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The Benefits of Early Post-Secondary Planning for High School Students

The benefits of post-secondary planning

There is a common misconception that many high schoolers are under – that post-secondary planning can wait until the Fall of Grade 12. The application deadline for OUAC is generally January 15 (or thereabouts), and the OCAS deadline is even more generous – there is lots of time! Right?

Not wrong but – risky? Sure, your OUAC application won’t open until October at the earliest, but by doing all of your prep work early, you will set yourself up for a much smoother application season secure in the knowledge that you aren’t missing any opportunities.

Time and time again, I have worked with students who decide in mid-December that they would like to apply to UBC, not realizing that they had to have applied by December 1st to be considered for their major scholarships. Or they decide in January to apply to Queen’s Commerce, giving them now only a few weeks, on top of studying for exams or midterms, to write that all-important PSE. That January 15 date that OUAC posts can be deceptive – that is the deadline for most Ontario programs, but there are several excellent reasons to get your application in well in advance of that date. Below, see the timeline I suggest all those applying to post-secondary follow in order to make their Grade 12 year as stress-free as possible.

Winter/Spring Grade 11

Meet with your guidance counsellor!

Know exactly what you want to do? Great! Bounce your ideas off of them, pick their brain for tips and tricks regarding applications to those programs, and ask them about anything to avoid, or to be aware of. Do they know of any changes coming down the pipeline for next year? Is there anything you are missing that you can do over the summer – may be gathering more volunteer experience, or taking an online course?

Have no idea what you want to do? Great! The world is your oyster. Talk to your guidance counsellor about your interests, what courses you have enjoyed, and which you hope to never see again. Ask them if they have any good career planning resources that can help you narrow down your options. When in doubt – follow your gut. This is a whole other entry unto itself, but keep in mind that you are not planning out your life right now – just the four years following graduation – so take the pressure off! Trust your own instincts and know that it is ok to change your mind. For students who have absolutely no idea what they want to do at this stage, my suggestion is always this – cast a wide net. In reality, no hard decisions need to be made until May of Grade 12, so keep your options open!

Summer Before Grade 12

Research, and make a plan!

This is your chance to make a game plan for yourself. If you already know the programs you want, do some further research on them – check out the first-year courses, who the Professors are, and what graduates tend to do after completing the program. Take this time as well to make sure you aren’t missing any programs or schools that you may have overlooked. If you are still undecided, use this time to make a list of schools or programs that interest you. If you are able, visit the campuses, speak with current students and alumni, ask questions! And don’t let COVID restrictions (or distance) stop you – each school has a wealth of virtual tours, Q&A sessions, and online resources to help you figure out if they are the right fit for you.

Make your list of programs now, and write down all of the due dates that accompany those programs. Deadlines to apply, deadlines for any supplemental pieces, and any dates of note regarding scholarships or early decision. Keep in mind, too, that out-of-province application deadlines are often different than Ontario – so write those down in your calendar!

This is also your time to research scholarships and to make note of their deadlines. Many of these will be due January/February, but keep in mind that some are much earlier. Some will also require you to be sponsored by your school, like the Loran, the Queen’s Chancellor, or the Western National, so make sure your guidance counsellor knows your intentions early. Keep in mind most schools have an internal application deadline to decide who their nominees will be, so make sure you know when your school’s internal deadlines are as well.

high school students in Ontario

Fall of Grade 12

This is it – all of your hard work and early preparation have paid off. Applications typically open around October for most schools across Canada, so get them in as soon as you are able. I always ask my students to have their applications complete before the December break, leaving them free to work on any supplementals which all tend to be due early in the new year. Since you already have a list of schools and dates, you can now spend your time looking at schools you may have overlooked, or programs that you may have been unsure about. Talk to your guidance counsellor again – a final check-in before applying. Run your ideas past them, get any last-minute trips or strategies, and ask them if you may be forgetting any programs or schools that they think could be a good fit for you.

By planning early, you will avoid the rush and anxiety of having to make decisions and do research while balancing your Grade 12 courses. You will know without a doubt that you have not missed any deadlines and will be secure in the knowledge that you have a list of programs that you are excited about, and that fit you well.

Apex Academy Online offers self-paced online high school courses. You can enroll and start any day of the year and our expert guidance counsellors will be happy to help you with post-secondary planning.

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