Change Your Mind

Photo by C. Bergeron

It’s common for students to move straight into a post-secondary environment after graduating high school.

There’s so much encouragement to apply to post-secondary before you even finish secondary that a lot of students may feel rushed into decisions or pressured into making certain choices. At 17 or 18 years old it can feel impossible to make decisions that could supposedly determine the rest of your life.

Well, first of all, this decision will not define you. Secondly, you are so much more than your education. And third, you are absolutely allowed to change your mind.

I want to help put your mind at ease. Whether you’re a prospective post-secondary student, a confused and frustrated undergrad, or a concerned parent, it’s important to realize that decisions about university are not irreversible and that people should be encouraged to play jack-of-all-trades when it comes to education. 

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Plenty of Prospects in the Post-Secondary Sea 

Let’s start with the pressure put on high school students to apply to university. Not all people are meant for rigid classroom based learning. A lot of folks thrive in hands-on environments like trade schools, community colleges or universities like UVic that offer co-op programs, field school experiences or international exchange opportunities. Some might enjoy learning through life lessons by navigating the work-force or traveling. 

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University may not be for you. Or it might not be for you yet. Or you might not know if it is for you. You shouldn’t be afraid to apply but you also shouldn’t feel forced to. Visiting is also a good choice too! Take a campus tour or better yet, attend an on-campus event like Explore UVic to learn more about the institution and get a feel for the campus. It’s the best way to see if a school is a good fit for you.

The Choice Is Yours

If you feel that a post-secondary institute might be the right fit for you, you may begin to feel anxious about all of the decisions you have to make. Which schools will you apply to? What program do you want to be in? What classes do you want to take? 

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Understand that these choices are not the be-all-end-all. There are plenty of people who drop or add classes, who switch majors, who switch faculties, who transfer from one institution to another. There is no reason to feel trapped in your decisions. There are people who are here to help you figure out what the best decision is for you. Keep in mind not all programs have the same flexibility, so it’s always best to check with an academic adviser before you make any changes.

Undecided Major

If you’re you’re applying to the Faculty of Humanities, Faculty of Science or the Faculty of Social Sciences and unsure of what program you’d like to pursue, you may want to consider applying for as “undecided.” This would allow you to try different classes from different departments and faculties without the pressure of meeting certain requirements for a particular major. 

Community College or Other Institution

You could also think about finding a smaller community college to begin your journey. That way you can begin to build up credits while you find out what you like and you can do so while enjoying smaller class sizes and cheaper fees. You may enjoy what you find and complete a diploma or degree there or possibly transfer into a university program later on if your credits are transferable. Again, it’s always a good idea to speak to an adviser to make sure that your courses are indeed transferable if you plan to transfer to university.

Interested? Apply!

You can also apply to a program that seems interesting and try it out in some faculties. There is nothing holding you back from switching majors if it’s not the right fit. Most  programs have a certain amount of required classes but the rest are open slots that are filled by electives. If you switch majors, you likely haven’t wasted any time or space because your classes will often go towards your required number of electives. 

Ask For Help 

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So much is going on when you’re in high school. There’s familial pressure, academic pressure, peer pressure. Emotions are heightened and everything seems final and never ending at the same time. When you’re already feeling overwhelmed, thinking about post-secondary can be incredibly daunting. 

One of the most helpful resources I had in high school were my career counsellors. They helped me get my first job, introduced me to scholarships and bursaries available to me, gave me information about post-secondary institutions, and always made time to help me find what I was looking for.

Another resource that always encouraged and motivated me was an inspiring teacher. Not only did my favourite teacher point me in the direction of UVic but he also helped me out along the way by writing me reference letters for school and work. 

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But there is so much more out there that can help you that I might not know about. If you’re feeling overwhelmed try to ask a parent, a favourite teacher, a university recruitment officer, a guidance counsellor, anyone you feel comfortable with. There are a lot of people out there that are rooting for you and you may not even realize it. They want you to succeed and they want to help you do it. 

Give Yourself Permission 

Regardless of where you are in life, give yourself permission to change your mind. Pursue what you are passionate about and then discover that you’re even more passionate about something else. Take a break from education if that’s what you need. Discover new pathways and experiment with classes way outside your department. Try out an exchange or a co-op. Give yourself permission to explore the possibilities. That’s what post-secondary is all about anyway.

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