, throw his electric guitar in the back and drive to L.A. to make music. (Don't worry, son #2 in Grade 9 has already picked out his university of choice.) He is a capable young man who is social, humourous and artistic. We would like him to explore his options at the college/university level (ex. Ryerson). What to do, what to do, what to do ... so we don't drive him away from post-secondary education which we value dearly. (From Wondering in Whitby).
A: As a high school graduation present buy him CAA membership! I have known many students 'pressurized' into higher education and they tend to be the ones which end up contributing to the 'drop-out' statistics. Many students graduating high school are not ready or prepared for the transition to higher education whether it be college or university and taking a 'year-off' allows the individual to grow-up, explore what they want to do or even get something out of their system! Then, they are often much more focused and dedicated students.
If you are willing (and able) to support your son on his pilgrimage to L.A., you should probably have some discussions and come to some mutually agreed upon outcomes to his adventure, also you should be aware that application to higher education happens in the year prior to programs starting. Many universities will allow a student to defer their start date for a year, whereas colleges currently don't. Here are some questions that need to be address and answered:
* Why does he want to do this? Is it to move away from home? Is he trying to get an emotional response from you?
* How does he plan to pay for his trip? To support himself during this time?
* Is it relevant to his career goals/future plans?
* What does he plan to do on his return?
* Has he explored the options available to him through college and university here in Canada? There are a number of programs relating to contemporary music in the GTA which he may wish to consider.
At the end of the day, it has to be his decision and he has to live with the consequences. It does have to be an informed decision, his guidance office in high school will help him investigate the types of programs that are available through colleges and universities in Canada and can advise him on the implications of applying to high education, when you are not around to respond to requests to attend auditions, submit additional information, etc.
Q: What's recommended for the high school student whose Gr.12 marks are not up to university-of-choice standards? Would working for a year help in applying the next year? Would going to college for a year help? If this is a viable solution, would it also help for engineering admission?
A: Most universities publish the grade at which students were admitted in to programs of study the previous year, students often refer to them as 'cut-off' grades. Most universities consider all of the application received be for the application deadline (usually in January) and then make offer to students starting with those with the highest grades (some programs will also require supplemental application forms to be completed or submission of a portfolio or an audition) and work down the list until the program is full. The grade average published is the lowest that an individual had the previous application cycle and still got into the program. It is unlikely that grade average varies greatly from year to year, so it is a good tool for students to use when they are doing their research in to which institution to apply to. If a student did not get into the university of choice and applies the following year without any academic up-grading, it is going to be unlikely that they will get offer at the second attempt. Here are some suggestions:
*If the lack of offer was due to the supplemental application rather than academic ability, then working a year (relevant to the program) may give the applicant what is needed to get into the program the student could return to high school, night school or summer school to do some up-grading in subjects that are required for their degree choice. However please check with the institution beforehand.
* Most colleges offer General Arts and Science (GAS) programs which prepare students for further study at college or university. The length of the program can depend on the intended destination, however usually the university GAS program is two years at college. Depending on the college it can prepare a student for application to a BSc or BA. Again, check with the institution.
* Most colleges have articulation or transfer agreements for the 3-year diploma programs (and in some cases the 2 year diplomas). This is where the university will recognize what has been studied at college and put it towards a degree. The grade point average required and level of advanced standing does vary by university and program. It is the university that determines the criteria - not he college. Details can be found on college and university websites.
Q: I keep reading all these things about how expensive university is. My parents do not have any money saved for my post-secondary education. How much is it going to cost? Will I have time to work part-time if I go to university?
A: The cost of university is dependent on many things: program choice, location of university - whether you are going to live in residence, travel costs etc. Mandatory fees (tuition and other fees you have to pay e.g. technology, copyright fees, student service fees etc) for first year university is likely to be in the range of $5,000 - $6,500 depending on the program and university. If the program is a deregulated program i.e. the government has not put a cap on the tuition, than it can be more. In the second, third and fourth years the mandatory fees are likely to increase. Then you have other items to budget for; books, field trips, travel, accommodation, food, clothing etc - and don't forget the fun side!
Many students work part-time, however there needs to be a balance - if you work too many hours it will cut into the time you should be spending studying. Most students can manage a maximum of 20 hours a week working without having a significant affect on the grades. Universities and colleges operate a work study program, where students can work on campus, between classes/lectures (earning $8-$15 per hour depending on the job) details can be found at the institution's financial aid office. Universities have extensive scholarship programs - you should check with institutions you are planning to apply to, to find out what they have to offer.
Every year there are millions of dollars left unclaimed because students don't apply for the money that is available. Bursaries are based on financial need and scholarships on academic ability and awards are based on other criteria such as high school attended, religious organization, community service/volunteer work etc. Two excellent websites to source these awards are www.studentawards.com and www.scholarshipscanada.com. Many students also take out student loans through OSAP - Ontario Student Assistance Program, remember though this is a loan which has to be paid back, with interest, details can be found at http://osap.gov.on.ca
Q: I think it is great that the pressure of the double cohort is now subsiding for students about to start university and college - you no longer have double the applicants to compete against. What about those of us in the system graduating in 2006 or 2007? Is there going to be space for us to get into graduate school, law school or medical school? Are they going to briefly double the number of openings here or are we facing ridiculous odds once again?
A: There was never double the number of applicants to college and universities during the 'double cohort'. There were certainly more applications, especially to universities, that is one applicant may have made more than the usual number of applications to universities.
In September 2002, the Ministry of Education did state that "plans are in place for expansion of programs in a number of schools and faculties, including Nursing, Pharmacy, Occupational Therapy, Education, Management, and graduate studies." However, having spoken with a couple of colleagues in the university sector and the general consensus is that, for a number of reasons, they don't foresee a large surge in application for graduate studies. Compared to the majority of university-bound students who graduated high school and went directly to university, undergraduate students interested in grad school are more likely to stagger their applications over the next few years.
Many colleges have increase their offering for post-diploma certificate programs and 'fast-track' programs (where graduates form a university program can complete a diploma in a shorter period of time, through credit for what they have already achieved for their academic studies).
Q: Why don't college apprenticeship programs (e.g. carpentry) have a better partnerships with business to help in the actual working part of the apprenticeship? I feel government should tie funding to that partnership. I know several graduates of college apprenticeship programs struggled on their own to find apprenticeships afterwards, had to travel across Canada to find one, Others were laid off part way through their apprenticeship and didn't acquire enough hours to write their exams.
A: Traditional apprenticeship training is overseen by the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities, and recently there have been a number of initiatives to help more young people succeed in the work force including investing $6 million (in 2004-5) to create new Co-op Diploma Apprenticeship Programs which will enable individuals to train through the apprentice route, in specific occupational areas, while obtaining an associated college diploma. In these programs students spend time in the classroom gaining skill prior to going out on a paid co-op opportunity and then returning to the classroom to complete their academic qualification. With this particular program the college is responsible for finding the co-op opportunities and in many situations it is hope that as the employer has already invested time (and money) with the student, that they will be willing to hire the individual after graduation to complete the apprenticeship requirements. The Co-op opportunity, if you like can be seen as an extended job interview!
In order for a individual to study as an apprentice at a college (which could be day release, block of 8 weeks etc) they have to have an apprenticeship agreement; a legal document between themselves and the employer, it is all overseen by the MTCU, Apprenticeships and Adjustment Branch, without one of these a student would not be studying under the apprenticeship route at college without an employer (with the exception of the Co-op Diploma Apprenticeship program). Apprenticeship agreements can be transferred between employer, so in the unfortunate situation an individual is laid off they do not have to start from scratch. More information about apprenticeships can be obtained from: Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities Apprenticeships and Adjustments Branch, tel: 416-326-5800.