How to Finalize Your University Shortlist

By University of Waterloo Modified on December 11, 2019

Tips to help narrow down your application choices.

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Two University of Waterloo students cheerfully explore the UWaterloo newspaper, discussing how to finalize their university shortlists and deciding on where to apply.

If you'll be applying to university in January or February, you most likely already have a program in mind — whether it be life science, accounting, mechanical engineering, computer science, or something else. If by chance you don't, and you're still narrowing it down, check out this article on how to choose the best university program for you.

Get some guidance

Before school lets out for the holidays, arrange a meeting with your guidance counsellor to talk about your choices. They might be able to give you some advice, additional information, have viewbooks you can consult, or help talk your preferences over with you.

While keeping in mind that where you want to go should be solely your choice, it might help to consult friends, parents, and teachers as well. They may share their own knowledge, research, and/or experience to help you narrow down your choices — especially if they're also aiming for or possess a degree in the subject you're considering.

Check out university resources

Universities give out viewbooks at the Ontario Universities' Fair, so if you attended and picked some up, make sure to look them over. They're a valuable resource if you're looking to learn more about a university, and can often give you a good look at the campus, what their residences are like, how many programs they have, the type of student life they foster, and much more.

All universities also have information-rich websites that you can look through. For example, the University of Waterloo's future students website hosts a treasure trove of program information, advice from current students, application tips, co-op highlights, and how you can visit the campus.

Take the time to see the sights

Many universities have open houses where the campus welcomes prospective students and visitors alike to discover what the university looks and feels like. You can take tours, check out faculty buildings, meet professors, sit in on information sessions, and see what the student experience is like.

If you can't make the fall or March open house days, do not despair! There are still ways to see the campus! Check out popular social media platforms and you'll see that many universities have YouTube channels and Facebook and Instagram accounts that have galleries of campus shots and student life (not to mention food).

Talk to relatives. For real.

If your family is spread out, sometimes it's hard to get the whole gang together. Or it might be hard to find something in common with cousins twice-removed or aunts that keep bringing up your toddler years. But here's a chance to break the ice. Ask family members if they're familiar with certain universities, if they've studied programs similar to the one you're going for or know people who have, and get some solid (or potentially very amusing) post-secondary advice that may help you cross schools off your list or shuffle the order around.

Remember the big picture

As you work through all these resources, make sure to keep in mind where your potential degree may take you. It might seem like a hundred years into the future rather than a possible five, but you should definitely see what career paths you can take with your degree. If you're going for medical or law school, for example, how your university prepares you can make a monumental difference.

Take the time now to organize your values for what you'll want as a university student. Gather as much information as you can to make the best, most informed decision for you.