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An engaged high school guidance counsellor is a key team player in helping you reach your goals. 

A generation ago, the application process for post-secondary education seemed straightforward. You decided between arts and science, made your top three choices and submitted your grades. Now, with an over-abundance of choice, more competition, and broader international options, the process is more nuanced and complex.

David Hanna, Director of University Counselling at The York School, provides some insight on how to navigate the university application process.

David Hanna

Mediaplanet: What’s the main challenge facing high school students who are preparing to apply to post-secondary schools?

David Hanna: Stress. Schedule. Choice. We’re living in a world of hyper-anxious and over-extended kids. The stress that students feel is immense. At the same time, the opportunities and choices are tremendous.

How can some of this stress be managed?

Students don’t need to be perfect at everything, but they do need to explore their interests and then hone in on their passions. They should try out a bunch of things — whether athletic, creative, or service-oriented — ideally starting in grades 6 to 8 and then sharpen their efforts on activities that will help build their story. As parents, we have to give them the room to find out what they love.

Tell us more about this idea of the student story. Why is it important?

Stories matter as much as marks. The way that a student articulates their unique story — their passion, commitment, and insights into their own learning, growth, and development — shows prospective universities that the student has experiences that they can turn into relatable stories. A student who is keen to learn is ‘teachable.’

What are the International Baccalaureate (IB) program’s benefits?

The IB is a thorough international curriculum that provides a well-rounded education. It teaches broad skills and gives students the independence and confidence needed to ladder up to their vocation. It’s an incredible preparation for university. Take the extended essay component of the diploma program, for example. It teaches a student how to research, think critically, and write, so when they get to university they have the skills, confidence, and experience to meet challenges with an “I’ve got this” attitude.

What’s the purpose of university counselling?

University counselling demystifies the intimidating experience of applying to post-secondary school and can help you with focus and schedule. Students can lean on university counselling to help them find the right fit, but should also take their own initiative to steer their education in the direction they want to go.

As they prepare to make major life decisions regarding their post-secondary education, students need to be equipped with the right tools for success. University counselling is a great support for high school students to have when considering their future, and a good guidance counsellor can make the difference between a smooth, exciting application experience into a program of choice over one that’s stressful and not the right fit.

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