University: Where Shall I Go Today, Where Shall I Go?

PAULA SANDERSON

            ďAt this particular academic institution, we pride ourselves on being number one in academics,Ē was asserted by EVERY university tour guide on every university tour I went on this summer.  So how do you tell the difference between a good university and a bad one?  After visiting nine of the countryís finest, I now have an idea of what makes a school good and what makes it not as good, because, frankly, there is no such thing as a bad school. To help you out, Iíve come up with my top 10 tips in university searching.  

1. Program: There are hundreds of programs at each school, and itís up to you to find the one you want. Even if you donít know which one to go into, get an idea of the general areas you like. It helps you fine-tune your questions and tours. For example, if your goal in life is to be a writer, why would you waste your time seeing a chemistry lab over an arts classroom? Often universities will even give you special Viewbook for your program. On tours, I found that I was able to get more out of them by asking specific questions.  

2. Sleep Over: Staying overnight in the towns was key. Although I had never been in Aunitgunish, Nova Scotia, I could see myself living there. However, I had to experience the two-hour flight and three-hour car ride it took to get there.  Is it worth traveling that far?  

3. Tour: Touring the campus gave me a better sense of the schools. Although Dalhousie is a larger school than some of the Maritime schools I visited, the campus doesnít seem as large and unfriendly to me as, say, Westernís campus. In fact, it took us only an hour to see most of the campus, unlike the University of Toronto, which demands days.  

4. Small Tours! Some of the campus tours I went on had large groups of people. Although you might hear a question that you hadnít thought about, in a group setting teenagers can be awkward and just not ask questions. On the private tours I was able to talk about anything I wanted to talk about, see anything I wanted to see. Iím not a science girl so I didnít have to waste my time checking out the science labs, and I got to check out the pools instead.

5. Residence: Make sure you check out the residences.  Perhaps they look nice on paper but until you get in the room and see what itís really like, you have no idea how they really are. A double room might sound nice on paper, but are you going to study when your roommate has friends over? Or, on the other hand, do you really want to spend all your time by yourself, especially if you get homesick?  

6. Tour Guides: They tell funny stories about their university, like tales about students who dress up in full medieval armor and stage battles in the quad at Kings, or Rick Mercerís Toga wearing partying at St. FXs. Speak to them!  

7. Library: You like to think youíre at school to study and you will have to use the library sometime. Go see it.

8. Academic Calendar: Iím not a ďschool is for studyingĒ type of girl. However, some of these schools almost make me want to be. The courses that the schools offer are fascinating. I can understand how math or history could be boring, but who wouldnít want to take the history of rock and roll, or the sociology of fashion? I would recommend picking up an academic calendar. Not only will this list all the names of the courses that the school offers in your program area, it lists ALL the courses the university offers with brief descriptions of the courses.

9. Social Stuff: The student guides didnít know off hand what marks you needed to get in, but they did know what residences have the best parties. The general vibe-students know about the social stuff and the administrators know about the academic stuff.

10. Free Stuff! The mark of a good tour is the stuff they give you at the end. Dalhousie gave me a nice green bag, Kings gave me a pen and stationary, St. Francis Xavier gave me a t-shirt! (All things that will play into how well the university treated me from the start). After all, Leaside and Northern gave me a piece of paper telling me to go to their school, North Toronto gave me a pen. Look where I ended up.

            Youíve got those nice grade 12 marks (I hope), and now youíre applying to your dream school. Just make sure youíve checked it out. You will never get the true feeling of a school unless you visit. After all, youíre going to be spending four years of your life there. You might as well like it.