So you’ve accepted your admission offer at the Canadian university of your choice, picked your courses for your first term, and booked your flight tickets. What happens now? Before you embark on your journey, it’s important to understand how the academics work and what to expect from your campus life.
- Registering for courses : Once you pay the tuition deposit for your first term or first year (depending on the university’s payment scheme), you will get instructions on registering for your courses. The most important point is to make sure your courses and timetable are sorted before the first day of classes. The registration process is usually done online and seats fill up fast, so time is essential! Find out the required courses you need to take in first year for your degree, and plan your courses as such much before your course registration starts. Depending on the number of credits you need to complete per year, you may also have space for elective courses. Elective courses are ones outside the scope of your degree, which you can take to expand your knowledge. For example, if you are a business student, you could take an environmental disasters course as an elective, or media communications!
- How classes are conducted : Depending on your major, the courses you’ll have to take will be a mix of lectures, labs, tutorials, and discussions. Lectures follow the traditional way of teaching, with a professor teaching from PowerPoint slides and textbooks/notes. Usually, lectures seat between 50 to 300 students, and include group projects, assignments, and points for participation. Tutorials and discussions are for smaller groups of students, and are supplementary to lectures. They aim to have a more practical understanding of the lecture material. Tutorials and discussions rely heavily on group work, and have a small student to teacher ratio to maximize personal attention to students. Labs, as you may have guessed, involve practical laboratory work. If you are a science or engineering student, lab courses are part of your degree requirements and are either independent courses or part of a lecture course.
- Grading system : While the grading scheme differs from course to course, most faculties follow the same guidelines when deciding how a student earns a grade for a course. The final examination is typical 50% of the total grade, and students are required to pass the final to pass the course. There may be one, two, or even three midterms through the duration of the course, each between 10 to 45% of the total grade. Assignments, essays, presentations, and reports each will have their own weightage, depending on the type of course. Participation is also a small, but important component of your grade; it may be worth up to 10%!
- Career fairs: Career fairs may be campus-wide, faculty-wide, or accessible to students from a certain major. These fairs are the perfect opportunity to make a positive first impressions on the company representatives that attend the fairs (they are most likely HR executives, so don’t take it lightly!). Bring your updated resume, dress sharply and have a confident attitude. As you browse profiles of the visiting companies, stop by ones you have an interest in and introduce yourself. There are plenty of job fairs throughout the year. Don’t forget to talk to your guidance counselor and faculty advisors to find out when they are organized at the university.
- What employers look for : Don’t hesitate to showcase your talents and achievements throughout your university degree. Employers want to see you applying your university learning to practical situations so, if you have internship or volunteer experience related to your degree, make sure to emphasize on it! In addition, your soft skills really show through a face to face interaction with a recruiter. Employers want to see that you are able to communicate ideas clearly and confidently, and you are able to work effectively in a team setting. If you have leadership or coordinating experience, that helps as well. It shows that you can manage a group of people, and can effectively motivate them to achieve a goal.
- Getting involved :Once you reach the university and settle into your room, don’t hesitate to find out about how to get involved in the community. Volunteering, joining a student club, and being part of the student government are great ways to make new friends, explore the city, and make great memories! The culture and lifestyle of Canada may be quite different from your home country and you may feel a culture shock initially. However, instead of feeling homesick, embrace this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and make the most of it!
You may find that there are many differences in how classes are run, how professors teach, and how exams are conducted. If you have any doubts, feel free to reach out to the international students’ help-desk, or your guidance counselor at the university.