Choosing your college or university wisely

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So you have decided what course to take and are now down to choosing which university or college to attend. This can be a crucial decision for you (and your family) and it can be a stressful time. This article will help you clearly map out all the important considerations and provide links and resources that can help you decide. Let’s break down your concerns one by one:

First: Curriculum choices

Once you have your heart set on a course, the next step is to look for the school that offers the specific program you want to take. To get a general idea of programs and credentials offered by degree-granting institutions in Manitoba, go to CICIC. From there, you can look at several institutions and compare. Most universities and colleges have websites where you can check out course outlines and detailed descriptions of subjects and electives, as well as information on admission requirements, and other particulars. This will help you understand what you will be actually studying. For a guide on points to consider when evaluating school curricula, read the Go Study.ca article Choosing a University in Canada.

Second: Cost

For many incoming students like you, this is one of the most crucial considerations in your journey towards higher education. While many will say that tuition costs in Manitoba are lower compared to other provinces, it can still be daunting to an immigrant family (especially if your parents are still trying to establish themselves in their careers). Add to this the cost of books, equipment – and if you will be choosing a school that will require you to travel – transportation and living costs, then you will be looking at a considerable amount.

This is where advanced planning plays an important role. Have you checked if you have an RESP? If you don’t, there are many opportunities for you to earn scholarships or grants. You can go to this list of Canada Student Grants, or get matched through this tool, and see if it fits your circumstances. For Manitoba, go to the Manitoba Student Aid page or Manitoba NEADS’s financial aid directory. Keep in mind that some of these scholarships are competitive and/or require you to apply early. Some may have requirements for eligibility that are based on your performance in high school, or other standards, such as prior participation in apprenticeships. For other options such as part-time education, student loans, and grants, go to CanLearn to explore other funding arrangements.

Third: Reputation and academic quality

If you are one of those who constantly checks Canadian university rankings, then school reputation and academic quality are high on your checklist. However, bear in mind that a school’s ranking does not take into account all the variables that make up an ideal place to study. Moreover, a prestigious school’s mode of instruction is not always guaranteed to fit your personal learning style. Watch this short video with Erin Millar, co-author of The Canadian Campus Companion, where she provides some good insights on some of the usual concerns students have before entering a college or university:

“… the good news is that all the publicly-funded universities and colleges in Canada are of high quality. You can’t really make that bad of a decision. Instead, you should look at what really suits your lifestyle and educational goals.”

Erin Millar, The Canadian Campus Companion

Fourth: Location

Can you endure being away from your family for long periods of time? Do you thrive better in a city or rural environment? Do you prefer warmer weather? Can you handle travel and living costs? These are the questions you must answer when considering your school’s location. To decide, you would need to spend a lot of time on google maps (as well as punching the numbers on your calculator). Research the distance, climate, means of transportation, and know all you can about the school’s environment.

Fifth: Campus culture

It only stands to reason that you would want to fit in and be comfortable on campus for the four most significant years of your life. The best way to find out about campus culture is to interview alumni or better yet, students who are currently enrolled. Another option is to read this article about how students rate the universities in Manitoba (and other universities in Canada) entitled Canadian University Report: University profiles to help you choose. This report from Globe and Mail includes glimpses of student life and campus atmosphere.

You can also read a profile of universities in the prairies (featuring their strengths and weaknesses based on a combination of information from students, professors, alumni, the universities themselves, and the National Survey of Student Engagement) in Canadian University Report 2014: Help choosing a university in the prairies also from Globe and Mail.

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Community Resources

Youth.gc.ca has additional tips to help you decide which school to choose.

Find numerous helpful resources about college and settlement in Manitoba from Red River College.

The CICIC has a “Find an Educational Institution” directory where you can search for currently recognized, authorized, registered and/or licensed educational institutions.

Education in Canada offers information for international students who may wish to study in the country.

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