Choosing a post secondary program is stressful. It is a significant investment of both your time and money, and the information provided to you is usually insufficient for such an important decision. Here are some steps you can take to help you ensure that you make the right choice:
Interview previous students. If you need to know the value of a particular program, the best person to advise you is someone who has already taken it. You can usually find alumni through social media or the recruitment office. Ask them if they would be willing to meet with you for fifteen minutes. Make a list of all of your questions and see how they respond. If possible, try to speak with a few students to give you a more balanced perspective.
Set a goal. How can you possibly determine which program is best if you don’t know what you want to do with it? Take the time to sit down and identify a career goal. Once you have a goal in mind, you can clearly lay out the steps that you will take to achieve it. If necessary, you can always change your goal at a later date, but just having one makes it easier to focus your energy.
Do labour market research. All of your planning should be based on extensive labour market research. There is no purpose in selecting a particular job as your career goal if there is no demand for it. Also, through your research you can determine the requirements for your target job and use them to guide your decision about post secondary education.
Sit in on a class. Some programs are very different from what you expect them to be. Therefore, it’s smart to get as much information as you can before making a decision. Ask the recruitment office if it would be possible for you to sit in on a class. This will give you a clearer picture of what it’s like to be a student in this program, giving you a better idea of whether or not it would be a good match for your interests and learning style.
Look at student feedback. There is a wide variety of rankings available which will give you the students’ perspective of post secondary programs. However just because one person had a negative experience with a particular program doesn’t mean that you will too. The key is to read all of the feedback and if several students are saying the same thing, it may be a good idea for you to pay attention.
When you are deciding which post secondary program to pursue, you don’t want to pick the wrong one. However, from the outside there is only so much information that you can access. If, after you’ve started school, you realize that you’re in the wrong place, it is not too late to make a change. Most schools will allow you to switch classes in the first few weeks of the semester and to change programs at any time (although you may not be able to transfer all of your credits over). The key is to speak up, act quickly, and don’t let someone else influence your decision.
(Written by: Karen Bivand, Photo by: Stuart Miles/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net)