Monday, August 14, 2006

University Choice: One of the Most Important Decisions You Will Ever Make

Where would I be today if I didn't go to Trent? My choices were Trent, Carleton, Ottawa and Western. I wished my parents had taken my University process more seriously. They never offered to drive me to take a look at other Universities, go on tours etc. Sadly I chose my University based on the publications the University put out.

If I had to do it all over again would I chose Trent?

It depends. If it means I would only meet George if I went to Trent, then I would go again. If it means I would only develop my political belief system because Trent is so one-sided, then I would do it again.

But what the publications the University and MacLeans Rankings do not tell you is the reason why a small University sucks. Although I have thoroughly enjoyed the small classes sizes, no one tells you that small class sizes/small university also means small course and professor selection. I feel that my undergraduate has not prepared me or taught me...anything.

It's been a joke really. Compared to my friends at other Universities, Trent is a dream. We get two reading weeks and we mostly have full-year credits (much easier and less stressful).

I'm studying Sociology and plan to do a Masters in Soc at Carleton. I would like to get into Stats/Research/Demographics at Stats Can or Census or perhaps market research.

Sadly, I only had one half-credit statistics course. Unlike most of my peers, I like stats. But our stats class was a joke. We spent 3 weeks on Mean, Median and Mode. I got a 90 on the 40% final in which I had another exam 10 hours before, and thus I started and finished studying for that exam in about 6 hours.

Because it's such a small school, there is no demand for an advanced statistic course. There is one cross listed course that I can take from the Psych department, but it's qualitative stats and not quanitative stats.

I'm applying for my Masters this year, but I'm scared that I won't be prepared. Carleton has a concentration in Quanitative methods which really has me interested. It also has a co-op, which may help me get my foot in the door in a company and some work experience!

I also want to go to Carleton because I'm bilingual and I would love to use my skills as often as possible, so I don't lose them.

Although our post-secondary system is different here in Canada. I thought this article was interesting out of TIME.

It's the summer before your senior year, and you're sweating. The college brochures are spread across the table, along with itineraries, SAT review books, downloaded copies of Web pages that let you chart the grades and scores of every kid from your high school who applied to a given college in the past five years and whether they got in or not. You're hunting for a school where the principal oboe player is graduating, or the soccer goalie, so it might be in the market for someone with your particular skills. You can be fifth-generation Princeton or the first in your family to apply to college: it's still the most important decision you've ever made, and the most confounding.

You're a parent watching your child, so proud, and so worried. Your neighbors' son was a nationally ranked swimmer, straight As, great boards, nice kid. Got rejected at his top three choices, wait-listed at two more. Who gets into Yale these days anyway? Maybe they should have sent him to Mali for the summer to dig wells, fight malaria, give him something to write about in his essay.

You're the college counselor at a public school in a hothouse ZIP code, and you wish you could grab the students, grab the parents by the shoulders and shake them. Twenty thousand dollars for a college consultant? They're paying for help getting into a school where the kid probably doesn't belong. Do they really think there are only 10 great colleges in the country? There are scores of them, hundreds even, honors colleges embedded inside public universities that offer an Ivy education at state-school prices; small liberal-arts colleges that exalt the undergraduate experience in a way that the big schools can't rival. And if they hope to go on to grad school? Getting good grades at a small school looks better than floundering at a famous one. Think they need to be able to tap into the old-boy network to get a job? Chances are, the kid is going to be doing a job that doesn't even exist now, so connections won't do much good. The rules have changed. The world has changed. You have a sign over your office door: COLLEGE IS A MATCH TO BE MADE, NOT A PRIZE TO BE WON.
The math is simple: when so many more kids are applying, a smaller percentage get in, which yields the annual headlines about COLLEGE ADMISSIONS INSANITY. Princeton turned down 4 of every 5 of the valedictorians who applied last year, and Dartmouth could have filled its freshman class with students with a perfect score in at least one SAT subject and had some to spare. But in the meantime, partly as a result, partly in response to all kinds of social and economic trends, the rest of the college universe has shifted as well. The parents may be the last ones to come around--but talk to high school teachers and guidance counselors and especially to the students themselves, and you can glimpse a new spirit, almost a liberation, when it comes to thinking about college. "Sometimes I see it with families with their second or third child, and they've learned their lesson with the first," observes Jim Conroy, a college counselor at New Trier High School in Winnetka, Ill. Their message: while you may not be able to get into Harvard, it also does not matter anymore. Just ask the kids who have chosen to follow a different road.


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