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On April 22nd 2016, the Grade 11 IB students went on a field trip to the IB University Fair in Hamilton. The main purpose of the trip was to learn more about various universities, the application process, scholarships, and the impacts of being a part of the IB Programme on university admissions. Although these students will be applying to universities only in the fall, it is beneficial to be exposed to the university application process and the necessary requirements earlier on. This is helpful because the students have a sufficient amount of time to consider their post-secondary options, and to set goals for themselves. 

It is a difficult and time-consuming process to decide on a specific programme at a certain university. Thus, it was not surprising when the IB cohort collectively acknowledged the merits of attending this fair, as they were finally able to pose their pressing questions, talk to various university representatives, and learn the advantages of being enrolled in various potential programmes. 

At the fair, over 20 universities, located both in and out of Ontario, were set up in booths throughout the venue. Students had the opportunity to ask questions to university representatives, as well as pick up pamphlets containing general information about the university, along with information regarding admission requirements for specific programs.

The pamphlets and the university representatives also provided information regarding prerequisite courses for each program, co-op options, major, minor, and specialist degrees. Students were able to ask questions regarding scholarships, bursaries, and other financial aid options. The attendees also had the opportunity to ask about university representatives’ personal experience regarding campus life and the nature of certain programs.

Each university expressed immense interest in admitting IB students due to their appreciation for the comprehensive and difficult nature of the Programme. The IB Programme involves not only a rigorous curriculum, but also insists upon extracurricular involvement through the CAS (Creativity, Action, Service) program. By balancing academic and non-academic activities, students become “all-rounded,” something that is desired by many universities.

Following the fair, an anonymous online survey was conducted amongst attendees regarding their opinions on the university fair. According to the results, students were very pleased with the opportunity to attend an IB University Fair. Furthermore, 74% of students said that the university representatives definitely helped them clear their doubts and questions, and many became surer about which universities they would aspire to attend. 

Around half of the attendees found that the opportunity to talk to university representatives was the most useful and informative part of the fair, although many also found the brochures, pamphlets and magazines to be quite beneficial as well. The majority of students found the venue to be excellent, stating that “the venue was large enough and the timings were well planned so only a couple of schools were inside at a time.” This means that every student got the opportunity to have their voice heard and their questions answered.

When asked whether or not the trip was worth it, most students responded positively. One student commented, “Yes, because I was unclear about what universities looked for in students and the programs that each university offered. Going on the trip allowed me to ask questions directly to representatives.” 

Another student shared, “It was definitely worth it! I got to talk with representatives from universities that I was interested in. Since these reps went to their respective universities, they were also able to share aspects of student life and their personal opinions. The Waterloo rep even shared his, as well as his friends’ experiences with the Co-Op Program which gave me a good idea of where I might be placed. All the reps also had great IB-specific info (i.e. transfer credits, expected IB scores). I just wish we had a bit more time to talk to a few more schools in depth.” A student even claimed, “Yes! We learned so much more than we would have just searching for this information on the Internet.”

It can be concluded that the collective majority of students found the University Fair to be a positive experience. Students were delighted to be able to ask their questions directly to university representatives. In recognition of the usefulness of the fair, 87% of the students recommend that future Grade 11 students attend similar fairs when they are trying to make decisions regarding post-secondary education. 

Students clearly had a beneficial experience at the fair, and using the information gathered, have made advances in choosing their program or university of interest. Leaving high school and pursuing post-secondary options may seem like a terrifying concept to many people; however, with sufficient information, such as that gathered through fairs, students can be prepared for the transition and can successfully decide upon the endeavours they wish to pursue.

Laurier IB Writing Team

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