College and Univeristy in Canada: Which is for you?

Approaching the end of high school you are met with a couple of life changing decisions at a time when you are still picking what moisturizer works best for your skin type. The magnitude of choosing a career, and choosing between college and university is felt by most high schoolers and there is almost a crippling fear that comes with. The hesitation to make the wrong decision is ever present and the pressure is debilitating.

If none of these characterize your experience then I’m truly happy for you and I wish you all the best in your education and forthcoming career. But if any of these feels like your reality then I would like to assure you that although the choice of post secondary education and eventual career is important, the choices are rarely world ending. The best guide on your path to honing in on a direction is to understand yourself and what you want your life to look like post secondary.

Knowing yourself

When it comes to all the unknowns you are juggling right now, getting to know yourself is one that you have the most control of, so it is a very good place to launch. You can complete a few online questionnaires to get a better feel, for instance what sort of learner are you? Here are a couple links to some tests that can help you with that.

The type of learner you are is also closely linked with your personality type. The Myers-Briggs personality test is another tool that can help you with your self assessment and give some direction as to what your strengths, interests and potential career possibilities are.

Knowing yourself is an important first step

What’s the difference?

In the U.S. the terms College and University are often used interchangeably but there are some distinct difference between them even though they offer similar products i.e. diplomas, degrees. College courses in Canada are more focused on hands on experience while university courses often deal with theoretical and analytical development. Colleges focus on workforce development and can generally give you a closer experience to what to expect in the career you are working towards.

To College

If you have determined a career path or field of study that is more in line with a college education, then you can expect to have a more streamlined and focused learning experience centered around courses, skills, and technology that you will use in your career.

Colleges also often partner with industry professionals and have co-op opportunities, internship placements which are great assets for jobs after graduation.

The structure of college provides a unique blend of academic learning and practical skills training that gives a solid foundation for joining the workforce.

Colleges also offer flexible program lengths where you can choose between one or two year courses.

If you decide to go with a joint college and university program, you get to have a dynamic learning experience. These tend to be three-year programs but help students have a smoother transition into University.

To University

The general focus in universities is on research, theory and critical thinking with some levels of real world practicality.

It is important to note that there are careers in which university degrees are a requirement like medicine or scientific research. Hence when it comes to choosing what type of institution you want to attend it helps to know what career you would like to end up in, even though it is not essential because you can always change your mind.

One very important point to consider is that different schools have different specialties, so if you are interested in Engineering, McMaster is probably where you should set your sights and so forth.

Scholarship opportunities

After deciding what type of institution best suites your goals and needs, you get to arguably one of the most essential stages which is tuition. The tuition cost varies with certificate programs as well as with institutions so you may want to be strategic with this. It could be that attending the more expensive institution could provide that edge in getting a job, or pay. It could also be that the difference in cost doesn’t provide enough of an advantage. This is a personal decision and on a case by case basis.

Not quite scholarship money, but it’s a start

Scholarships are great if you can get them because any relief helps. Which is why if you are interested in getting any you need to allocate a considerable amount time to research what may be best for you or what scholarships you may be eligible for.

Scholarship requirements vary from school to school, so it is best to use specific schools as your compass, that way you maximise your chances of success by providing the exact requirements per school. Generally, each school will expect applicants to have a certain grade average in grade 11 and grade 12, but what that cut-off point is varies by school.

You can visit the Universities Canada website for information on what scholarships are available throughout Canada.

Another avenue to consider are the private scholarships available such as The Loran Scholarship and Schulich Leader Scholarships which are worth $60,000-$80,000 thus are very competitive. It is worth exploring a variety of options and not getting discouraged without trying.

For some of the smaller scholarships here is a link that could be useful to you. Another helpful resource can be accessed here. They have a tool called the 99 Scholarships that you can search scholarships related to your passions.

Whatever path you decide upon make sure it is what works best for your vision of where you would like to see yourself in the future. I hope found some of this information useful as you embark on your journey post secondary school and onwards.


This post was written by Abdulhakeem Yusuf. Abdulhakeem is the content writer at Southern Ontario Collegiate. He has over 6 years of professional writing experience.

If you or someone you know is interested in attending Southern Ontario Collegiate in to get into college or university in Canada, go here to learn how to apply.

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