This weekend was OUF (which stands for the Ontario Universities Fair, not the sound I make when I stub my toe around children and am trying not to swear) which meant I got to spend Friday getting paid to lure students to the Glendon booth with my wicked cool dance moves (those of you who know me in person know that I 100% did this and are already feeling the second hand embarrassment).
But when I wasn’t busting a move on the YU red carpet I was hanging out with potential Glendonites, answering their questions, and pointing the occasional person to the Engineering booth (hey I get it, a small, bilingual, liberal arts based college isn’t for everyone, you do you boo).
Although the only thing I could think about that day was “Holy shit, y’all did your research.”
There were students, some as young as grade 9, with a notebook in hand and specific questions on the ready, making sure they got the answers they needed to make a sound and logical decision.
This made me reminisce about my own OUF experience, which didn’t go quite as smoothly.
Let’s throwback to Rebecca circa September 2014. A bright-eyed high school senior, who’s biggest issue was her student ID photo (I wore a white t-shirt and a blue bra…don’t worry I got to retake it for the yearbook). At this point I really believed that I knew exactly what I wanted in life and waiting to graduate was the only thing holding me back.
Then I went to OUF.
Now for those of you who’ve never been to OUF, let me break it down for you. It is basically giant-ass convention center that is filled with what seems like millions of booths from every school ever. These booths are then split up in sub-sections, but to make the whole situation even more overwhelming, every school does this splitting up a little differently. Some do it by program, others by faculty, and I’m pretty sure I saw at least one school split up their booth by Hogwarts house. On top of that you have these weird current students who are trying to tell you about getting your BA, or BSc, or BEd, or BFA, or BComm, or BPPE (Bachelors of Professional Pizza Eating).
I came home defeated, with bags of viewbooks from every school there, and a stress induced headache. It was the first time I realized that picking a University was not going to be as easy as I thought. I plopped down on my bed and began to cry.
So this post is for that girl, who looked many a student ambassador in the face with that deer in the headlights expression; not knowing what to do, what to say, or what to ask.
This one’s for you kid
Here are 5 Questions to Ask a Student Ambassador if you Want to Look Like you Know what you’re Doing.
Veuillez noter: These questions are meant for current student ambassadors a.k.a. the people giving you tours, working at booths, or writing funny and inspirational blogs. While they may know the basics when it comes to scholarships and grade averages it may be best to consult the experts when it comes to specifics regarding those areas. Student ambassadors are incredibly useful however at providing insight to what it’s like to be a student at [insert school name here] so you primarily should ask them questions about student life.
What has been your favourite part of your program/academic career so far?
A question that I used to ask a lot was “Do you like your program?” This is not a very effective question to ask because it’s pretty safe to say that anyone who is willing to spend the day repping their school likes their program (or is at least getting paid enough to pretend they like it). You will get a lot more useful information by finding out exactly what that student enjoys about that specific program. If what that student is passionate about sounds interesting to you then you are heading in the right direction; however if their favourite part of the program/school sounds like a total bore, it may be time to look elsewhere.
If you could change one thing about your school/program what would it be?
One of my high school teachers warned us about never taking advice from the University’s student ambassadors because they will never give you a truthful answer and are only there to make the school look good. But after working with Student Recruitment for a little over a year now I truly believe any ambassador worth her nametag can admit that no school or program is perfect. Wherever you decide to go you are going to have to make compromises but understanding the pros and cons of each school can help you decide what to prioritize.
What has been your favorite on-campus event?
This is a much better question than “Is this a party school?” because a) no ambassador is going to give a straight answer to that question and b) the term “party” is very subjective (my idea of a party is ordering sushi and eating in my room while watching a movie that none of my friends wanted to see). By figuring what types of events are popular at that particular school you may get better feel as to if that school is right for you.
What kind of skills will I gain from attending this school/program?
A lot of the time students will ask, “What job can I get with this degree?” and to be completely honest I don’t really have an answer. There is a big misconception (that I’ve fallen for as well) that a University degree is supposed to set you up for one specific job that you will get right out of school. Unfortunately that just isn’t the case. Even those people in school for professional degrees (i.e teachers, doctors, lawyers, etc.) may not get a job that is directly related to their field. So rather than focusing on the potential jobs you could get related to that degree, try to find out what skills you would be developing in order to be competitive in the job market.
How has this institution shaped who you are as a person?
Okay so this is a pretty deep question and may not be the right one to ask if there is a huge line of students behind you, but if you do find an ambassador with a little extra time on their hands this is an interesting discussion to have. In your late teens/early twenties you are changing and evolving constantly (I already feel like a completely different person than I was two weeks ago) so your goal is find a school that will help harvest that growth and eventually shape you into the person you wish to become.
Now of course there is so much more that you could ask about (res life, study spaces, supplementary apps, etc.) but hopefully these get you started in the right direction. I would also like to point out that you should ask multiple people these same questions in order to get a feel for the school and the types of students that go there. Also take note of what vibes the students give off. If when you are talking to your student ambassador you can imagine yourself becoming their best friend (or at least being able to deal with them if you’re forced to do a project together) you’re in the right place.
So over the next couple of months make sure you really get a feel for the schools you’re applying to by talking to a variety of people, coming for a campus tours, attending open houses, following the school on social media etc. etc.
Also remember I am always here for you to pick my brain so ask me questions until your heart’s content.
Deciding what school to pick is very stressful and scary. It might seem like everyone around you knows exactly what they’re doing and where they want to go but believe me they don’t. Do your research, trust your heart, and always remember that if 2014 Rebecca could do it, so can you.
À la prochain,
N.B Fellow eAmbassador Asha actually answered all these questions on her blog this week. Check her answers out here.