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Tip Sheets

Choosing a Post-Secondary Program


When similar education or training programs are offered by different institutions, how do you know which program(s) would be best for you?

The following tips can help you make sure that the certificate, diploma or degree you earn will be one employers respect and the post-secondary institution you choose to attend will provide the type of learning environment in which you learn best.

1.   The most important thing you need to know is why you want to take an education or training program – what is your goal? If you know where you want the training to take you, it is much easier to decide which program will get you there.

For help deciding what you want, check out the Career Planning – An Overview tip sheet or visit the CAREERinsite website at alis.alberta.ca/careerinsite

2.   Make sure you are aware of all the education and training programs that might fill your needs and if there are less formal methods of acquiring the knowledge and skills you need (e.g. on-the-job training, distance education courses).

For help identifying education and training alternatives, see the OCCinfo at alis.alberta.ca/occinfo, the Many Training Paths Develop Skills and Knowledge tip sheet or the publication Time to Choose…a post-secondary education program (see the “Other Relevant Tips” and “Additional Information” sections at the end of this tip sheet).

3.   When you've identified programs that could get you started in the direction you want to go, you'll probably have a number of questions about those programs.

      • What are the entrance requirements?
      • Is it a "quota program" with limited enrolment? If so, what grades are generally required to gain admission?
      • Does the program start in September, or are there other possible entry dates?
      • What are the application deadlines for each program?
      • Does the program include a work experience component? If so, is it volunteer work or are students paid for their work? Who is responsible for arranging the work experience?
      • What percentage of graduates find related employment?
      • How much do tuition, books and supplies cost?
The best source of information about a particular program is the institution that offers the program. You can contact post-secondary institutions directly and request print materials or look for the information you need on their websites.

If you don't have easy access to the Internet or you would like to browse through program information from a variety of institutions, check out the career counselling offices and libraries in your area. Collections of post secondary institution calendars can be found in Alberta Works Centres located in Alberta Human Services centres throughout the province. For a listing of service centres, see the Career Services Near You page on the ALIS website at alis.alberta.ca/awc.

4.   After you've used print or Internet resources to gather some basic information about your program options, it's a good idea to talk to people connected with each program, such as
      • program instructors
      • representatives of applicable professional associations or licensing bodies
      • employers likely to hire program graduatesduates
      • program graduates.

Finding and contacting these people may take some determined networking, but it's well worth the effort. For example, if employers tell you that they prefer to hire graduates of a different program, that's definitely something you want to know before you enroll!

5.   Your choice of institution may be influenced by any or all of the following considerations:
      • location (how close it is to your home)
      • size (whether you prefer the learning environment at a smaller or larger institution)
      • type of institution (e.g. religious affiliation)
      • the institution's academic reputation in your subject field
      • costs (e.g. tuition, books, accommodation)
      • the type of student services and facilities offered (e.g. counselling services, housing)

Most post-secondary institutions have open houses or information sessions. It's a great opportunity to look around the campus, experience the learning environment, ask about program content and find out what student life is like.


Relevant Tips (alis.alberta.ca/tips)

Additional Reading (alis.alberta.ca/publications)

Resources

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