Tag Archives | university fair

Image by COD Newsroom, Flickr

Image by COD Newsroom, Flickr

The Ontario Universities’ Fair takes place in September every year (in 2014 you can check them out from September 19-21). When I attended, oh-so-long ago, I remember feeling confused. There were so many schools in attendance and I had no idea what to say to them. General questions that popped into my head, such as “is it a good school?” or “is it a popular program?” had no merit – every school would answer “yes” and it didn’t help me figure out which school I actually wanted to attend. So that you don’t end up wasting your precious weekend hours, here are a few tips to make the trip a useful one:

Before you go…

Tip #1: Figure out your top fields of study

Many students don’t know the answer to “What do you want to be when you grow up?” You’re young. You can’t be expected to plan out your entire future at the age of 17. But for the purposes of selecting a program to study, try to have an idea of what interests you. That’s what high school is for. Which classes do you prefer? Which ones do you excel in? If you can narrow it down to one field, great. If not, pick two, max three (if you have more than that, you’ll be exploring a General Arts or Undecided program). The good thing is, you still have another 3-4 years of studying in this field to figure out a career that’s right for you.

Tip #2: Rank your priorities

Figure out what will make or break a school or program for you. Will you cross a school off your list if it’s a long commute? Will you favour a school that boasts smaller class sizes? Make a chart (if you’re a visual person) listing all the schools you want to talk to, along with all the features you want to know about. When you ask your questions, you can easily check off ones that meet your requirements.

Tip #3: Do some research on schools

Before attending the fair, use your priority list to find out the top schools in the province, and the top schools for your specific programs of interest. If you can narrow your search down to the top 5-10 schools, you have a fantastic starting point.

Tip #4: Figure out whereabouts you want to study

Do you want to live at home or in residence? Do you like the big city feel or small town? If you’re open to anything, that’s great – just make sure to keep your budget (or your parents’ budget) in mind. Speaking of which…

Tip #5: Decide on a general budget

Remember that different schools and programs can run you varying costs. Residence and meal plan costs can add up and you may need to explore student loans. If commuting to school, you may need to consider costs of public transportation or purchasing a car. It’s best to have the “money talk” with your family and decide what you’re comfortable spending or borrowing.

While you’re there…

Tip #6: Try not to feel intimidated

Be prepared for a lot of students, parents, and booths. Be patient and remember these students are all in the same spot as you, and are likely asking many of the same questions. Feel free to listen to what other students ask; maybe the reps will answer a question you didn’t know you had. The fair will hand out a map of the area so you can easily find which booths you want to target. You may need to wait in line to speak to a representative, so it’s best to arrive with sufficient time. The Ontario Universities’ Fair has a great online resource you should look at before you attend.

Tip #7: Talk to student representatives

Many schools will bring current students as representatives, and in some cases, they are even better at answering your questions than administrative reps. Picture these current students as the “future you”. Ask them how they like it. Ask them what their favourite parts of the campus and program are – and more importantly, their least favourite parts. Students are likely to give you an honest view of what you can expect.

Tip #8: Pick up program-specific pamphlets

Many schools might tell you that the program details are online. If you’re a more visual analyzer, pick up the pamphlets there to bring home and you can directly compare the details for each school. The more information you have, the better prepared you’ll be to make your decision.

Tip #9: Ask about everything

There are no stupid questions. Ask about eligibility, the program, and costs. Ask about the campus. Ask about services offered to students. Whatever you can think of, now is your time to ask it. You’re not on the spot here – the schools are. Grill them to your heart’s desire. The Ontario Universities’ Fair put together a great list of questions to give you a starting point.

Tip #10: Be organized, but don’t limit yourself

You’ve prepared your questions and your top schools. Chances are you’ll make a beeline for those when you arrive – and that’s good. Take notes, because you’ll likely forget a lot of the answers when you leave. Once you’ve finished talking to your preferred schools, keep an open mind about everything else. Maybe there’s a school you forgot to research in advance. Maybe there’s a presentation starting soon about a school you haven’t talked to.

Good luck at the fair! For more tips, follow @OntarioUniFair on Twitter, or check out our review of the 2013 Ontario Universities’ Fair.

York University, University of Toronto, and the University of Western Ontario booths at Ontario Universities' Fair

York University, University of Toronto, and the University of Western Ontario booths at Ontario Universities’ Fair

The 2013 Ontario Universities’ Fair took place on the weekend of September 27-29. With all 21 Ontario universities and more than 121,000 students in attendance (as tweeted by @OntarioUniFair), it would seem the popular annual event was a success. But how do you really know?

We got a hold of Fair attendees Catherine and Christian, grade 12 students from two Toronto-area high schools. Here are their responses from our interview:

Did you know what schools you wanted to talk to at the Fair? Did you have specific programs in mind?
CATHERINE: I knew two of the universities I wanted to talk to, but I was open to other schools. I am interested in French Teaching, and I focused mainly on the universities that offer this program.
CHRISTIAN: Before I went to the Fair I heard that it was going to be tough to get around due to the overwhelming amount of people attending, so I analyzed the top programs and schools I was interested in. I narrowed it down to five schools and programs and stuck to finding out more about those. My broad selection of schools and programs was spread out across Ontario: Queen’s Commerce, Schulich’s IBBA, Brock’s Sports Management, University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management, and Western’s Richard Ivey School of Business.

Did you do research on these schools and programs before the Fair?
CATHERINE: I did research on one of the universities’ websites before going to the Fair. I also received information from an administrator who came to my school last year to talk to us about their French program, and I’ve talked with parents I know whose children attend the university.
CHRISTIAN: I did research on each school prior to my visit. I asked guidance counsellors about specific programs I was interested in, and I researched schools on the internet to find out about admissions.

Did you find it easy to access and talk to the people you wanted to at the Fair?
CATHERINE: Yes. Each booth had well-defined areas where you were able to easily find the representatives.
CHRISTIAN: I found that the better-known universities (Queen’s, York, Western etc.) were hard to get information from as there were hordes of people in front of the booths. Unfortunately, I think the larger universities did a poor job of making their schools approachable, as there were hardly any representatives roaming around. However, weaving through the crowds to get questions answered was entirely possible, and just required some patience.

Did you talk to students or administrators? If both, which one did you find more useful?
CATHERINE: I talked to the administrators at the Fair; I found them helpful because they explained the types of programs offered, and gave me a general feel of what their university would be like.
CHRISTIAN: When approaching universities with questions about admissions, I spoke to students. Their answers provided me with insight on the kind of experience the school would offer. There were few administrators for each booth, and they were almost always occupied.

What questions did you ask?
CATHERINE: I asked many of the same questions to each school: do you have a French teaching program? What courses do I have to take? Do you offer scholarships? How much is residence and what is included? Does your program offer travelling, exchange or taking a course abroad? What teachables do you offer?
CHRISTIAN: My questions were tailored to the specific programs. For example, I asked a Brock representative about their sports management program, and the internship that intertwines with the program.

Did you get the information you were looking for? Were you left with any unanswered questions?
CATHERINE: I got the information that I needed, and much more than I expected. I was left with a few unanswered questions, but they are ones I should easily be able to find online.
CHRISTIAN: I had some specific questions I thought would be difficult to answer, if at all. However, I was pleasantly surprised; questions such as if the iBBA offered an internship in Germany, and whether the sports management program at Brock had a connection with Sportsnet, were answered in a split second.

Did they offer up any information you didn’t think to ask about?
CATHERINE: They made me aware of the changes coming to the teaching program and how it will affect me with more years of study combined with more practicums in the program.
CHRISTIAN: The universities created booklets that contained incredible information from admissions to tuition to programs, and everything in between. These gave me much more information than I thought I needed.

Were you attracted to the booths of any schools you were not originally interested in?
CATHERINE: There were some booths that caught my eye with their French and teaching signs. I approached their booths and talked to their representatives about what programs they offer to make sure I make an informed decision.
CHRISTIAN: One particular booth that stood out was that of the University of Windsor. Their booth was centred around an ice hockey shooting strip, where you could shoot to win Toronto Maple Leaf tickets. The idea was to promote the school’s reputation with their strong tie to Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment. It was a great way to draw students in.

When you left, were you interested in other schools or programs you hadn’t thought about before the Fair?
CATHERINE: After seeing the different universities and learning about their programs, my interest was piqued and I looked up their websites to learn more about how their benefits compared to other universities.
CHRISTIAN: I became more interested in a sports management program after learning about its reputation and offerings.

Did you attend any of the school’s presentations? Did you find them useful?
CATHERINE: I did not attend to any of the presentations.
CHRISTIAN: I attended University of Toronto’s presentation. I definitely found it useful, as it went in depth about offered programs, specifically, the Rotman School of Business and the different majors within the program, which I was unclear about prior to the presentation.

Do you think attending the Fair helped your decision on what schools and programs to apply for?
CATHERINE: I think attending the Fair was helpful because I was able to ask questions that the websites didn’t answer. It was an easy way for me to see what each university offers.
CHRISTIAN: Not necessarily, as my primary choice was not swayed. However, my secondary choices were definitely influenced by the Fair.

What were the best and worst parts of the Fair for you?
CATHERINE: The best part of the Fair was receiving materials on the programs offered, costs, and general information about the university. I liked being able to talk to many different representatives and just have access to other universities. The Fair was unfortunately very crowded (even though I went on the Friday), and it was overwhelming at times because I wasn’t sure what to ask.
CHRISTIAN: The best part of the Fair was definitely being able to get answers to my questions from the representatives; I can’t think of a more viable source than being face-to-face with people from the school. The worst part of the Fair was having to weave through the hordes of people in order to receive booklets and ask questions. This was expected, understandable, and inevitable, with 120,000+ students, parents and educators attending the event within a weekend.

Would you recommend the Fair to other students?
CATHERINE: I would recommend going to the Fair, and if you do, go with your parents so they’re also aware of what the university offers and the costs involved. It is very interesting to find out what universities are out there and it is helpful for those who don’t know what they want to do in the future.
CHRISTIAN: Most definitely! The Fair is an incredible place to get valuable information, receive answers to your all-important questions, and even to meet new people.

For more information on the Ontario Universities’ Fair, visit www.ouf.ca. Ready to apply? Here are some tips on Applying to Ontario Universities.