As my first semester of university comes to a close, I am beginning to reflect on what a rollercoaster ride the past year has been. A year ago, I was beginning to receive acceptances to a few schools, and anxiously awaiting the response from the many others I had applied to. It was an incredibly nerve-wracking and stressful time in my life, filled with unanswered questions, while trying to make sure my calculus mark stayed above the cut-off average I needed for acceptances.

In the end, it all worked out. I’m studying International Development and Globalization at the University of Ottawa and blogging about student life: what it’s like to be in first year university and living with a student budget.

Still, there are all sorts of things I wish I had known a year ago when I was choosing which school to attend.

Lessons learned choosing a university

I wish someone had told me that the decision you make isn’t forever binding. I wish someone had told me that not getting into the ‘school of my dreams’ wasn’t the end of the world.

It would have been nice to have known that my chosen program didn’t necessarily have to fill my pockets with money immediately after graduation, but rather, one that would make me happy, excited and that I would feel passionately about.

I wish someone had told me all of these things, but at the same time I am thankful I had the opportunity to discover them myself. After many trials and tribulations, I feel that I am exactly where I am supposed to be.

High school students considering college or university

The best advice I can provide for anyone in grade twelve, choosing their path for the next year, is to step outside of your comfort zone.

Don’t base your decisions off of a school that is most convenient. I would highly recommend moving away for post-secondary, for it has been the absolute best experience for me. It has made me become more independent, confident and sure of myself.

Of course, I miss home, but the experience is well worth the distance. Moving away for school can be intimidating and scary, but not moving away and having a mouthful of “what ifs?” is much worse.

Choosing the right program for you

Don’t do something just because your family, friends, etc. say it’s what you should do, be in a program that excites YOU, at a school that fits YOU. It is your life, it is your decision. And believe it or not, you CAN change your mind about your program, whether it’s in July or halfway through your degree. Admittedly, it may be a tough decision and tricky to navigate in terms of finances and logistics but, it is possible and can be worth the extra effort in the long run.

I understand how stressful it can be to choose a university.  I changed my entire plan for post-secondary half way through grade 12, then in the spring, and then again in the summer! Despite this, I feel so content with my choices. I am passionate about what I’m studying. I’m doing it for me, because it’s the program that I want to be in and what I’m excited about. Whatever you do, take chances, take risks and don’t fear the fall, it’ll be worth it.