College or university program: Key decision factors

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By Sabrina Almeida

It’s that stressful time of the year when grade 12 students are busy sending out applications to colleges and universities and working hard to maintain (or better) their averages and chances of being accepted at the same time.
Although the deadline to submit your completed application to OUAC (the Ontario University Application Centre) is January 11, 2017—most high schools recommend that these be done before the Christmas break.
Many students have already figured out which programs to apply for and a few may have already done the needful.
For those that are still dithering or engaged in some last-minute research, and even others that are firm in their choices, it might be worth going over them just one more time.
With the unlimited choices students have, selecting a stream and program of study might be the hardest thing to. Here are three important criteria that should help you confirm you have chosen the right path.

Program eligibility
It is important for students and their parents to be realistic about grades and ability. Although most university program requirements hover around mid-80s, having this grade average does not mean you will automatically gain acceptance. Typically, it is the pool of students applying with you that determine the benchmark. The competition is as fierce as in India. Moreover, you have foreign students to contend with… and they work harder because they pay three times the tuition amount.
Students must carefully go over program requirements to ensure they are in the strongest position to be considered. Or, it is an application that is going to cost you.
Consult teachers and counsellors before making choices. They are likely to give you an unbiased evaluation when compared to parents.
It is also a good idea to speak with students that are already in the program. Being able to carry yourself through to the second year is even tougher than the application process. Many find themselves having to switch programs and streams because they failed to maintain the required grade averages.

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Interest
High marks in math and science or any subject does not necessarily mean that a student should pursue that field of study and career. Aptitude and interest must match or you could end up in a job that you dread and be unhappy for the rest of your life. Researching your career options in your chosen field of study and what specific jobs entail is critical to selecting an appropriate program.
Personality also plays an important role in whether you can make it work. Imagine an introvert applying for a customer-facing position, or being stuck in a desk job if you like being out in the field.
It is also important to acknowledge the percentage of success. Not every culinary student becomes a TV chef with a 5-star restaurant, neither does every hockey player reach the NHL.

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Job availability
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau recently encouraged students to pursue computer science. A report released in March projected that Canada will create at least 218,000 tech jobs between now and 2020. And the Information and Communications Technology Council (ICTC) says there aren’t enough people to fill them.
This might persuade parents to nudge their children in that direction. However, the word on the ground is that computer science and engineering are among the most popular choices and therefore highly competitive too. And we all know that just having a degree is no passport to a job.
Also, many IT jobs are being sent overseas to India as businesses seek ways to improve their competitiveness. Even many engineering companies are working on projects abroad and may prefer to hire local staff.
Healthcare, on the other hand, is among the very few industries that provide opportunities in Canada. Both on account of rising demand and because this service cannot be outsourced.
A report in Canadian Living suggested that finance, construction, nursing and pharmacy were the hottest industries to get into. Workopolis however listed truck drivers, registered nurses, retail salespersons and sales clerks and skilled trade workers as most in-demand, in terms of advertised positions online.
Employability is therefore a critical factor in determining your field of study and career.
The Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario’s Canadian Postsecondary Performance: Impact 2015 report tells us that between two and 15 per cent of Canadian university graduates aged 25 to 34 are unemployed and eight to 27 per cent aren’t working in a job related to their studies three years after graduation. The numbers for college grads were similar — between two and 14 per cent were unemployed and between 12 to 21 per cent were not working in a job related to their schooling.
As unemployment rates climb, aligning studies with professions that will continue to experience growth and demand gives you a fighting chance. Many students are opting for double majors to keep their options open. And in the end programs with co-op and internship facilities are the most attractive as they can give you a much-needed leg up in the job market.
A few important dates to make note of after submission… May 26 is last date for a response from colleges and universities you have applied to, whether it is an offer of acceptance, refusal or deferral pending additional information. Your response is typically expected around the first week of June (deadline will be specified in the offer of acceptance). After which, educational institutions will offer remaining seats to those on the waiting list.
Good luck with your application and your career!

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