It’s mid-May. A year ago, I was struggling to choose which place was going to be my home for the next four years. Dramatic, eh? It’s terrifying because it’s true. I’m feeling extremely nostalgic, watching the seniors, many of whom are close friends, struggle with this decision.
I was fortunate enough to be accepted into enough university programs that the decision was downright debilitating. So, here’s a list of things I wish I knew at that time. Maybe it’ll help you decide, maybe it won’t — even if it helps one person, I’m okay with that.
- Research, research, research. Look at the modules offered at each university. If you’re going into Science, what are you going to study? What can you study? Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Math, that’s first year; you’ll study that no matter where you go. What are you going to do after that? Physiology? Neuroscience? Pharmacology? Immunology? Going into Business? Look at cost, look at which programs are better for Finance, for Investment Banking, for Marketing. Is there co-op? Is there Prestige? Which universities have programs that interest you, which programs are better where? What marks will you need to maintain in university to study what you want to?
- Talk to people about the schools you’re looking into. Talk to people who go there — don’t listen to someone’s generic opinion on a school they don’t actually attend. Ask people why they chose the school they did. Ask them what they like about attending the school they do. More importantly, ask them what they don’t like about their school, what causes them to have those fleeting moments of, “Why did I choose this place anyway?” (Everyone has them.) Talk to as many people as possible.
- Visit the campuses if you can. You’re going to be spending a lot of time there. A LOT. Personally, when I stepped onto my campus, I could see myself there, I could see myself happy there. Some schools are big on spirit, some are far better suited for independent learners. Reader has the clubs, and what is offered in the city you’ll be staying in. Ask yourself where you’ll fit in best.
- Ask yourself what you want to be doing in 4-5 years. Medical School? Law School? Grad School? Running your own Business? A job at a Firm? Research some more about what you need to get there. Look at prerequisite courses, degrees, averages. Know your options, keep them open.
- Talk to your parents. It matters to them, a lot. Also consider finances. Finances are very, very important. But also vary so much case to case, that there’s not much for me to say. Living at home vs Going away. Both have their benefits, both have their drawbacks. It all depends on the individual.
- This decision is not final. Believe it or not, you’re not actually setting your plan for the rest of your life in stone. Let your first year courses guide you, maybe you’ll fall in love with a subject, or start hating the one you thought you loved in high school. You can change your major (you can change your university too, but don’t count on it).
I suppose I should talk about my own personal experience too, instead of just generic “one-size-fits-all” advice. I specifically want to address #6.
I ended up deciding to go to Western University, for Medical Sciences. It was a tough decision, Western is far, my parents were set on sending me somewhere closer to home — but it’s where I wanted to be. In high school, I didn’t know what I wanted to do, in any shape or form. I had a few ideas, but it was nowhere near narrowed down. Western was the best place to keep all my options open. I could do Science, I could do Social Science, I could even switch into Business if I wanted to. I didn’t know if I wanted to go to Med School, or Law School, or what.
So I did my first year at Western, Medical Sciences. It was actually entirely non-committal. Over the course of the year, I realized that although I loved science, and I loved studying science, Med School was not the place for me. It just was not what I wanted to pursue. Law school was though. And thus the research began.
I also fell in love with Sociology. (A note to those attending Western. If you’re planning on taking Sociology, take it with Luton. It will be the hardest course you take. You will want to shoot yourself many times over the course of the year. Your grades on her exams will be the lowest out of all your exam grades. But she is an amazing lecturer, and you will learn more about yourself and how you study than in any other course). I did fairly well in all of my courses, in fact, I did better in my Science courses than I did in Sociology. But I looked into upper year courses, and I found the Criminology ones to be far more interesting than the Science ones. Plus, I got to write an essay in first year, and I realized how much I loved and missed doing that (not going to lie, it helped that I did well on it).
So. Here we are. Fifteen year old Vanshika was dead set on studying Science and going to Med School. Seventeen year old Vanshika really only bothered applying to science programs. Eighteen year old Vanshika is most likely going to get a BA in Criminology and (attempt to) go to Law School. Oh, how things change. I mean, I still love Science. I’m probably going to minor in it. The point is, things will change. I’m someone who personally likes my options open. People like me run into the problem where we forget that we will have to narrow it down eventually.
It’s terrifying. But that just means you understand how big the decision is. Breathe in. 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. Breathe out. 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. Repeat. You’ll figure it out.