I was born and spent my early years on Salt Spring Island in British Columbia (BC) where most days consisted of adventuring around in the forest or by the ocean with friends. When I was 8, my mom and I moved to Edmonton. As a kid, school was a breeze. I hardly studied and still got top marks.
In high school, my life was filled with social events, and my grades started to drop. As I got closer to graduation, I didn’t know what direction to go or, more importantly, how to start taking the necessary steps forward. When I graduated my average provided few options.
I decided to take some time off to figure out what I wanted to do and make some money. After 3 jobs, I discovered that no matter how many hours I worked, without any real experience or schooling I was stuck in entry-level jobs. During the coldest months of winter working as an outdoor labourer, I decided I needed to make a change.
I went to Centre High to upgrade and it totally changed my outlook on school. Everyone there actually wanted to be in class, there were loads of resources and support, and the teachers really cared. I found myself excited to go to class, motivated to get good marks, and finally thinking about my future. I improved my high school average by almost 30%.
With better grades I had more options. My first thoughts were medicine (I come from a family of doctors) and architecture (I love drawing and am decent at math/science), but after having information interviews with professionals in both fields, I realized neither were a good fit for me. You can try the tools to know yourself (ALIS) or if you have an idea of what you want to study you can use OCC info or explore your options (ALIS). I decided to apply to general science at a few different schools to keep my options open. To find out which schools offered my program, I used the post-secondary program search (ALIS).
I ended up finding 2 potential schools in my home city of Edmonton, and 2 schools in BC that offered the program I was interested in. I used Google and explored each school’s website, checked out reviews and rankings. I also found forums and blogs so I could read current and past students personal experiences about their time at these schools. Reading student reviews offered relatable stories and more subjective answers than the school’s official, polished website.
Deadlines to apply are early, so I decided to apply to all 4 institutions to give myself a few more months to decide. I found out later that I should have used ApplyAlberta, to apply online and save transcript fees. I had 3 acceptance letters and one rejection from the Vancouver school, thankfully I didn’t only apply there. There were many factors to choose between the 3 schools. Obviously if I were to stay at home, costs would be much lower overall and there would be a lot more family and social support available. I also took a closer look at the specific programs I was accepted into. I wanted to compare the programs between schools to figure out what would be my best fit. In the end, I determined that the best option for me was to stay at home in Edmonton. I chose Chemistry at the University of Alberta, minoring in Psychology. Once I made my choice, I followed the steps outlined in my acceptance letter and I had a plan to take action (ALIS) for my future.
I’ve maintained good grades, taken time off to travel, tried different campus activities and groups, and explored different courses. Post-secondary is awesome. Perhaps the best part is the freedom to try new things: whether its clubs, classes, or sports, there’s something for everyone!
Alberta ran this peer-developed program from 2007 until 2019. Ambassadors blogged and visited classrooms to inspire students to plan their post-secondary journey. These ambassadors are now in the workforce but their stories can still inspire continuous education.
Tips for informational interviews with professionals in a field you’re considering:
- To find people to interview, check with family first. I had many doctor’s in the family. I didn’t know any architects personally, so I went to Google and searched for architects around the city and asked for a meeting. Be sure to get their name, position, organization, email, phone number and general office number for your reference.
- Book a formal meeting with the person you found, send them an email or give them a call to book whatever time they have available. Be sure to make it clear what you are asking for, let them know who you are, why you’re contacting them, and what you’re hoping to get from them.
- For example: Hi, I’m (your name) and I’m interested in pursuing a career in architecture, I’m wondering if you could spare a half hour to meet with me to discuss your educational background and career path?
- Put the appointment in your calendar and thank them for their time.
- Write out 5 to 10 questions for the interview. Think about why you’re considering this career and find out if your assumptions are correct. For example, ask:
- what their usual work schedule is like, and if they work after hours
- if they have creative freedom in their projects
- what aspects of the job to they enjoy the most or least?
- what post-secondary program they took, or where they look for potential candidates
- what advice they would offer to someone considering this career path
- what the industry average wage is for entry, mid-level or management positions in this field.
- what a common day of work looks like (regular duties, responsibilities etc.)
- Conduct the interview – make sure to confirm the time and place a day or 2 before the interview, arrive at least 10 minutes early with your page of questions and a pen. Make sure you ask if they mind if you take notes, as a courtesy. Get things started by sharing a bit about yourself, where you’re at in school, why you’re interested in their career and what you hope to learn by speaking with them. Then, ask them to share their background and how they got to where they are today. From there, you can move into the rest of your interview questions.
When all your questions have been answered, make sure to thank them for their time. I’d recommend sending a follow-up email the next day thanking them. If you had a great conversation, ask if you can contact them again in the future, as it’s always good to expand your network.
During these interviews I got a lot of ‘insider information’ that I hadn’t even anticipated. I learned about personal aspects of the jobs, online research doesn’t tell you what people love or hate. People were candid and open about their experiences, which I really appreciated. These interviews taught me that my perception of what it’s like to be a doctor or an architect was different from reality.
I’m thankful I was able to talk to these professionals because it helped me determine that neither career was right for me. If I hadn’t met with these people, I might have wasted time and money. The interviews gave me confidence in my decision to find a different path.
Learn from other ambassadors or watch these videos:
Alberta Learning Information System (ALIS) resources:
Also visit your learning path to post-secondary.
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