By Giovanna Batti
It’s that time of year again! Grade twelve students all around Ontario are applying to universities, colleges, apprenticeships and deciding the next steps they must take after high school. There is a lot to be done: deadlines must be met, and decisions about the future must be made. As a grade twelve student myself, admissions anxiety is normal and planning for the future is not as easy as it sounds. Each student chooses their own path, and that path is entirely dependent on their interests. To understand how grade twelve Harbord students might be feeling, I conducted an interview with a grade twelve student who has already applied to post secondary schools.
Below is a virtual interview I conducted with Bianca Stojanovic, a student at Harbord Collegiate Institute.
Giovanna: How do you feel about applying to post-secondary institutions?
Bianca: So many things. I feel stressed.
Bianca: I'm basically done, but I have supplementary applications, and I have to find time for that while I complete assignments for my classes. I am not done half of what needs to be done.
Giovanna: I have the same problem! When did you research any schools or programs you are interested in?
Bianca: I started in October, and in mid November, I felt like I didn't know what I was doing and didn't know where to look. There’s only a few places you can look - the Ontario websites.
Giovanna: Is it hard to find useful resources on your own?
Bianca: Yes, because of COVID and not being able to walk into the guidance office. There's only so much I can do.
Giovanna: So do you feel that guidance has helped you a lot along the way.
Bianca: Guidance has helped me a lot, I have been attending virtual sessions with my guidance counsellor, and they get back to me really quickly.
Giovanna: What resources did you use when you conducted your research?
Bianca: I have used the resources that I have gotten from the guidance google classroom, and guidance counsellors recommended some programs to me that I have since applied to. I check the google classroom regularly for updates that might be essential.
Giovanna: What support systems have you used to help you cope with applications? Have you consulted with family or friends?
Bianca: I have talked to my parents, but I feel like if I talk to people too much, I get loaded with information that can be overwhelming. If I'm stressed, I usually go on Reddit!
Giovanna: Haven't we all! I find myself going down this google rabbit hole.
Bianca: I usually cope by myself, but I talked to people who are already in university. They offered their own advice, which I found extremely helpful. University program websites are kinda ambiguous, and their FAQs are often too general. I have had to wait a week for an answer. I get that universities are busy because they take a long time to get back to you by email. Carleton University did reach out to me. They called me after I sent them an email regarding my application.
Giovanna: Well, that definitely something I have struggled with too. I had to reach out to university students who could offer me some valuable advice. How do you cope with the stress of applying to post secondary school?
Bianca: I try to, because of all the stress that grade twelve brings, I try to make time for myself and “cope” by watching Netflix, standard things, and that's hard to do. I panic because I feel like I might be behind in work if I take too much time for myself. I feel that guilt for not being productive. I’m a volleyball player, and my practices are on hold because of the pandemic. So I have lost the ability to release any stress.
Giovanna: I have so much time yet not enough time.
Bianca: Yes, I feel the same way. Mentally it’s hard to take a break, and being productive is your responsibility.
Giovanna: How did you decide which programs to apply to? How did you align your interests with your future aspirations?
Bianca: It was very difficult. I won't lie. It has been something I was exploring through all of high school. I was interested in law when I first started high school.
Giovanna: That’s surprising!
Bianca: Yes, it is! I thought I was interested in law, and I was excited to be in the LAWS program. Currently, I am no longer passionate about law. It was good that I took the program, but I have always liked creative things. I always shut out creative pathways because I wanted to be conventional, either becoming a doctor or a lawyer. Going into grade eleven, I really liked film-related topics. However, I wasn't sure if film studies was a good fit for me. Going into grade twelve, I didn't know what I would apply for. I looked at the program list, and Media Studies caught my eye. The main focus of media studies is learning to be a good storyteller. Hence, why I am applying to journalism. I then did a deeper dive into the program courses - like coding, how to use camera equipment, etc. I didn't have to pick a specified pathway. I just tailored my program choices to my interests.
Giovanna: That is very smart. I did the same. Are you nervous or anxious about acceptances?
Bianca: I am waiting now. I saw someone got an offer already, so I'm a bit nervous. Even though covid has halted my grade twelve year, I don't want it to get in the way of the start of my university experience.
Giovanna: What is your best outcome?
Bianca: My best outcome is that COVID gets cured, and no online school. I'm okay either way. It's still quality education.
Giovanna: I agree. What advice do you have for the other students who have not yet applied to post-secondary schools?
Bianca: Do what you like. Do not do something that people say you should do. Sometimes it's not worth stressing over. I overthink a lot, so I try not to stress about things I cannot control. Ask yourself whether the things you can’t control are worth stressing about. Try to do what you can. I'm not the type of person who likes school in general. But I like aspects of school. I must say that balancing your time is a good skill to have. Your whole life does not revolve around academics and grades. Finding balance in your life is essential, because it helps in all areas of your life. Please get enough sleep, that's something I am trying to work on.
Giovanna: You are right, because this is your life, you must choose what you want to do with it. Making these big decisions requires your full attention.
Giovanna: Thank you for joining me on this issue and taking the time to be interviewed.
Bianca: You’re welcome, thank you!
Oftentimes, the first step is admitting you need help, and that’s okay. Receiving support in a stressful time like this is essential when you're going through major changes in your life. Grade twelve students have access to many different sets of resources to smooth over the process of applying to post-secondary institutions, this includes our school guidance counselors. Whatever options you may have, it is always beneficial to take advantage of the assistance they provide. I have reached out to my guidance counsellor, Ms. Narula ( ACL - Student Services and Guidance). She provided me with the necessary information and guided me through the college admission process. Ms. Narula was kind enough to offer some tips to students who are applying to post-secondary institutions:
Top 5 Tips for Grade 12 Students Applying to Post-Secondary Institutions:
5. Do your research, so you feel confident about your decisions. Call schools & OUAC/OCAS if you have questions and make sure you know what each program requires (info is on every institution's website).
4. Submit your OUAC and OCAS applications before December 18th. You can still log in after and make some changes after you submit.
3. Your final choice shouldn't be based just on the academic program. Over the break, visit campuses, even just to walk around. Though campuses will be emptier than usual, seeing it in real life will give you a sense of a school's culture. A campus like Trent has an entirely different vibe than Western.
2. Try not to worry about things you can't control (grade 11 marks, the number of other people applying, covid, when you receive offers, how schools determine their cut-offs) and do your best to succeed in what you're presently engaged in.
1. We're lucky in Ontario to have good schools, and while some programs may be more prestigious than others, all colleges and universities are reputable. Life is long, and there are many paths that you will walk on. Out of the 3-5 choices you submit, each will lead you down a different path, and each path will have its own challenges and rewards; there are no bad paths. Pick one, and enjoy the view.
Good luck! We're excited for all of you:)