Where do you go from here?

The short answer to that question – if you're a high school student – is... anywhere!

I often tell people that there is really only one thing I dislike about my job, and that is the fact that I wish I were 16 again and knew about all the opportunities and potential pathways that awaited me after high school. There has never been a better time to be exploring the possible learning and career opportunities that are available to students.

In our Career Life Connections 11 course in the fall, we explored the post-secondary and career landscape from a few different perspectives. With each student’s own interests and learning styles in mind, we considered what an ‘ideal’ university experience would look like.

Choosing Your Destination

Where do you see yourself learning? In an ultra-modern, state-of-the-art science lab? Or, sitting in a quiet library, dark wooden bookshelves towering above you, deeply engrossed in a philosophical tome? Or, surrounded by like-minded peers in a small seminar room, passionately discussing the latest theories on global economics?

We have also wondered together about all the other aspects of university life, such as dorm life, clubs and sports, campus size and geographical location. Do you want to be far from home in a bustling, cosmopolitan city on a large urban university campus? Or do you want to be in the suburbs, or in a smaller city or town, on a dedicated campus with fewer students, and lower student to professor ratios? Do you want to play or watch a varsity sporting event, surrounded by hundreds or even thousands of cheering fans? Or does it matter more to you that the university values sustainability and equity of access? While you’re at university, life outside the lecture hall is just as important as what you’re learning in your classes.

Knowing what kind of place you envision yourself living and learning in after high school and asking some of these bigger questions will help once you get down to the core question of what you want to study. While you’re in high school, you have a chance to take courses to explore your interests and passions, as well as to develop a strong foundation for the challenges that will come in university. You also have many clubs and councils to join that will help you develop your skills and leadership outside the classroom. These are all excellent ways to start honing your options when it comes to deciding your best post-secondary pathways. Conversations with your academic advisor can help you understand what opportunities are out there that perhaps you are unaware of.

As students, you can tap into an array of resources: ask teachers of your favourite subjects where they studied in university; ask a family member or friend of the family in a career you’re interested in what trends they’re seeing in new recruits and what they’d recommend as the best pathway to their career. Check out any one of the hundreds of online search tools to see where you can study your subject(s) of interest. Some of my favourites are StudyinCanada.com for Canadian schools, BigFuture.com for American schools and UCAS.com for UK schools. Can’t choose just one subject? Well, you can always consider doing a double major or a dual degree program which many Canadian and American universities offer.

Planning Your Next Steps

If you’re currently in Grade 11, you should be thinking strategically about where you see yourself at the end of your Grade 12 year. The time you take now to identify your interests, options, and career potential will be time well spent come the application season in the fall of your Grade 12 year.

We have just surveyed our Grade 12s, now that the application process is mostly behind them. We asked them “What is one thing that you wish you had known or understood better at the beginning of the university application process?” Their most frequent response was some version of, “I wish I understood how much time applications would take out of my schedule.” Additionally, students felt like they needed a better understanding of application deadlines, and the varied amount of work (including extensive writing) that different application systems and programs required. These are all topics we will cover in the coming months in the CLC 11 course.

So, where do you go from here? Your next steps matter. I encourage you to avail yourself of the many resources available to you in the university planning process. Carefully plan the route ahead of you, so that in the fall of Grade 12, you will be confident and ready as you prepare and submit your university applications.