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If university's not for you, consider college

My class has become like a family, says Laura El Saheli, a second-year student enrolled in the human resources strategy technology program at Seneca College. We all go to the same classes, we work together, we're all friends. That's just one of the things to consider when thinking about college ' the campus life and the unique relationship you'd have with your peers. And for all you Lisa Simpsons thinking you're too good for college, think again.

I really like my program especially because the co-op is mandatory, and you're working in the main stream that you're studying, says El Saheli. There's a lot of teamwork, and you have to be able to work with other people, and apply your knowledge in different situations and circumstances. You can really get that at college. El Saheli explains it's the practical application of concepts, knowledge, and hands-on learning that makes the college experience worthwhile. 

College programs that are popular among new students include police foundations, business, community services, and specialty arts such as design and animation, according to David Agnew, president of Seneca College. We appeal to students who want to finish their post-secondary education and basically be career ready, says Agnew. Although a university BA is fantastic to have, Agnew explains that it won't necessarily appeal to an employer, or it may be too general to prepare you for a specific kind of job.

Also, you won't disappear in a sea of faces while listening to a professor's sermon in a lecture hall. College offers a smooth transition from high school, as you get straight to the tutorials. You get to study in smaller classrooms where there's closer interaction with teachers and students, rather than in university where you're in a lecture hall with a thousand students and the professor doesn't really know you, says El Saheli. So I chose college especially for that reason. You get to work with the teacher and with other group members, and that's very important to any job.

Expect some real-world experience to be part of your curriculum as well. But the great thing about college is that it sends you out to get your hands dirty. My field requires hands-on experience and the co-op is mandatory, says El Saheli, while with [university] programs co-op isn't mandatory, it's basically theory application, which I don't find very useful at all for anybody, especially in a business stream.

College also offers the perfect environment where students can discover their true potential. We'll have a student who didn't do too well in high school, then just blossom when they come to college, says Agnew. It's because they've matured or landed on a goal they didn't have before. Once they turn their mind to doing something, they take off like a rocket. We have students right now in masters programs at great universities who started out barely limping over the finish line coming from high school.

For high school students deciding on where to go, let alone what to do after they graduate, there's always the option of college after university, university after college, or even both at the same time. Seneca, for one, offers joint programs with York University. El Saheli says high school students should look closely at their interests, and which fields they wish to pursue.

Agnew agrees. Part of the whole advisement process is really going back to the students and asking ÔÇÿWhat's your passion?' he says. The most important thing is choosing something that you love and picking the right path towards it. For people who are 16, 17, there's no shame in changing your mind, for heaven's sake. The last thing you want is to feel like you're trapped on a particular path and you can't move. But that's the whole point today, is that you can move.

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