Researching Universities: How Not to Be Like Me

By Liang Zhu:

With universities applications done and the symptoms of early-onset senioritis creeping up on me, it finally feels like my future is under control again. Just earlier this school year, I was pretty unsure about it. I was scrambling around, trying to understand how universities worked, and how in the world I was going to get into one. Here are some lessons that I’ve learned, mostly the hard way, by making mistakes. Hopefully, those of you who are going to apply for universities in a year or two won’t end up making the same errors, and won’t end up being as stressed out as I

It doesn’t hurt to start thinking early.

If you have an idea of where you want to study, or which programs you’re
interested in, check them out! Whether it’s checking universities’ websites or talking to people who are attending those universities, little things can help narrow down your choices. Knowing a little is still better than knowing nothing at all. Don’t be the guy who didn’t know how undergraduate programs worked until he was halfway done his first semester of grade 12. That totally wasn’t me, by the way.

OUF and Open Houses

Speaking of the OUF (Ontario Universities’ Fair)… The OUF and Open Houses – They’re both great ways to get even more details about specific universities, and also to speak with current students and professors. The OUF is held annually in Toronto, and is a great chance to talk to members of all the Ontario universities. Universities also hold open houses in the autumn, which gives you the chance to tour campuses and examine individual programs in depth. A good idea is to think of some questions to ask before you go to these events. Unfortunately, I did not do that, and
many a conversation turned into awkward silences because I didn’t know what to say.

They can be quite informative, and are much better than simply taking a viewbook and leaving. I regret my
decision of not going to a single presentation; it probably would have helped me not seem like a moron whenever people started talking about universities.


While they can be useful and it may feel good to have a hard copy, viewbooks aren’t really that imperative. Most of the information in viewbooks can also be found online, which is easier and probably more convenient (you can’t
Ctrl-F on viewbooks!). Not to mention not having to carry those heavy things around; by the end of the Ontario
Universities’ Fair, I had almost 12 pounds of viewbooks to lug around. Trust me, it was not fun


Finally, once you have several programs in mind, check them out – either on a website or a viewbook. Programs at
different universities could have the same names, but have different subject matters. It took me a while to realize that Health Sciences at Western wasn’t the same as Health Sciences at McMaster.