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Choosing Between Acceptances - What's Your Best Fit?

What makes a university 'the one'?


These are the questions many high school students grapple with as they make decisions about where to apply and which offer to accept. As our current grads make their choices, we met with them to discuss how they found their match. Their words will emphasise the importance of looking past a 'brand name', of pushing aside pre-conceived ideas, and of understanding your individual priorities. Ultimately, it's all about finding the right fit.

Choosing the Right Fit

THREE GENERATIONS OF MY FAMILY ARE BERKELEY ALUMNI

I was looking for a university with an excellent mechanical engineering program. Universities in the United States require much more of a financial commitment, so any school that I applied to there would have to be significantly better for this programme and also be somewhere I would want to live. 

I grew up as a Golden Bear with many alumni in my family from my cousin to my grandfather. Growing up and going to football games, Cal has always had a special place in my heart. With its outstanding mechanical engineering programme, Berkeley was the perfect fit for me.

STANFORD OFFERED AN AMAZING SCHOLARSHIP

I received a heartfelt note from the Admissions Officer at Stanford about my writing. The gesture meant a lot to me, but I felt torn because UPenn offered me a substantial scholarship. Stanford eventually came through with a similar monetary offer, so my decision became easier. I also participated in a summer programme at Stanford prior to applying and just loved the experience so much!

CAMBRIDGE HAS A CULTURE OF HIGHLY COMMITTED SCHOLARS

I chose which schools to apply to based on prestige and quality of physics and maths departments for the most part. It's important to me to have more research exposure in preparation for grad school.

Deciding where to go has been a challenge – I'm not 100% sure quite yet. I have a conditional offer from Cambridge, but Berkeley appeals to me, too. Ultimately, my choice will come down to future prospects. Berkeley has Silicon Valley, so better for corporation work and tech jobs. Cambridge is more renowned and has a very focussed programme, with a faster track to obtain my master's degree.

*Update: Matthew accepted his place at Cambridge where he will focus on science and research. 

Why I Decided to Go Overseas

ST. ANDREWS OFFERS MORE FLEXIBILITY WITH MY PROGRAMME OF CHOICE

When I was thinking about where to apply, I considered quality of programme, location, environment, and student feedback. When I had to decide where to attend, I looked at each university from a holistic viewpoint and chose St. Andrews because they offer a flexible and innovative business programme and the campus has a community-based feeling.  

It's easy to be swooned by an Ivy, but does it have the programme that best fits your long-term goals? Dig deeper into the rankings and evaluate the programme itself as well as the breadth of courses offered in your desired area of focus. Do you want to enter into a specialty or explore within a general field? This should all be factored as you think about fit.
Luke Lawson
Director of University Counselling

I'M PURSUING A SPECIALISED PROGRAMME TO DIRECTLY ENTER MED SCHOOL

My choice to go to Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RSCI) was driven largely by the fact that it allowed to me enter med school directly without having to get a bachelor's degree. This was not an option that could be afforded to me by any Canadian universities, which was why I considered Europe in the first place. As for why I chose medicine, my father is a doctor, and he involved me heavily in the medical community as I grew up. This, combined with work experience in local clinics as well as independent study, inspired my interest in the medical field.

How do you choose a business school?

THE PROGRAMME IS LESS TRADITIONAL

I was looking for schools that had exciting commerce programmes, ones that offer the type of creative, entrepreneurial courses that I am interested in. I also wanted a programme that allowed for flexibility with how I wanted to study business, as opposed to traditional finance and accounting programmes. 

I have also always wanted to attend a university that was in a central location, preferably in a big city. Toronto is one of the biggest cities in Canada, so the city has great connections in terms of business. I want to be at a large university that has both a comfortable campus feel, but also has the city life around it. 

A UNIVERSITY WITH A PRESTIGIOUS REPUTATION

The process of deciding where to apply and eventually attend was fairly straightforward. I was looking to go to a university with high rankings in a location that appealed to me. 

MCGILL HAS ONE OF THE TOP BUSINESS PROGRAMMES IN CANADA

I knew I wanted to study in Canada and was looking for top business programmes, so that narrowed down where to apply right away. When it came time to make a decision between my acceptances, I thought about programme, campus life, and location – I wanted to be in a major city!

What Makes a University the One?

There are many factors to consider. How do you learn best? Can you maintain your focus in a class with 200+ students or is a smaller classroom with 20 students better suited for you? Are you going into science but looking to balance that with liberal arts, or would you prefer to go into a specialty? Want to stay close to home or do you crave the opportunity to study abroad? Your honest answers to these and many other questions will help you narrow your choices and find a school that aligns with your needs and interests.

Studying in Canada

REPUTATION PLAYED A PROMINENT ROLE IN MY DECISION

The main factor that allowed me to make my decision was the programme the university offered. I decided to choose Western because it allowed me to study both medical sciences and business, two fields I am passionate about. Along with this, after receiving the Loran Scholarship, I was encouraged to study out of province (but still in Canada), which ruled out schools in BC.

Think beyond reaching out to current students and alumni from your school. Connect with graduates from the university who are professionals in your chosen field. Look through the profile of professors for experts and interesting research happening at the university. They will all become part of your network.
Leah Verdone
Director of University Counselling

I VISITED THE CAMPUS AD IT JUST FELT RIGHT

Western has a strong, well-respected programme, which played a big part in my decision. I also visited the campus and I have to say, it just felt right. 

Creative Economy Essential to Our Future

The arts are increasingly recognised as a valued asset with the potential to stimulate economic growth and build social capital. Our creative industries, with the arts and cultural sector at its core, improve our capacity for innovation, leading to a more diverse, sustainable future economy. Canada's creative industries are varied – advertising, architecture, craft, design, fashion, film, information technology, software, publishing, museums, plus the performing and visual arts – and many of our grads are poised to find success in these ever-evolving fields. 

Specialised Design Programmes

I WANTED A SCHOOL WITH A SOLID REPUTATION

I wanted to attend a school in an interesting city with a good reputation. My family really wanted me to attend Hong Kong U or RISD, but in the end I had to make a decision that felt right for me. I'm going to study at Parsons in New York City!

Plan a visit to the campus. This will offer a great opportunity to get a feel for the culture of the school and its surroundings. Are you looking for a big campus? Is diversity important to you? No chance to visit? Many universities offer virtual campus tours and robust 'Campus Life' sections on their websites that connect prospective students with students on campus. 
Joyce Tang
University Counsellor

I WAS ATTRACTED TO THE VIBE, CULTURE & CLASS SIZE

I had a difficult decision because I received a scholarship from both Pratt and Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCIARC). In the end, I was more attracted to the vibe, culture, and class sizes at SCIARC.

Unique Film Programmes

THE FILM PROGRAMME OFFERS MORE HANDS-ON FILM EXPERIENCE

I wanted to find a programme designed to provide a more hands-on, practical experience with film production. I considered location as well because I wanted to study outside the Lower Mainland, but still in Canada. I chose a school in Toronto with a reputable, prestigious programme in a central, urban location.

I HAVE THE OPPORTUNITY TO ATTEND TWO SCHOOLS

I will be attending NYU for my freshman year, and then USC for the following years. I wanted to attend a prestigious film school, so having the opportunity to do this in Hollywood is a dream come true! In the application process, I customised my portfolio accordingly to improve my chances for acceptance into a US school. My deciding factors were location, prestige, available opportunities for practical experience, and opportunities for networking.

THE BIGGEST FACTOR IN MY DECISION WAS SIMPLY INSTINCT

My choices in application were first and foremost driven by my passion for acting and filmmaking. I chose schools that have renowned programmes in these fields, some in Canada and others in the States (i.e. York, Ryerson, Concordia, SFU, Chapman, and USC). Given the incomparable level of resources related to film production/acting that lie in the US, as well as their competitive nature, Chapman (Major in Screen Acting) and USC (Major in Acting for Stage, Screen, and New Media) were always my top two choices. Finally, location was also a big factor, as I needed a place that I knew I would feel comfortable studying in for up to four years.

Heading to the United States

IT'S A WELL-ROUNDED PROGRAMME WITH NO LIMITS TO LEARNING

I applied to universities with strong engineering programmes, and which offered enriched experiences, such as studying overseas, internships, and clubs. I chose the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) primarily based on its programme. Location didn’t play a big factor in my decision because I knew that wherever I went, I wouldn’t be able to be close to my family. However, I did prefer somewhere far because I wanted to experience a new environment. 

MORE OPPORTUNITIES TO EXPLORE MY INTERESTS

I researched the top 10 universities for film studies, but knew I wanted to stay on the coast. NYU was my first choice, so I applied with an early decision to maximise my chances of getting in. NYU has a wide range of programmes outside my field of study that I am also attracted to and interested in exploring.

I CHOSE BERKELEY BECAUSE I WANTED TO PURSUE A DUAL DEGREE

One of the main influences on my selection process was location. From the beginning, I knew that I wanted to study in the US, so all but one of the schools I applied to were American institutions. Of course, the academic programmes offered were also a major deciding factor. I've always planned to pursue an interdisciplinary path of study, so I chose universities that I was confident would enable me to explore a diversity of subjects related to liberal arts and medicine. 

I ALWAYS KNEW I WANTED TO GO TO UNIVERSITY IN THE STATES

First, I wanted to go to the United States, so choosing to apply to the US was obvious. Second, I wanted to attend a medium sized private university, so that helped my narrow down my choices. I chose to apply to Northwestern as my early decision school because it had the best balance between everything I wanted from academics, to location, to campus life, to its unique programmes and opportunities. 

Question your pre-conceived notions. I started this process thinking I wanted to go to a school in a large coastal city. Dartmouth, my final choice, is neither in a city, nor a coast, but I love it! Keeping an open mind is the best advice I could give future grads.
Daisy Harris
-Head Girl, Class of 2017

WE DECIDED AS A FAMILY THAT RUTGERS WOULD BE THE BEST FIT

I went directly to Mrs. Tang, one of Mulgrave's University Counsellors. Together, we looked at many different factors to narrow down my selection of potential universities, including location, rankings, class size, and programmes. After while, we were able to get the list down to 10 schools. Then, I brought in my parents to meet with Mrs.Tang and made the final selections together.