Today, a Canadian reader asks Tasha f0r some application tips.
I'm a senior in Ontario and I'm looking to apply to some Canadian universities. What are some things I should be looking for when I'm deciding which university to go to? I know some things are class size, residence, campus life. What are some others? I'm looking to study sciences, probably major in biology.
Thanks for your help!
My experience is in the American university system, but I will advise you as best I can. First of all, go ahead and narrow your search by finding Canadian universities with strong science departments. Since you're interested in biology but aren't positive it's the only branch of science for you, make sure the schools you apply to offer opportunities for research in a wide range of scientific fields, just in case you find yourself drawn to chemistry.
Here are some key qualities to look for:
Small class size.
Small class size is important because it allows for more faculty-student interaction. Schools with a good student-to-teacher ratio generally offer a more positive learning experience and lead to greater student engagement. Something to keep in mind: depending on the school, introductory courses may contain hundreds of students (this is a frequent occurrence in the sciences), but your classes will get smaller and smaller as you get more specialized in your degree plan. For instance, if your university requires that all pre-med majors take Introduction to Anatomy, chances are that course will have lots of people in it—maybe even hundreds. As college goes on, though, many students will drop the major, drop out of college, or decide that major wasn’t for them. The more higher level courses, therefore, may enroll 25 students or fewer.
When you visit schools, request to sit in on biology or other science classes. Most schools can easily arrange class visits, and they'll give you a great sense of what it would be like to be a student there.
Living options that suit your needs.
Residence is another important factor to consider as you decide where to go to college. It may make sense to get a private room if you're easily distracted. But if you like companionship and can tune out noise, or don't mind going to the library to work, you might enjoy living with roommates. Make sure the colleges you're considering offer living options that will work for you.
A place that makes you happy.
You'll be in college for four years—that's a pretty long time. It's important to choose a place where you'll enjoy living. Make sure you look not just at the campus itself, but at the surrounding area. If you are interested in cultural opportunities and the arts, see what's available in the town or city near school. The last thing you want is blindly to move far away and then realize the campus and surrounding area aren't a good fit for you.
Look for a school with an active career services office and many internship programs for its undergrads. Also, think about where you might work near campus. If you're interested in biomedical research, for example, see if there are hospitals in the area where you could volunteer to get some real-life experience in the field you are passionate about. A lot of this research can be done on the internet, but it’s also helpful to talk to recent alumni about their experiences.
A note for our American readers: Canadian universities are known for being much less expensive than their American counterparts. More and more American students are going north to take advantage of an international learning experience at a price that’s hard to beat. For a good overview of Canadian universities (including rankings), go here.
Are you an American student considering Canadian schools? A Canadian student considering Canadian schools? Someone with a question for Tasha? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.