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Updated: Jun 5, 2021

Dear Ivy,

I am a grade 11 student and I have one major issue … I have no idea what I want to do in university. I’m doing okay in school, but I just don’t know where to start, especially because everyone around me knows what they want to do. I know I still have grade 12, but applications are typically due around November, and I have no clue where to start when considering possible careers or programs. Is there any advice you can offer?

- Studious Student

Hey Studious Student!

WOW! That is amazing that you will be applying to universities/colleges soon! This time can be both scary and exciting. You know, I love these questions about what to do in university and how to figure out what you want to do with the rest of your life. These questions are my favourite because I use to think I had the perfect answer, but it wasn’t until the last few years that I figured out what to say.

First things first, applications typically come out in October or November, but they aren’t due until January and some programs may even have the option to apply pretty late (as in into February)! So, I guess that’s a good thing to know that you have a little bit more time than you thought. Also… one thing I want to ask you is what do you like about school? What do you like to study in school? And what do you like in general? The answers to these 3 questions can begin to help you in your journey to figuring out what you want to do.

The important thing is to take a step back from societal pressures and ask yourself what you enjoy. This can be in any aspect – do you like building things, do you like science, do you like styling, do you like literature? Any questions that help you find the answers to what you like to do can help you in this journey. No one can answer these questions for you and so you must be as honest as you can with yourself.

When I was in grade 11, I had no clue what I wanted to study in university. At that point I was getting worried because so many people around me knew what to do and I was struggling. I knew I had to do something, so instead of focusing on 1 thing I started focusing on everything – and I mean everything. I began by exploring university programs for different universities on Then, I started to search up the different programs in colleges, different apprenticeships and even began thinking about taking another year of high school (a victory lap). I think I came up with around 50 or so programs and things that I could possibly think about doing. But even that was way too much. I then started to look at the benefits to the programs and see what careers come out of them. When I figured out what careers I could do with the programs I chose, I narrowed the list down further to the careers that interested me. I also found I enjoyed science a lot and I focused my search on fields related to science. Once I had some idea down, I talked with some professionals in the careers I had on my list and ask them some questions. It helped me get a better idea as to what goes on in the actual job field. Choosing one thing to do for the rest of your life can be very intimidating but there are so many resources available – in your school and online – that can help you narrow down your choices.

The great thing about the school year ending soon is that you have all summer to take your time and do the research to help you figure out what you want to do. I also suggest taking advantage of your teachers right now! I found that any time I asked my teachers about career advice, they provided me with solid ideas because they saw my strengths and weaknesses on a daily basis. Teachers are always there to help you out and support you. If you ask a teacher who you are comfortable with about your schooling options, they will be more than happy to help you out!

Another thing I want to leave you with is that nothing is permanent. If you find out what you want to do over the summer and realize in second year of university, you want to do something else – that is okay. It is okay to apply to general programs and explore courses during first year. It is okay to apply to a university with an undecided program for your first year. Sometimes you find out during first year that the program isn’t for you, and you want to switch – and that is perfectly okay. Nothing in life is permanent and change is not as scary as it seems. You will always have people around you to support you and help you make any changes.

I encourage you to explore all your options and experiment with new things. If you are worried about application deadlines, then set yourself up with a goal with a day you want to be ready for. In the meantime, take it easy and do your research on the different programs that interest you. Look at all the career options that look interesting to you. One thing I love saying – look back at what you wanted to be as a kid and see if there is anything related to that, because childhood dreams should never be forgotten.

You are wonderful and amazing in whatever it is you choose to do. When you choose, I hope you find something that brings you happiness and makes you feel good. I hope you have a great support system to talk about your ideas with because it is always a good thing to bounce ideas off others and get their opinion – but ultimately, it is your decision to do what makes you happy.

I believe in you, and I know you got this!



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