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Toronto, Canada

312 Adelaide Street West, Suite 301
Toronto, Ontario - M5V 1R2
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7-Step Guide To Finding The Right School For YOU

Written by Raven Wilkinson

Photos by Jason Wong, Vadim Sherbakov, and Vasily Koloda

This step-by-step guide will help you narrow down your options and choose the program that works for you!

Deciding which school to attend is no easy feat. With so many potential career goals and factors to consider, you can get lost in the sauce and not know where or how to begin. Fortunately, your girl is here to help.

Graduating high school or thinking of continuing your education with a post-grad credential? I’ve created this simple guide for choosing the best school for you!

Choose a program


What am I interested in? What do I want to do when I’m done school? These are the questions you should ask yourself when deciding on programs. Reflect on the high school or university courses that excited you and then look for related programs. Also, think about where you see yourself after graduation and choose a program that will help you get there. Unless you’re interested in a more traditional program like English, Business, or Engineering, each school may have slightly different names for similar courses.

Use websites like Bachelors Portal, Master’s Portal, Top Universities, or Ontario Colleges. Additionally, google your desired program to gain a general idea of where it is offered. You may end up with a couple of programs in mind, and that’s okay!

Decide how wide you’d like to broaden your prospects

earth rotating

When I was applying for undergrad, I knew I would have to stay within commuting distance for financial reasons. However, when I applied for grad school, I wanted to expand my horizons and apply to further schools. This enabled me to gain the experience of being an independent lady. In the same way, think about the type of experience you’d like to gain and decide how far you would go to get it. That could mean living an hour away, in a different province or even overseas! Do you, boo-boo.

Create a list of your top schools

aladdin list

Now that you know which city/province/state/country you’d like to attend school, do a broad scan of universities with your program in that area. For example, if you’re looking in Ontario, there might be several schools that offer your program. Scan every school’s location, website, and program description to create a list of your top schools. This list can start out exhaustive. But once you research other factors at the school, narrow down that list to four or five institutions.

Review course calendars

retro thumbs up

This is one of the most helpful things you can do. You’re able to see the program’s required courses, potential electives and a list courses the school offers. When I was deciding on a journalism program, I reviewed the course calendar. Included on it was a course that would discuss the industry from the 1700s. (This may be an exaggeration but I remember it clearly in my mind. Yeah… no bueno for me!) Fortunately, when I looked at the program I eventually chose, the different course descriptions allowed me to get a better understanding of what I’d be learning. And I was much more excited!

You may also find an old course outline that can help you understand the assignments and readings you will be doing in that program.

Look at the School’s “University Life”

university life

Especially if you’re entering into an undergrad program, you’re going to be at one school for at least four years. Therefore, you should consider more than just your program. The school’s culture, atmosphere, extracurricular activities, student groups, sports, residence offerings, accessibility, and (of course) tuition costs are important factors. If you like the program and see a ton of non-academic groups and clubs that you would enjoy, this may act as a tie-breaker during your decision-making process. This also indicates a well-rounded and enriching university experience, which is the ideal outcome.

Narrow your list further

list on how to make new friends

Now that you’ve considered the program, the city, and the school itself, narrow your list further. When I was applying to university, we could only apply to three schools before having to pay an additional fee. I kept that same number when I applied to grad school. Realistically, you can only go to one school. There’s no need to apply to 10, especially if you’ve done enough research to eliminate ones that aren’t quite what you’re looking for. Narrowing down your choices saves you money and avoids confusion. That said, if you’re nervous that you won’t get into your first choice, you may want to apply to an extra school in case.


I made it to school

It’s time to apply! You’ve done your research and chosen the program that will set you up for a great career. Basically, you have a really good idea of where you want to spend the next two to four years of your life. All that’s left to do is apply to your top choices! Make sure you follow the instructions carefully, give yourself time to organize a portfolio and submit all the required documents on time.

A school, program, or academia will NOT define you as a person.

You’ve done the work and you’ve chosen what you think is best for you. Once you apply, it’s out of your hands. Be proud of yourself for taking this step, and feel hopeful about what’s to come in this next chapter of your life. Go and kill it!  

Looking for more? Try 4 Questions To Help You Decide If University Is For You.


Chance to Win 4 Years' Tuition

*Opinions expressed are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Student Life Network or their partners.