When I was in grade twelve, my high school friends were applying to university programs and I chose to stay in high school for another year to alleviate some stress. I watched my friends send their applications in and patiently wait to hear back from the academic institutions.
Now as a fourth-year student in a five-year program, I feel the same way seeing some of my past roommates and club executives applying to teacher’s college or master’s programs.
I remember being in grade twelve and trying to get the best marks possible for the admission entrance averages. My closest friend said to me, “the hardest part is getting in,” assuming that university would be smooth sailing once you were accepted. This couldn’t be further from the truth. I love reminding her of this quote and we still laugh at our blissful ignorance.
So, high school seniors, I want to tell you a secret about university. If you apply to a prestigious program with a high entrance average (think 90 percent or above), the expectations of your program will be high and they will be hard to maintain. It is hard enough to adjust to university classes without the added pressure of high maintenance averages.
If you were really involved in your high school, you will have difficulty maintaining that level of involvement when you’re in post-secondary, especially if it’s a prestigious program without electives.
I remember being in grade twelve and thinking that I didn’t want to be a general science or general business student in first year. Yet, if you enter a general program, you’re able to customize your degree so much! You can minor in one interest and specialize in something else that you’re interested in.
With any program, you can join clubs that you’re interested in, but being in a less time-consuming program might give you more freedom to get involved.
The other thing about prestigious programs? The only people who recognize the difficulty and status are either alumni of the program or those who have children/friends in the program. I’m in a double degree program, meaning that I am completing two undergraduate degrees simultaneously. Yet, most people in my circles think I’m double majoring (which is not the same) or only acknowledge one of my degrees. I always have to explain my program to people; wouldn’t it be nice if I could just say one word?
Prestigious programs also have a lot of restrictions. You will need to take very specific courses during the first few years and may get to pick electives by year four. Course requirements will have to be taken in a specific order and by the end of the academic year (August 30). This may not seem like much when you’re in grade 12, but imagine you fail a midterm during the fall term and withdraw from the course. Now, you must retake the course during the winter term and take the following course during the summer term – completing both courses successfully or you’ll be forced to withdraw from your program.
I’m not trying to scare you, but you will likely fail something in first year – a lab assignment, an essay, a midterm, a final or a course. It won’t be the end of the world. Talk to your professor or academic advisor to determine if you can still pass the course or if you should be adjusting your course schedule.
If those things didn’t scare you, I’d like to say that prestigious programs can be small which can make it easier to make friends in your classes. I’m sure it will be very rewarding when I cross the stage in 2021, but for right now, my prestigious program is a lot of work.
If you were accepted into a prestigious program – whether that be an engineering program, a double-degree program or biomedical science – congratulations! Please carefully consider if you want to go to university to study extensively or if you want a manageable load and activities outside of the classroom.
So, I guess, the hardest part of a prestigious program is staying in. I have the utmost respect for my peers who switched programs early on because they knew the extra effort wasn’t worth the headaches. When you accept your program offer before June 1, make sure it’s the program you want to study and not your parent’s decision.