It’s that time of year when students the world over begin to consider and research what post secondary school to attend. It’s a difficult time: having to quantify your dreams and desires; deciding to forgo childhood dreams for a career that pleases the parental units or deciding to pursue a life long dream, no matter the consequence; choosing to leave home or stay close by; still being trapped and yet yearning for the independence that accompanies post secondary education. A difficult time for those transitioning from one career to another, those who have decided after year or years that it is finally time to get back in the student seat and pursue something of value and those who have, after year(s) of working, finally scraped together the money for their dream of a post secondary education.

Where to start? It can be unbelievably overwhelming. Even if you think your chosen career path is black and white like “teaching” the questions begin to swamp you: “What grades do you ultimately want to teach?”, “Where do you want to be a teacher?”, “Do you want to teach more than one language?”, “Do you want to specialize in special needs or disabilities?”, “What options do you want to take to amplify your portfolio?”, “What will make you stand out as a teacher?”
Universities want to you consider your entire schooling when you first apply: all 4 (or more) years of your degree when all you want to do is just apply to the school. It can be brutal to first timers and ninth timers. The application process doesn’t always ask you the right questions either.

Luckily, right now, you’re sitting there and you know what you want to do: Teach. [Or insert whatever it is you’d like to do here. :)] That right there is a saving grace. Knowing what you want is a gigantic first step. Not to fret, if you have no clue but are determined to attend post secondary this will help you as well! Somethings to consider are:

~Talk to someone in the field you’re thinking about – or someone you know that had no clue to begin with – they’ll be able to set you in the right direction on what to look for in your application/registration. There are academic councilors available at each post secondary school as well. I, unfortunately, had a terrible experience with the academic councilors. They sent me down the wrong path and I ended up, what I felt like, wasting 2 years and many dollars pursuing the wrong field. That’s why I recommend talking to someone who is IN the field you’re interested in. They’ll be able to regale you with their experiences and impart you with knowledge that a generic councilor may not.

~Research what jobs your degree might lead to. For example, if you decide to do a double degree with physical education and elementary education that will most likely lead to teaching elementary students phys ed. There are unlimited amounts of combinations for majors & minors. Use your imagination and follow your heart.

~Research schools. It may sound cliche but it’s worth doing. Look at schools from different points of view. What do you want from a school? Do you want it close to home? Far from home? Do you want small class sizes? A good student to teacher ratio? Good bang for your buck? Each year, in Canada at least, Macleans magazine publishes an issue that ranks all of the Universities based on different options. (Click here for this year’s!)

~Visit the school you’re considering. This might be a harder option if your school is far away from you, but most schools offer the chance to shadow a student for a day. It really gives you an idea as to what to expect from the school, teachers and everyday student life. Spending a day in the shoes of an actual student really gives you a great impression. Even if you just take a quick trip and visit the campus it can give you a better idea of what to expect when you’re accepted.

~Talk to students at the school you’re thinking about. They can give you a real idea of the campus life. Students attending the school or even recent graduates know all the ins and outs of the University. Recent grads can tell you about the graduation process and how their entire experience was. They’re a good resource for potential students – able to tell you any problems they may have encountered, what teachers are great, what classes to consider, etc.

More than anything trust your instincts. It’s the most important thing when you’re applying for a new school. If something seems too good to be true – it, sadly, probably is. Happy school hunting!

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