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Choosing a university

Before long, it will be time to fill out university application forms. But choosing the right university is a big decision, so step back and consider which institutions best fit your personality and educational goals.

Start by finding out which universities offer the program you want to study. If you’re unsure, exploring program options may help you narrow down your interests, says Richard Levin, executive director of enrolment services at the University of Toronto. “Some universities offer more flexibility in the first couple of years than others.”

Look at course content and the kind of research being done at a university.

“Most universities offer biology but a biology major can differ significantly from one institution to another,” says Mairead Barry of Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia. “One institution might focus on plant biology while another may focus on genetics research.”

Next, research admission requirements, which can vary from program to program and university to university. Ensure you have the required high-school credits and meet other criteria for your program of choice, including grades.

“Each university posts what grades were required the previous year to gain admission,” says Stuart Pinchin, associate university registrar of undergraduate admission at Queen’s University in Kingston.

“It’s also important to know which courses a university will look at to calculate admission requirements.”

Some programs, such as fine art or journalism, will also require a portfolio while others will ask you to write a statement about your interests, abilities and career plans.

Finances may be a huge factor in your decision, as the costs associated with attending university go well beyond tuition fees to include housing, food, books and personal living expenses.

When preparing a financial plan, consider financial aid and scholarships. Many universities now have scholarship grids — incremental charts that guarantee entrance scholarships to incoming students based on their high-school final marks.

Attend university fairs and participate in campus tours. While a university’s reputation is important to many, it shouldn’t be a sole consideration. “Students will get a quality education at every university in Canada,” Pinchin says.

“Obviously, some universities have unique strengths … It’s all about fit and a student feeling comfortable and alive. Attending university is about more than what happens in the classroom because this is home for the next four years.”

Things to consider:

• Admission requirements

• Program availability: To find out which universities offer the program you want, check out program listings at aucc.ca/programs.

• Course content

• Size of university

• Location of university

• Reputation of university

• Cost

• Distance from home

• Housing

• Athletics

• Student life

• Scholarships/assistance

To learn more, visit www.aucc.ca/can_uni/student_info.

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