When you’re in Grade 12, it seems like there are millions of programs at millions of schools, each offering unique and appealing benefits – trust me, I know how overwhelming it can be! Two years ago, as a senior in high school, I chose the University of Toronto (St. George Campus), and three key factors influenced that decision.
1. Stock Exchange availablity
For many students, the amount of money offered by an institution is a very important factor to consider when choosing a school or program. During my senior year, the scholarship offers of the schools I applied to helped me choose and eventually commit to the downtown campus of the University of Toronto.
One thing I’ve learned from comparing my offers is that often the attractiveness of a scholarship isn’t determined solely by the amount of money it guarantees you. In fact, some schools offer unique scholarships that go beyond financial compensation, guaranteeing you certain opportunities during your time in college.
That’s one of the reasons I chose the University of Toronto’s St. George campus as opposed to Scarborough. While the latter campus offered me a more generous scholarship, the former offered me more than money – it offered me a program. Through the President’s Excellence Scholarship program, in addition to a financial award, I was guaranteed work-study employment in my sophomore year, a mentor within the faculty, and access to an international opportunity during my undergraduate career.
For me, it was not only a question of money. Access to these opportunities would make my undergraduate experience more rewarding and fulfilling, which was also very important to me. Each student has different priorities and you need to weigh the pros and cons of your options. For this reason, it’s so important to think about what you value most and what you hope to get out of your post-secondary time. Most importantly, don’t value any opinion more than your own.
2. Post (Study program)
The word POSt, which stands for program of study, tends to strike fear into the hearts of many U of T students. Ironically, this was actually a very attractive factor for me that contributed to my final decision .
At U of T, students in the Faculty of Arts and Science do not apply for and are not accepted into a specific major in their senior year. Instead, you apply to a ‘stream’, through which you can explore your interests and take courses in a number of different fields. For example, in my first year in the social sciences major, I took courses in the One Program at the Munk School of Global Affairs, a course in physics, a course in the science of human nature, economics and even psychology.
The opportunity to explore my academic interests in freshman year was invaluable, and I knew in high school that I wanted that freedom during my first year of college. Because I explored so many different areas early on, I was able to make an informed decision on which major I wanted to pursue for the next three years of my life.
In my experience, high school courses are not the best reflection of these disciplines at university. Sometimes a subject you didn’t like in high school could be a subject you liked in college. For this reason, applying to POSt at the end of the first year was a great option for me. I spent a year exploring my interests, learning and studying different things without commitment. Looking back, if I had opted for a high school direct entry program, I would have always wondered if I had made the right decision choosing my program so early, and I’m super glad I chose the University of Toronto for this reason.
3. Choose the right campus
I always knew I wanted to stay home and go to school in downtown Toronto. Some of my friends have always known they wanted to move out, live in residence and experience a college town. Knowing what kind of experience you want is important when choosing a campus that’s right for you.
My advice is always to check out the different campuses, talk to students at those schools, and see if you could see yourself spending several years there. Things like social atmosphere, support systems, housing options, and expenses are all important factors that will contribute massively to your experience. Take the time to weigh your options and don’t make a decision without knowing what you’re getting into.
Deciding what to do and where to go after high school can be daunting, but figuring out what’s important to you in terms of scholarships, program structure, and campus environment is a great first step to making a decision you’ll be happy with. road. Good luck!
READ MORE: 4 questions to help you decide if college is right for you
Zaiboon Azhar is a third-year student at the University of Toronto, majoring in international relations. She’s an aspiring lawyer who likes to spend her free time at the gym or reading new books!