Have you applied to university, and are wondering how to choose which one to attend? What should you be looking for to make sure it will be a good fit? Today's education forum featured Marisa Modeski, senior liaison officer with the Office of Undergraduate Admissions and Liaison at Ryerson University.
Modeski is chair of the Ontario Standing Committee on Secondary School Liaison, a committee that collaborates with guidance counsellors to promote university options in the province of Ontario. As a university admissions and marketing professional, she is involved in both the recruitment and admission of prospective university students. She has a degree in journalism from Ryerson.
Q: I am a 30-something student, who wishes to get into the field of medicine. Why am I getting such "negative" feedback? i.e. "It'll never happen, and 'THEY' will not tell you!"
I am learning to settle for second choice in the medical lab/tech-pathology field, but can you tell me, what honest chance do I really have?
A: I’m sorry to learn that you’ve received negative feedback regarding your academic plans. Age is definitely not a deterrent in the admission process. As long as you meet the minimum guidelines and are academically competitive, I would encourage you to pursue your goals.
Q: Is it okay to live at home while going to university? I feel like I might miss out on residence and university life, but am getting some pressure from my parents to go to university close to home. Not really for financial reasons.
A: This is really a personal decision. It’s absolutely acceptable - and economically advantageous - to live at home while attending university. If this is an option that you are considering, I would encourage you to take the initiative to get involved with university groups that are of interest to you. Universities offer a wide range of social, cultural, religious and political groups, clubs and societies, so there are many opportunities for you to fulfill the “university experience” you are searching for. You may want to get involved with your student government, or even your course union. Again, you want to ensure the university that you are considering is a good fit for you, both from an academic and personal perspective.
Q: Hi, I am presently a York university student. I am going to complete my first year in computer engineering by this April. I have applied to McMaster for computer engineering and business degree for the next five years. Can you please let me know if I have made a good choice?
A: There is no right or wrong decision. I assume that you have done your research on McMaster University, and as a result, you feel confident in the program you have applied to. Every university has their own transfer credit/advanced standing policies, so I would encourage you to contact McMaster directly to ascertain what credits you may be eligible to apply for, especially if it is a comparable program.
Post-secondary education has different purposes for people – it could be to engage in higher learning, to prepare for a professional career designation, to find out about personal interests – which, could in fact change several times throughout the academic journey – it depends on the individual. My advice is to enjoy and embrace these experiences as they occur as any additional learning experience is beneficial.
Q: I am from Vancouver, B.C. I have been accepted to York, UBC, Dal., U of T and UA for their respective JD and LLB law programs. I would like to practice in international trade and intellectual property. I am having trouble finding information on which school is the best for IT. Can you please help? Thank you kindly.
A: Sorry, I'm not able to help you on this issue.
Q: I have read the Maclean’s yearly article on picking universities, and have canvassed as many friends as possible for opinions. The magazine may be helpful to those researching out-of-town universities, and friends seem to be biased based on a university's 'reputation.' For example, U of T is regarded as so impersonal and competitive; York, as having lower standards. How do I get an objective assessment? How do I find out how a university's graduates are ranked or regarded by employers? How do I find out the proportion of students are hired after graduation?
A: The Maclean's university rankings edition is definitely a valuable research tool, but it is only one out of many. My advice to you would be to visit and research the individual institutions that you are considering applying to. Every student has their own experiences which are helpful for you in the research process, but those experiences may not be indicative of the university per se.
For the past seven years, the Ontario Universities’ Application Centre (OUAC) has produced an Ontario University Graduate Survey which you may find helpful. The survey results describe employment experiences, earnings and skills matching of students from undergraduate university programs in Ontario six months and two years after graduation. You can view the surveys online. Some universities may conduct their own surveys through their alumni departments, which may also assist you in obtaining the answers that you are looking for.
Q: I am interested in pursuing a career in journalism and am hoping to go to your school Ryerson, or Carleton, or maybe one of the colleges.
My question is in regards to Ryerson. I've heard the journalism school is amazing, but that Ryerson itself, you don't get the "university experience" and that there isn't as much school spirit as other schools. Is that true and if so, why is that?
A: I’m not quite sure what you are referring to when you question the lack of “university experience” – but this is what I can tell you about Ryerson, specifically: Before students even begin classes, Ryerson hosts an orientation which introduces them to the more than 75 different social groups to get involved in, including a students’ union, campus newspaper and radio station, a brand new student centre and an underground athletics complex.
There are more than 25 cultural associations as well as events held throughout the year that celebrate the various ethnicities, traditions and customs found in our community. Students at Ryerson also have the opportunity to engage directly with their class peers and professors - as nearly 60 per cent of first-year classes number 50 or fewer, which, inevitably, promotes camaraderie.
Being located in the heart of Canada’s largest, most diverse, most multicultural city, I can assure you, there is significant student spirit on Ryerson’s campus.
Q: I've applied to the U of T, Queen's and Western. My mom thinks I should go to one of the smaller universities, because the classes at U of T are so large and she thinks I'm going to feel lost. Is there any advantage to smaller universities, or does it just depend on the person?
A: You have applied to exceptional institutions; what you now want to determine is which of those universities is the best fit for you, personally. There are advantages to applying to both small and large institutions.
At a smaller institution, you may find smaller class sizes, greater opportunity to engage with classmates and professors; but that’s not to say that you won’t find that in a larger institution like the University of Toronto. The University of Toronto is Canada’s largest university; however, it comprises three campuses – Scarborough, St. George (downtown Toronto) and Mississauga. At the St. George Campus, every Arts and Science student is a member of a smaller college, which does in fact provide all the advantages of a small university experience. At some universities, in especially large classes, you may have the benefit of tutorials, where you are broken down into smaller groups for discussion purposes.
Every university strives to ensure that its students receive the support required to foster both academic and personal success. My advice for you is to visit each of the institutions you have applied to and to tour the campus and sit in on a first-year class lecture. This may help you to determine which is the best fit for you.
Q: Hello Ms. Modeski. It seems like there are a million new programs out there to choose from but I'm a little nervous about going into something that doesn't have a lot of history behind it.
What are the benefits to choosing a specialized program as compared to a general degree? My thought is that I can do more with a general degree in the future. Any advice? Thanks
A: This is a fantastic question. Choosing a university and a program that will satisfy both your academic and professional objectives is a big decision. The first element that I would want to stress is to research the program(s) that you are interested in. While there are specialized programs out there, many still provide you with a degree of flexibility through liberal studies and professional elective options (which are interest courses meant to supplement your degree). There are of course, many professional programs offered that are optimal for students who are already sure of their professional destination (i.e. Nursing, Architecture, etc). With any university experience, you will graduate with transferable skills that can be applied to numerous careers. If you want the opportunity to explore different subject-based areas, you may want to research programs that provide you with more flexibility.
New programs are a result of new ideas, uncovered research, innovation, demographic demands - there are numerous advantageous to exploring a new program. I would encourage you not only to research the course content, but to also research the professors that are teaching these programs; they are very established in their field(s) of study.
Good luck with your research!
Q: I am concerned about attending a safe university. How do I know which universities are safe without visiting them?
A: Student safety on campus is a priority with all universities and most provide 24-hour security. On campus, many institutions have programs such as a ‘Walk and Watch’, whereby security will escort students in the evening from one campus destination to another. In addition, many campuses have networks of emergency campus phones. You will also find a strong security presence in the student residences. All these resources are available to you, and are designed to increase your level of personal comfort. The degree to which you choose to access them depends on your own comfort level.