PSE stumbling blocks that you never knew existed

Have you thought about the stumbling blocks you may encounter in college or university?

When you’re in high school, the focus is on getting in to the program. You worry about meeting admission requirements and getting all your transcripts and documentation in on time. You will likely ask about career opportunities available to grads. You will probably weigh your options for housing (residence, getting an apartment, or living at home). You might even get into the territory of clubs and activities available on campus.

In my experience, that is the extent of post-secondary exploration.

Once you’re into your program of choice, you need to get through it. It seems obvious that you’ll need to finish what you start here, but this is a place many high-school students fail to consider in their post-secondary research. And let me tell you, if you are looking at programs that are notoriously hard to get into, chances are they’re also extremely challenging once you’re through the doors. You’ve got a long haul ahead. And now is the time to arm yourself with the information you need to succeed. Where are the potential stumbling blocks for you?

Step one – how is the program structured?

Take a look through the full syllabus for the program – the program calendar will lay it out for you. What required courses are there? What is optional? How are the courses mapped out? Do they load up one semester with a bunch of subjects you know you’ll find challenging? Is there a lot of lab or seminar work? Group work? Independent work outside of class? Writing term papers and exams? Don’t wait until the first day of class to find out. If you know now that a brutal semester is coming your way, you can plan accordingly.

Step two – support services

Every post-secondary institution I know of has services available for students that include individual and small-group tutoring, career services, support for students with disabilities, mental and physical health services, a home-away-from-home for students who identify as Indigenous, you name it. The fees you pay alongside tuition cover access to these services, so use them. Connect early to find out how and when to access the help available.

Step three – graduation rates

Take a look at graduation rates from your school and program of choice. You may have to ask specifically, but someone in the Registrar’s office should be able to give you this information. Once you get it, I want you to particularly note how long most people take to complete the program. Just because someone refers to it as a “four-year program” doesn’t mean you have to do it that way. Many schools allow for a considerably longer time to complete a program and still earn a valid credential. This will normally be published somewhere in the program calendar, or in other documentation from the Registrar’s office.

In 2018, Maclean’s published the highest and lowest graduation rates for undergraduate programs at universities in Canada. The time frame they used? Seven years. Not four, seven. So while some of the numbers look impressive (and some pretty dismal), it’s a different story when you add the details.

Are you having trouble deciding where to head after high school? Know someone who is? Check out services for youth for more information on group and individual coaching to help the student in your life get back on track!

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