Growing up in St. Albert, I was a Brownie, I played piano and participated in competitive gymnastics. Given the advantage of being 6 feet tall by grade 9, sports were my thing. In junior high, I did it all: basketball, track and field, volleyball and many others. In grade 7 my fun volleyball coach helped me find my passion. I spent the rest of my school years playing on school and club teams, with summers spent playing in camps and on Team Alberta.
My athletic ability meant that many university teams were interested in recruiting me. Since I was always a high achiever in athletics and academics, the question was not if I would go to post-secondary, but rather where I would go. This decision took a lot of research, reaching out to those who had gone through the process, and writing multiple pro and con lists.
My first choice was the University of Alberta (U of A), but I was very tempted to choose a different school in Canada or even the United States to experience living away from home. Ultimately, I chose the best of both worlds and decided to stay in Edmonton at the U of A, but I lived on campus with my teammates.
I had an interest in biology and anatomy, so I enrolled in General Sciences and after taking a few psychology courses I transferred to a Bachelor of Science degree, majoring in psychology. My undergrad experience was incredible, I was surrounded by other people pursuing their passions, which was extremely inspiring. I immersed myself in every opportunity possible, becoming the VP External for the University Athletics Board and juggling studying, training, traveling, volunteering and partying.
To be honest though, after finishing my first degree I felt a little lost. I took some time off to follow my dreams, traveling to multiple continents and playing volleyball for a year in France. I came home to a sad bank account and found myself asking, again: “What do I want to do with my life?”
After some soul-searching, job shadowing, and more research, I enrolled in the Master of Science in Occupational Therapy program at the U of A’s Calgary campus. Likely this program will lead to an exciting career as an Occupational Therapist but with my travel bug and ever-changing interests I can never be sure what new opportunities the future will hold!
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.
Getting recruited as a student athlete
As a student athlete, I hoped to be able to use sports scholarships to further my education. I kept my options open by traveling to the United States to play in a tournament with Volleyball Prospects, a program designed to expose Canadian athletes to American coaches and recruiters. I investigated a few opportunities but, decided to stay closer to home where I knew both the academics and athletics were strong.
To find out which institutions offer degree programs see the post-secondary search (ALIS).
Being from Alberta, the U of A and the University of Calgary (U of C) both seemed like solid options. In grade 12, I took recruiting trips to both schools to compare, it was hard to decide. I was drawn to the strong U of A volleyball team with a long history and excellent coaches. I’ve had Panda Pride ever since.
High school is a time of hard decisions for any student, but aspiring student athletes have an added factor to consider during their decision-making process. There are recruitment details, a letter of intent and the differences between Canadian and American schools. Ultimately, the decision comes down to ignoring the pressures and following your heart! You are the only person who can make this decision. The know yourself (ALIS) page might help sorting your priorities and making your decision.
Don’t let your parents be your voice, coaches want to recruit confident leaders and mature adults. Ensure that you are the one asking the questions, doing the talking and making the decisions. Although the exact process will differ for every sport, here are some tips to guide you through the recruitment process!
Sports scholarship tips
- Decide what you really want from the experience and your academic goal. Check:
- if your program of choice is offered, their placement rate, if the degree is transferable and if you require a student visa
- if your grades meet the admission requirements
- which expenses are covered by the scholarship (Canadian schools normally do not include accommodations) – consider the cost of living, travel to visit home and if you’re ready to be on your own
- Create an athletic resume and recruiting video – note the position you play and what you’ve achieved in your sport so far, for the video be sure to include full game play, not just highlights.
- Market yourself, send emails of interest to coaches at schools that are a good fit or find out if your sport has recruitment sites. Let coaches know who you are, if they are local offer some competition times when they can come watch you play.
- Go on recruiting trips or follow a student athlete for a day at one of your top schools to learn what your team life would be like.
- Research athletic scholarships through Student Aid, the Alberta Schools Athletic Association or through your institution. The U of A has an athletic scholarships page.
Differences between Canada and the United States
If you’re interested in playing in the United States, study for and write an SAT exam as early as possible. A few other things to consider when comparing Canada to the United States:
- In Canada, you have 5 years of eligibility to play at the post-secondary level, while in the United States only has 4 years of eligibility.
- American schools are allowed to offer “full-ride” scholarships including housing and books. Most schools in Canada can only offer scholarships towards your school tuition.
- American schools typically recruit and sign athletes earlier than schools in Canada.
- Check into the rules regarding transferring to play between schools both nationally and across the border.
- Check to see that the academic programs are recognized and accepted in Canada if you want to return home for your career.
My final piece of advice be active, open to opportunities, research everything and ask lots of questions!
Science degree options
If I had a business card, after my name, I would include the following: BSc, MSc OT (Student). BSc stands for “Bachelor of Science”. A BSc is an undergraduate degree in sciences, and those letters indicate that I’ve completed 4 years of full-time courses in science-related studies following high school.
MSc stands for “Master of Science.” An MSc OT is a graduate degree in sciences, specifically in Occupational Therapy. Graduate degrees can be taken after undergraduate degrees to continue with higher-level education with a more specific focus.
Some fields you can study with a Bachelor of Science degree:
- Earth and Atmospheric Sciences
- Biological Sciences and cell biology
- Chemistry, Biochemistry and Organic Chemistry
- Computing Science
- Geology and Geophysics
- Human and Medical Sciences
- Mathematical and Statistical Sciences
- Physical Sciences, Physiology and Psychology
When you start a Bachelor of Science degree, many students begin with General Sciences to take some introductory courses to determine what they’re interested in. Every degree will have certain required courses to complete for the degree. This will vary by school, but if you want an example of what it might look like, you can check out the U of A’s BSc curriculum map. A bachelor’s degree normally has 2 areas of study to focus on: a major and a minor. A major is the primary focus area, while a minor is a second smaller focus area. Options are courses that you can take outside of your major or minor. I took a Psychology 101 course as an option and loved it, so I started taking more psychology courses. By my second year I’d decided to major in psychology, I thought I’d choose a minor but, I found an alternate route through the Specialization degrees with a Psychology Specialization program. By choosing a specialization I was able to tailor my general sciences degree to my interests.
I became aware of human sexuality courses by taking a variety of options. My professor was an Occupational Therapist who specialized in sexuality, the class taught me about this career choice. Fast forward 5 years and I’m in my second year of the Master of Science in Occupational Therapy program, all because one class.
Picking my courses, my strategy was a bit unconventional: I’d over-enroll in courses, attend the first class, and read the syllabus to see what the classes would entail. A syllabus is basically a detailed course outline you get on the first day of class that describes what you’ll be learning, and what sorts of tests and assignments to expect. Once I had a better feel for what would be involved in each class, I’d stay in courses that had multiple choice tests and limited group work and drop the rest. This might not be possible for everyone, but it worked for me.
In the first year of my program, I met with an academic advisor who set me up with the university’s course calendar (a big book that lists all the courses offered), as well as template of what courses were required to finish my degree. I treated my course calendar like a bible, marking completed courses and pulling it out to reference when I was selecting courses. This ensured that I fulfilled my requirements, so I didn’t have to take an extra semester. Never hesitate to visit your academic advisor to ask about any questions relating to your courses and degree, it’s their job.
Check your faculty for resources, the U of A offers a science internship program, degree options and other services to help you find work once you graduate. Many schools offer academic advisors, mentors, or even set up job shadows so that you can explore what your options may be once you’re finished your degree.
I eventually chose to further my education with graduate studies, hence the MSc OT (Student) on my hypothetical business card. After my bachelor’s degree, I pursued a master’s degree as the first level of graduate degrees. Master’s degrees are typically 2-year programs that allows students to specialize in a certain field of study.
People may choose to complete a master’s degree for many reasons, including expanding their knowledge in a certain area, becoming more competitive in the job market, or preparing to study at the doctoral level. I chose to take a professional program, to become an Occupational Therapist when I graduate.
A graduate degree isn’t the only option, you can always enhance your education with a certificate, diploma, or continuing education courses to find the career that’s right for you.
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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