How not to choose a school

By Rob Taylor

By now, you may have been inundated with people giving you advice on how to choose a school. But maybe you don't know very much about the pitfalls that people don't talk about.

Don't follow your friends to school
Hopefully, your friends are doing research to find the best school for each of them. This means that unless you are exactly the same as your friends, and have exactly the same goals in life, the school they choose will probably not be the school best suited to you. Do your own research and choose your own school.

Don't follow your boyfriend/girlfriend to a school
So, even though Legally Blonde might be a good movie and Felicity was a good television show (while Keri Russell's hair was long), following your significant other to school is a poor choice for the same reason that following your friends to school is. If it's meant to be, then your relationship will survive being apart for the school year.

Don't go to a school just because your parents went there
If it does not have the program you want, then going to a certain school because your parents went there is not a good idea. Are you your mother or father? No, probably not, unless you have defied the laws of science and travelled back in time to become a living paradox! (In which case, maybe choosing a school is the least of your problems.) For the same reasons why the school your friends go to might not be the school for you, the school your parents went to might not be the right school for you.

Don't go to the school down the road (unless they have the program you want)
I know it's tempting. The school down the road means that you don't have to worry about moving out or traveling. You already know all the cool hangouts and how to get around because you live close by. However, unless the school has the exact program you want, then it's like fitting a square peg in a round hole.

We talk to a lot of schools here at and from what they tell us, they'd really prefer that you fit into a program at their school academically rather than just choosing them just because they happen to be close by.

Don't let anyone discourage you
Seriously, don't. If you want to be a library technician and you've done your research to confirm your desire, then apply to a school for a library technician program. Don't let anyone tell you that you are not smart enough to get into that school or program. Apply. The worst that happens is that you don't get in and you have to apply for a different program. (Or find out why you were rejected and fix those problems and then apply again.) There's always going to be someone who thinks you're not smart enough, fast enough, tall enough, short enough or quick enough. As long as that person isn't you, what do they know about you, really? Only what you've shown them. Show them they're wrong.

Don't watch a movie or TV show and decide that's what you want to do
OK. After two years of constant e-mail messages, I can now reveal the career that we receive the most amount of inquires about: wedding planners. It's because of that Jennifer Lopez movie The Wedding Planner. I'm almost sure of it. Listen, it ain't like the movies. You will not be Jennifer Lopez and you will not meet Matthew McConaughey and you most certainly will not steal him away from his bride-to-be, not if you ever want to work as a wedding planner ever again.

Don't get me wrong – if you've got the chops for it, and it's your life's work and your calling, and you've done all sort of research, including shadowing a wedding planner while they work, then by all means, make an appointment with a guidance counsellor and talk about it. Then talk to your parents. Then talk to your friends. Then talk to some wedding planners. Then talk to your parents again.

Whew! I went on there, didn't I? Felt good though.

Also, a few educational professionals are a little concerned about the number of people interested in becoming police officers and crime scene investigators. Thank you CSI and Law & Order!

When you apply for a school, consider non-fictional influences on your program choices. You might even want to give them more weight than your fictional influences.

Don't be afraid to go out of the city you live in, the province you're in or even your country
Though I'm perfectly happy with the education I received in Canada, both degrees, I wish that I had gone outside the province or the country at least for one year. How cool would it have been to study English literature in England? I don't know, because I didn't do it, but I'd wager pretty cool.

Similarly, if you live in a place like Saskatchewan, you may want to go someplace else if your dream job is to be a marine biologist.

Don't be afraid to ask for more information
It's there if you want it. Visit the profiles of the schools you are interested in on View their e-tours™ and visit their Web sites. If you can't find what you are looking for there, contact them for and ask them to send you information or ask them specific questions. It never hurts to know a bit more and the schools you are interested in want to get you that information.

And in the end there is you (and your homework)
There are many other don'ts out there to think of, and many more dos, but in the end, choosing a school comes down to one thing – homework. You've got to research yourself and find out what you're good at and what you want to do and what you want out of life. Then you have to find a school that offers programs that fits into those goals. Then, all you have to do is choose.

Modified on April 23, 2009