Things to Know When Choosing a University Program
Updated: Jul 28, 2020
Written By Amanda Chang
Not only is making a decision on where to attend university a hard choice, but choosing which program will be the best fit for you for the next 3 or more years is tough! There are many factors one should consider when figuring out the next chapter in life after completing secondary school. Here are some tips The Mentorship Spot has curated for you!
1. Eye-catching program?
Even if the program is really good, make sure the university is a good fit for you! Visit the campus and partake on campus tours — it gives you a chance to see if the environment is a good feel to you. If you’re thinking you’ll need to live on residence, take a look at the residences the university has to offer as well!
2. Check out student life
Universities offer innumerable clubs and other extracurricular activities (such as intramurals and varsity) — there’s bound to be one that interests you! Often you can find a list of official clubs on the school’s website.
3. Connect with current students
Often times there are Facebook groups for the incoming classes (e.g., Accepted — York University Class of 2020) where students can connect with each other. If you don’t know anyone attending the same university/program of interest, search and join one of the Facebook groups and post that you’d like to connect with someone! Hopefully there’s someone who is down to give insight on the program, upper year and student experiences. You can shoot us a message and apply to be part of our mentor-mentee program — because if you haven’t then what are you doing??
4. A table of pros and cons
If you’re someone who loves to organize things in life then making a table will probably be beneficial for you! It’s helpful when you make a list of pros and cons for choosing that program and university in mind. Once you make a completed list the next step is prioritizing — what top three factors are most important to you? After this you’ll have a pretty good idea of which is most suited for you.
5. Plan out roughly what your next four years would look like. Also, course outlines are everything
It’s always a good idea to look over what sort of courses you’ll be required to take in your program of interest and what courses you can take (e.g., as electives). If you’re not satisfied with the options, or you feel restricted and believe the program won’t allow you room to grow then that program is probably not the best for you. Look to see whether you will have opportunities to supplement your degree, such as Ivey, specializations, minors, etc.
Here’s an extra tip for when enrolling in courses: You see a small description about the course you’re interested in on the university’s website, but is it really a course you’ll like? A complete breakdown of the structure of the course is found in the course outline and usually you can find course outlines from previous years. They’re helpful in determining whether or not you want to stick around in that course and whether you think you can handle the workload required along with your other courses.
6. Take a field trip to lectures
This is pretty self-explanatory. Take a half-day or full day off at attend lectures. You don’t have to sit through the whole class time, but it’s good to get a feel of what you should expect. Each professor is different in terms of teaching style, so attend a bunch with different varieties!
7. Be informed and take rumours with a grain of salt
If you have questions, ask around many people because everyone has different perspectives and opinions. Not all rumours are true so don’t absorb everything you hear as true.
Be informed about admission requirements and all other requirements in order to graduate from your program (i.e., know what courses you need and in order to graduate and remain in the program). Some programs may have restrictions compared to others and that may not be what you want to get yourself into. A program may be good but it may not be the right one for you. Consider all aspects and reflect.
8. Keep your options open
It’s okay to switch programs once you’re in. Consider enrolling in courses outside of your major/program. What do you benefit from it? You learn different teaching and learning styles, you get a little breather from all those required courses you’re taking, and you get to meet new people outside of your program that you may not otherwise have met and interacted with.
If you’re in first year and not 100% sure with what you want to pursue, look into pre-requisites for second year courses.
9. Find out which learning style is best for you
Not all schools structure their classes the same way, so look into what the learning style is for the program of interest. For instance, McMaster is known for its problem-based learning (PBL) style. You can find out more by checking the school’s website.
Not everyone is a visual learner. Some study best by re-listening to recorded lectures on their spare time. Some like using a chalkboard and drawing everything out. Others like teaching their friends and test themselves. It takes time to figure out the learning style best suited for you.
What do you value (e.g., money, work-life balance, policy, helping people)? See which program fits your values. What do you want to get the most out of your university experience? What path do you want to take after undergrad (not everyone knows this, not even when they’re in fourth year, and that’s okay)?
Thanks for reading this article! If you liked it, consider checking out the other articles on our page and stay tuned for new ones weekly! Did you know we also pair high school students with uni students in their desired program for advice and mentorship? Check out our sign-up page to register as a mentor or mentee today!