How to Help Students Plan for Post-secondary

Posted in Featured, Tips & Advice

How to Help Students Plan for Post-secondary

Choosing the right university, college or other post-secondary destination is a huge decision for students. Many families grapple with the overwhelming number of choices, options, and programs in Ontario alone, not to mention Canada and beyond. Not to worry, the Teachers on Call team is here to bring clarity to the planning and decision-making process.

From our experience the earlier families start planning, the better. This can begin as early as grade 8 when starting the course selection process for the following grade 9 school year. Here is some information to consider to help your child plan their post-secondary pathway.

Selecting high-school course options

Course selections that happen in the early grades of secondary school can impact your child’s options in the senior grades, so we always recommend trying to keep all options open until a specific destination is determined.

High-school course selection for the following school year in September is made during the months of January to March for students who will be in grades 9 – 12.

The de-streaming of math in grade 9 allows students more time to choose their math pathway, and the fact that you can move from applied grade 9 English or science to academic (or vice versa) in grade 10 is a great option.

Often parents and students are unaware that certain courses are pre-requisites at many/all post secondary institutions, so it is very important to keep all doors open.  For example, Grade 12 Calculus and Vectors and one additional 4U Mathematics course (Advanced Functions or Data Management), and English 4U are all mandatory courses for many business school applications (along with three more U or M level courses).

Finding help to choose a pathway

Is your student interested in university or college? An apprenticeship to learn a skilled trade?  Or going directly to the workplace?  All four of these pathways require different choices to be made.

One of your best resources through your child’s school is your student’s guidance counsellor.  Make an appointment to see them to discuss pathways and options once your student has narrowed down their career pathway.  Many school boards also encourage students and families to utilize career and post-secondary websites like  to explore education options.

Another great option if looking for professional expertise is hiring an independent education consultant to help with school searches in Ontario, the US and beyond.  They are often an excellent resource if your child and family need more time and support to make the right decision.

Once you and your child have made a decision, you can look at what Grade 12 courses they will need, and then you can plan backwards to ensure your student will have all the required courses to follow their pathway.

How do students know which pathway to follow?

This depends completely on the student, their areas of interest and what field they are interested in.  The grade 10 Intro to Career Studies course will help them narrow down their pathway, but they should also spend time (alone or with you) investigating all the options. This is a grade 10 compulsory half credit course (civics is the other Grade 10 half credit).

For example, many students are interested in medicine – but they only think about becoming a doctor or nurse.  There are literally hundreds of career options in medicine. Here are just a few:  registered respiratory therapist, policy specialist, health care manager, hygienist, radiation technologist, pharmacist, occupational therapist, physiotherapist, paramedic, EMT, nutritionist, nursing assistant, health care worker, home care worker, social worker, human resources.  Of course, there are also administrative and other technical jobs – the list really is quite long!

Each of these pathways requires different educational backgrounds with different entry requirements.  Some also require multiple steps (e.g. registered respiratory therapy programs are college programs that take very few students directly from high school – most programs require students to have an undergraduate degree).

Having your child do their homework early will help them see their pathway more clearly and see the many steps they need to take.  Also, considering co-operative education (co-op) is an excellent way for students to experience their chosen field and access different workplaces to help them narrow down their field of study and/or eliminate some pathways that they thought they wanted to follow.

We have the pathway, we have the plan, now what?

Once your student is in Grade 11, consider making plans to visit open houses. That way, they have lots of time to narrow down their choices about which university, college or apprenticeship program most appeals to them.  The pandemic has impacted how fairs and open houses operate, so finding out about your student’s preferred post secondary choices may now involve virtual tours or booking reservations for outdoor campus tours given smaller group sizes.  One big advantage is that virtual tours eliminate barriers to attending in-person open houses, allowing you and your student to potentially see more options. If you would like to speak with a current student, or an Admission Coordinator, aim to connect with the admissions team to see what virtual meeting options are possible.

Where can we find more information?

For students in their final year of high-school, university and college applications are made in the fall with conditional offers of admission from universities arriving as early as March continuing into the spring after grades are received. There are many informative websites and education fairs to consider.

Here are a few great resources:

The Ontario government website also has a lot of resources.

The Ontario Universities Fair takes place annually in the fall, but their website is also a major source of information year-round:

The Ontario Colleges Fair takes place in the fall, but their website is another source of information: 

The College and University Fairs takes place in January.  More information is available at:

Once you have narrowed down the main schools of interest, remember to check out the online events they host. These include webinars, Instagram lives and other Q&As from a variety of resources.

And, finally, of course, we are here to help!  Please reach out to our office for help, suggestions and recommendations as you explore all the options.

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