With university application deadlines looming, “it’s a crazy time,” says Dale Callender. “Students are in my office all the time asking what they should do.”
The adviser for Delisle Youth Services at Northern Secondary suggests students make career decisions based on interests, best subjects, family finances and entrance requirements.
Deciding what to do with the rest of your life is “a lot of pressure for a 17- or 18-year-old,” Callender says. “Especially when they’re afraid of making a misstep.”
Which is why Blessie Mathews, a career counsellor at the University of Alberta, encourages students to factor their extracurricular activities into the choice — because it’s something they love and they’ve already made connections. “Education is one piece of the puzzle,” she adds.
She also suggests talking to people in the field. “Most people looking back find that career paths are more often about opportunities that presented themselves, versus planning.”
Unless there’s a strong pull in a specific direction, students are advised to enter broad programs, which keeps options open until they can make informed choices based on skills and interest.
It’s how Georgia Barrington chose her program. “I was never skilled at math or science, and loved the arts, so a BA seemed the best fit. First-year university feels like high school because you take a variety of subjects. You try different courses to see what you like most.”
Some students are paralyzed by the choice of school. Barrington didn’t have a preference, since she felt “most General Arts programs at Canadian universities were of a similar standard.”
She chose Dalhousie after visiting Halifax because it was so friendly. “Four years is a long time to spend in one town, so you should consider what matters to you.”
She also recommends stepping out of your comfort zone. “Don’t make a decision based on where your friends or current boyfriend will be. You will make new friends and have a far better experience if you choose a university on your own terms.”