How do I choose a program?
Think about the things that interest you, the things you’re passionate about, and see if you can find a program that matches those. You can browse university websites for information on the various programs (these programs will normally be under an Academics or Program section of a website). If you’re not sure, talk to your guidance counsellor to get feedback and help you make your decision.
Students will sometimes focus on how much money they will make when they search for a program. That’s not a bad question to ask, but if you apply to a program that doesn’t speak to your interests, you might find that you won’t enjoy it as much and your grades might reflect that.
That doesn’t mean you should avoid certain careers just because you have other interests. In fact, there are lots of programs in arts and sciences that will give you a good foundation to launch a career no matter what you want to pursue.
Decided on a program, but not sure how to select courses? You can check out some advice on selecting courses and learning about some of the language used in course selection.
How long will I be in school?
Undergraduate programs usually last four years, although they can take more or less time depending on your program or school. Work placements in certain programs can also extend the total amount of time you’re in school, even if you don’t spend all your time in the classroom.
If you decide to continue in school after your undergraduate program — for example, if you want to become a doctor or a lawyer — you will have to spend another three or more years in school before you begin practicing.
Should I look for a program that includes work experience?
Having work experience is always a plus when you’re looking for a job. If your program offers a work term, co-op or similar opportunity, you should consider it an added bonus. You will graduate with a solid combination of classroom and real-world experience.
Many universities offer co-op options through the Co-operative Education department, and some universities offer various opportunities for work experience while studying (such as Internships and Work Experience Programs).
What if I want to become a doctor or a lawyer?
You can’t go directly from high school to medical school or law school — you need to complete at least part (but usually all) of an undergraduate degree before you can apply to those programs.
Medical programs generally treat all students who apply equally, no matter where their undergraduate degrees are earned. That’s right, you do not need to complete a science degree in order to go to medical school. Admission into Medical Schools are typically based on your GPA and your MCAT (Medical College Admission Test) scores. Many students do choose to study a natural or pure science (such as biology or chemistry) for their undergraduate degree. You can take a core science degree at any Canadian university, not just the ones with medical programs.
The type of law you want to practice should guide your choices as an undergraduate. For example, if you’re interested in environmental law, you should consider studying environmental science. If you think family law is where you want to go, you could take a family studies or sociology program. For criminal law, you could consider a public policy or political studies degree.
Like those applying to medical school, your admission into Law programs is heavily weight towards your GPA and your LSAT (Law School Admission Test) scores. You don’t need a criminology degree to become a lawyer. Check with a nearby university that has a law program to find out the exact requirements for admission. You might be surprised by the variety of programs that are accepted.