All of a sudden the world has went and joined 2014. Everyone celebrates a new year differently, but to me it’s a time of reflection and renewal. A lot of eAmbassadors have been writing about a word that 2014 will come to define for them; I’ve chosen dedication.
Dedication is devoting yourself to a cause or goal; a measure of your commitment to the things you call important. There’s many things we like to associate ourselves with, many causes, people, ideas, routines, but very few that we actually commit to and dedicate ourselves to. I’d say the easiest way to describe it is the commitment you make in marriage; while I’m not rushing into marriage, I want to make the same commitment that you find there to the causes of my life.
Everyone has their own commitments, and as you transition into university, you’re going to find a whole new range to dedicate yourself to. Your choice of university is a dedication in itself; committing your four years, money and attention to the school you choose. Making that decision means you need to know what is most important to you, or your choice might not give you the chance to dedicate yourself to what you care most about.
There’s a fairly standard list of things people look at when choosing universities, filled with things like student experience, student support, faculty and academics, reputation, sports, and school spirit. Every school goes about these things in unique way, and when you’re choosing a school, you want to find a school that complements your own interests. For example, if extracurricular activities are important to you – things like clubs, student government, activism, etc – you might pay particular attention to how the schools you apply to offer that university experience. Maybe that will lead to a large school with hundreds of clubs; maybe to a small school where getting involved is easy and not intimidating.
As you get acceptance offers, it’s really easy to throw yourself behind an offer from a school because of money, or earliness, or other perks they might offer with your acceptance. Money is always a concern, but if you want to get the most out of your university experience, don’t sell your interests out. A free (or cheaper) education may not be as valuable if it doesn’t offer the things you value the most. Remember, the diploma you leave school with is fairly similar between all schools – what you do with your experience in university is what makes that diploma more than a piece of paper. Dedicate yourself to the things you care about most – if a school with a good ‘reputation’ (a very subjective term) doesn’t give you the chance to play your favourite sport while there, you might want to consider finding a school that will allow you to be dedicated to that sport and your academics.
My sister is starting to get her acceptances now, and she’s starting to make these decisions, too. She wants a university with a strong English program; one with a value of sports (especially volleyball), a strong community, and a safe, smaller urban environment. When she chooses schools, she has to choose which of these mean the most, and which university matches her best.
There’s a lot you can do now to find the university that’s best for you. First, think about what you want to get out of university beyond classes. Maybe it’s graduating top of class. Maybe it’s staying fit and in sports. Maybe it’s becoming the president of the student union. Write them down.
Secondly, connect with students at the schools you’ve applied to. Ask them how to go about meeting those commitments, and how their school will make it best for you. If you can, visit the campus. Experiencing the campus for yourself will help you get a feel for it.
Next, when you start getting some of these answers, keep track of how different schools help you fulfill your dedications. Keep a pro and con list, if that’s how you think. You could even make a blog of it 😉
When it comes time to make your choice, you’ll have an idea of how each school will support you in reaching the commitments you make and dedicating yourself to more than just your classes. Focus on that before you think about scholarships and finances – figure out which school you would choose first if nothing else mattered.
Lastly, don’t listen to what people say about your choices. Every teacher and advisor has his or her own opinion as to what school is the best choice. I’ll admit to being biased myself! Those opinions usually aren’t based on people actually going to that school; if you want a better idea, talk to students and graduates of the schools you’re interested in.
I chose Glendon for several reasons. I had a strong desire to involve myself, after not being very involved in high school. I wanted somewhere I could accept and celebrate my identity as a Queer person. I wanted a school that challenged me to continue studying French, one with the chance to experience the world. I wanted to dedicate my university experience to more than my classes – I wanted an exchange, campus involvement, French classes, and a feeling of acceptance. These commitments led me to Glendon, where I felt my personal dedications were celebrated and encouraged by the school.
This year I’m rededicating myself to those choices again. I’m putting my energy into my clubs, running again for student government, moving back onto res, and planning my schedule next year to have more French courses. As you finish up high school, remind yourself of what you’ve dedicated yourself to, and find yourself a university that will work to help you meet those commitments!