Student Health Education Centre
Last summer I had what I’ve now termed my “mid-undergraduate-crisis.” Until then, I hadn’t realized how stressful figuring out my future could be. It was always a vague haze, far away from my present, and I gave it an equally vague, hazy title that would somehow sound concrete. I realized that not only the path I had always imagined myself taking was one of many, but also that I basically knew nothing about that initial path in the first place.
It was all very confused. I switched my projected career path about three times, gave my parents conniptions and took the mandatory trip to Europe to “figure myself out.”
How I determined my future path might not be how you choose to consider yours. But what I realized is that it’s never too early to think about your future. The worst that can happen is that you’ll change your mind.
And if you don’t know where to start, here are some tips and resources that I have found to be pretty useful.
Look around you
The faculty you’re a part of must reflect something that interests you – it was, after all, chosen by you. And the best part is, it’s full of resources that are potentially relevant to your own interests, like:
a. Volunteering opportunities: if you’ve dreamed of going away or just want to help out in the Hamilton community, your faculty has information on positions that may actually pertain to your field of interest.
b. Research: a position in research allows you to work with professionals and gain hands-on experience. Also look into getting a grant, like the USRA (Undergraduate Student Research Award).
c. Job shadowing: one of the easiest things to do is to get the email of someone with a job or career that interests you. Ask them if you can follow them around for a day (or two) to see what it is that they do.
d. Experiential education: this is a learning style that is really being pushed in different faculties, like Arts & Science and Social Sciences. You can get credits and experience – a pretty solid combination.
Look into specializing, combining, majoring, minoring (whatever is required in your program or faculty) in a subject of your interest.
a. What kinds of courses are required? Are you interested in taking them throughout your undergraduate, or do their titles just sound nice?
b. How many of the courses are required to meet the goal you’re aiming for? What kind of average do you need to maintain to continue on in the program of your choice?
It’s time to widen your sphere a bit. Even if you’re only in first or second year, it can be helpful to get an idea of where you want to go, just to see what it takes to get there.
a. Ask yourself: what graduate programs, future jobs or internships interest you? Which ones are available to you? Or, look into internships or jobs available in your field – you can try looking through company websites and agencies or updating your LinkedIn profile. Go to networking events and job fairs.
b. Start by researching. Where do you want to study or work after completing your undergraduate? Maybe you want to go back to your hometown, or maybe anywhere in Ontario/Canada/the world works for you.
c. Check out what kinds of grades are considered. Some professions, like Chartered Accountancy, have exams that require a certain GPA (in this case, the UFE).
d. Speaking of which, are there any standardized tests that you’re required to take? (More on this in the next section!)
e. Finally, what’s the application process like? Do you require a certain number of research hours? Do you have to put together a portfolio? Will you be interviewed?
As an undergraduate student, you’re already swamped with midterms, essays, assignments and finals. Time to consider the possibility of one more…
Here are some of the most popular tests:
a. LSAT: “Law School Admission Test” – the name says it all.
b. MCAT: “Medical College Admission Test” – this is for students applying to medical school, or a health professions school for allopathic, osteopathic, podiatric or veterinary medicine.
c. GMAT: “Graduate Management Admission Test” – for students planning on getting their MBA or applying to other management education programs.
d. GRE: “Graduate Record Examinations” – this is a test that is required for a huge range of different graduate programs.
e. Finally, there are different tests depending on your chosen path, such as the DAT (“Dental Aptitude Test”) for dentistry school, the OAT (“Optometry Admission Test”) for optometry, the HRM exam for “Human Resource Management” and the CFA exam for “Chartered Financial Analyst,” to name a few.
Look at your study habits. Would a prep course help? Would it fit into your budget? If you decide on taking a prep course, you’re going to have to pick one. Kaplan, The Princeton Review and Prep 101 are amongst some of the most popular. Each has its own strengths – choosing one is up to you!
The future can be stressful. But it can be argued that what’s the most stressful is simply considering it, without doing anything about it. Sometimes taking action is the most effective method of ridding yourself of stress.