The 5 questions to ask yourself when choosing a study program
Interview by Mathieu St-Onge, Communications Advisor to the Fédération des cégeps
Each year, thousands of high school seniors see March 1st approaching on their calendars with much excitement and sometimes a hint of anxiety. This date corresponds to the deadline to complete their first time application for admission to CEGEP *, a choice that will possibly determine the course of their lives for years to come. Which training program to choose? But before answering this ultimate question, one must first find the answers to other equally important questions.
Here are the five key questions to ask yourself when choosing a college program according to experts in the matter!
- What motivates me?
“Motivation is strongly linked to the importance we place on a task, project or objective. When what we do makes sense for us, we are more able to go forward despite the obstacles we might encounter along the way. When choosing a career, we can’t know with certainty what we will like in the years to come; however, what we already like is a good indicator.” _Nadia Richard, Guidance Counsellor, Collège Ahuntsic
“It is common to have many interests that are as interesting as they are diverse, and it becomes difficult to decide for fear of missing opportunities. Despite the differences between your options, they have several points in common. For example, if you like architecture, psychology and nutrition, it is possible you prefer meeting people on an individual basis (accompany, advise, etc.), that you like resolving problems within a structured framework, or even that you simply want to see people satisfied. Identifying where your interests coincide can assist you in your reflection.” — Jean-François Jarry, Guidance Counsellor, Collège de Maisonneuve
“Many students often say they want to help, they want to make a difference in the world, in society, in the lives of people close to them. They want to feel useful. For some students, this raises the question of the meaning of the trade or program they will choose.” — Cégep de Granby guidance counselling team
- What values do I hold dearly?
“At the college level, a vocational choice is more than simply choosing a program; often, reflection broadens to include other aspects, such as lifestyle sought-after, major values, future aspirations and work-life balance. These elements are at the very heart of our identity as an individual, citizen and future worker.” — Cégep Limoilou guidance counselling team
“There is no perfect profession or program. But in order to make an informed choice that corresponds with who I am intrinsically, it is important to consider the values that are most important to me, those for which no compromise would be possible. There is a difference between enjoying a good salary and putting this as the primary selection criteria, for example.” — Véronique St-Pierre, Guidance Counsellor, Cégep de Thetford
- What level of education suits me?
“Education in high school is more concrete and practical, with learning by modules. At the college level, general knowledge courses like philosophy and literature are not always in direct link with the targeted profession. University studies include several theoretical and conceptual classes which may not be right for everybody.” — Maryse Fontaine, Guidance Counsellor, Cégep de Drummondville
“Choosing a post-secondary study program is often one of the first important decisions young adults will make. They are not always aware of the extent of their possibilities. Sometimes, they forget to look at themselves and become lost. What is important for me in my studies? For example, if I like helping out and the tangible, maybe I will be happier In a pre-university humanities program.” — Elsa Ebacher-Mercure, Cégep Montmorency
“If I’m heading towards a university education, then a pre-university DEC is preferred, because it takes only 2 years and is a good preparation for university studies (usually 3 years for a BA). However, some technical DECs also allow the transition of a DEC- BA to be interesting for an equivalent period of time, 3 years of CEGEP and 2 years of university for some programs. If I prefer to apply for vocational training, technical programs should be my choice, because they lead directly to a trade.” — Chantal Shank, Academic Assistant, Cégep de Drummondville
- What program or programs offer the most interesting courses for me?
“It is important to take the time to explore, because there’s probably more than one option that would suit me. When we take the time to look at course content and the characteristics of a program, we have more elements available to identify what works for us. If I have an employment project, do I know what to expect? It is also important to inquire specifically about the type of job you want, because sometimes idealizing the image of a profession can lead to disappointment once reality sets in.” — Nadia Richard, Guidance Counsellor, Collège Ahuntsic
“Do I thrive on general culture and really enjoy humanities as I discover psychology, sociology and the history of all eras? Too often, students chose humanities by default. They tell me that they chose humanities by eliminating pure science and the arts. But here they stop thinking, when there are so many other options! If I devour ten books a month, why not choose a DEC in arts and letters, option literature?” — Elsa Ebacher-Mercure, Guidance Counsellor, Collège Montmorency
“Do the courses in the program I want interest me? Take the time to learn more about the targeted program and explore it in depth. One of the ways that I highly recommend is by trying the Student for a Day program ** that allows you to experience a day of classes in the program of your choice.” — Chantal Shank, Academic Assistant, Cégep de Drummondville
- What happens if I’m in the wrong program?
“Beyond the questions of who I am and what do I like, it’s stressful to make a lifestyle choice! Making a mistake is possible and maybe I'm not on a straight path. Realizing we don’t like a profession or field of study is also learning about ourselves. Consequences of a bad choice, such as being delayed in the process, do not outweigh the confirmation of a career choice. I must choose a program for March 1… maybe I’ll make the right choice or maybe not. If I question myself during the first semester concerning the choice I made, I can ask my guidance counselor to help me see things more clearly. Meanwhile, I will have learned more about myself. Remember, CEGEP is a place of learning, sharing and discovery!” — Catherine Boucher, Guidance Counsellor, Cégep de Matane
“Many students lose all motivation or are overwhelmed with anxiety before consulting a professional in career counselling. Don’t wait! When you take care of it early, you have a longer period of reflexion with better information. At one time, career counseling was simply matching an individual with a job. Now, it’s more helping a person to participate in the development of society. We’re not here to tell you what to do, but rather provide you with options and solutions that will allow you to reach your full potential while clarifying your aspirations.” — Jean-François Jarry, Guidance Counsellor, Collège de Maisonneuve
*A “round” is a part of the registration period, when a student applies for the first time or changes his/her choice if refused during the previous round. For returning to school next fall, the deadline to complete his/her application is March 1, 2017, for the second round it's April 20, 2017 and the third round is May 25, 2017. Source : Service régional d’admission du Montréal métropolitain (SRAM)
** Offered in most CEGEPs, the Student for a Day program allows you to experience the life of a college student for a day. It allows you to attend a class, to visit a Department, to meet a professor or the program coordinator to validate your program choice, or even your choice of a CEGEP. The program can vary from one field of study to another and from one institution to another.