By Josh Dehaas - Thursday, April 18, 2013 - 0 Comments
I met Anna Drake, a University of Waterloo assistant professor, at a recent event in Toronto and asked: what are professors talking about these days? She said they’re discussing how many students are presenting with notes from counsellors or doctors saying they’ve been mentally unwell or extremely stressed and are in need of extensions or exam deferrals.
Drake, a political scientist, doesn’t recall this being an issue when she was an undergraduate or when she started teaching as a master’s student in 2001. But a few years ago, a professor warned her and other teaching assistants at Queen’s University that “it seemed to be fairly easy for students to get notes of this kind.” Too easy, perhaps.
Later, teaching her own course at the University of Victoria, she was surprised when four students out of roughly 40 presented with notes near the end of the term asking to defer their semesters.
At Waterloo, where she was hired last July, she’s only had one course deferral, but a handful of students in each class during each term ask for extensions. Drake sometimes suspects these students have faked extreme stress or illness to get out of their work, but she would never accuse.
“It would be a very risky move to tell a student, ‘I think you’re lying,’” she says, “because if you say that it might become this whole horrible issue.” If they’re telling the truth, there could be terrible consequences. And she does not want to stigmatize asking for help, she says. She makes clear that there is a real problem with mental health on campus and that many of the claims are legitimate.
Still, the awkward truth is that as more awareness is built around mental health, students may be shifting their strategies for getting out of school by faking extreme stress or anxiety. And how is anyone to know whether a student’s stress is normal or something more pathological?
This week, McGill University published a report on the huge increase in the number of students seeking various types of mental health services on campus: about 20 per cent year over year.
One figure that’s up even more dramatically—57 per cent in a single year—is the number of emergency drop-in visits during final exam months. In December 2011 there were 176. In December 2012 there were 277. Figures aren’t yet calculated for April, but Dr. Robert Franck, McGill’s Mental Health Services Director, says there’s been a comparable increase.
What’s causing the flood of exam-time emergencies? “[Students] are more interested in seeking help when they’re running into trouble and I think that’s great,” says Dr. Franck. “At the same time there are a number of students who think ‘this may be a way for me to defer an exam,’” he adds.
Sometimes Dr. Franck gets the sense that students, “read up the DSM [Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders] on some diagnosis and give you all the classic symptoms,” he says. “Do they get the note? If they’re good enough liars,” he says, “but I think that’s the vast minority.”
Whatever the number of fakers, it comes at a price. In December when the number of emergency drop-ins swelled so too did the waiting list for regular counselling appointments. It grew to four or five weeks long as regular appointments were cut back to deal with the emergencies.
That people who need help might not get it is concerning for Prof. Drake. Still, since each syllabus spells out that there will be no extensions for high workloads, it would be unfair to give some students more time without proof of an illness. She also thinks it’s best to send students to be assessed to make sure that people who are overwhelmed get the help they need, and also in the hopes that others would think twice about going to an overburdened counselling service.
Of course, not every student who wants to delay an exam presents an excuse note. “There are students who can be really clever about avoiding the need to get notes,” says Drake. “[Professors] will say, ‘go to the doctor and get a medical note,’ and they’ll say, ‘I called the doctor, he said you have Norwalk Virus, you’re contagious and you can’t come in.’ There’s nothing a professor can do.”
The truth is, says Drake, “if students want to cheat the system they don’t have to rely on mental health notes to do it.” Still, she says, it’s a shame when students use services that others truly need.
By Jessie Willms - Thursday, January 31, 2013 at 10:12 AM - 0 Comments
See which programs are most popular
The programs post-secondary students choose these days suggest they’re somewhat aware of the job market. The first three charts in the infographic below, via Maclean’s On Campus, use data from the Ontario University Application Centre’s January 2013 statistics, which show the number of first-choice applications to Ontario university programs from Ontario secondary school students. Degrees in fields with jobs to spare, like engineering and nursing, are increasingly popular while applicants are shying away from things like forestry, journalism and education. The other charts, from a new Statistics Canada report on what post-secondary enrollments looked like nationwide in 2010-11, show that social sciences and humanities continue to account for half of all enrollments.
By macleans.ca - Tuesday, January 22, 2013 at 3:00 PM - 0 Comments
Stereotype of Canadian student spending isn’t the reality
The typical Canadian university student spends four years blowing borrowed money on clothes, music and liquor, right? That may be the stereotype, but it’s not the reality. The Canadian University Survey Consortium’s 2012 study of more than 15,000 graduating students shows that six in 10 are working, the vast majority pay off their credit card bills each month and only one-third have more than $20,000 in debt. Here’s an infographic that shows how students are paying their bills, via Maclean’s On Campus:
By macleans.ca - Thursday, January 17, 2013 at 3:52 PM - 0 Comments
Does an entire generation of young people have no future? Your thoughts here.
Last week’s cover story, “The New Underclass: Why so many smart, educated, ambitious young people have no future” hit a nerve with readers. Some thought it was dead on, others thought it was exaggerated, arguing that there are jobs out there. Here are some of the best responses sent in by mail, email and through social media:
Thank you for shedding some light on the way our education system has failed Canadian students (“The new underclass”, Society, Jan. 21). When I retired from the skilled trades a few years ago, the average age of tradesmen in Ontario was approaching 58 years of age. Yet still the education system was promoting a university degree as the best path forward. Skilled trades in Canada have been stigmatized by our education system, and it really came to a peak when special needs students came into the public education system and they were channelled into the “technical stream” and called something like “life skills.” That ended any interest normal students might have developed in following the technical stream as a path to the skilled trades.
Dave Bradley, Cargill, Ontario
During my 20-year career as a college professor, I observed the steady obsession by community colleges to become second-rate universities in staffing requirements, course content and political posturing. As well, my exposure to universities’ academic practices allowed me to learn of a fatal flaw in their philosophies of management. As an invited participant in committee processes at university, I was told what the students did with their education upon graduation was not a concern of the university, and that my recommendation of a “needs assessment” for a proposed new degree was not relevant or required. So now today’s students are processed by factory-like institutions that focus mainly on their own marketing-driven management mandarins. We must better define the specific roles, behaviours and outcomes of these publicly funded institutions. A structural and philosophical paridigm shift of the utmost magnitude is in order.
Neil O. Foster, Algonquin Highlands, Ont.
Thank you! You have no idea how great it felt picking up your Jan. 21 issue. Being part of the Generation Y cohort, I seriously almost cried. It finally felt like I had a voice. My generation’s plight will hopefully be heard, thanks to articles like this. It really hurts to be labelled as a bratty, entitled generation when we did everything asked of us. Is wanting the same middle-class lifestyle enjoyed by our parents and grandparents really too much to ask for?
Rishu Khan, Mississauga, Ont.
When I read “The new underclass” I felt very fortunate. I am a third-year agricultural business major, and ever since my first year, I have been working in my field. I’ve had five job offers for this summer in my field. I have no doubts about employment in a position I will enjoy after graduation. Our college graduates 300 agricultural students a year to fill 900 jobs available; employment within a year of graduating is 100 per cent in our field. The sad reality is, most students who grew up within city limits do not see agriculture as a viable option, because when they think agriculture, they think of a farmer breaking his back plowing and wrangling cows. The agricultural industry is very big business throughout the world and one that provides growth for innovative, educated and passionate young people in its field.
Marin MacNamara, Grand Valley, Ont.
Many young people either have no real marketable skill or the skill they do have is not demanded by society. There’s also the fact that so many retired people with excellent benefits and pensions, such as teachers, are taking jobs away from the young, which is most unfair. My husband knew a man who, while holding down a full-time government job, was collecting five good pensions. When my husband applied to the Bentley School of Accounting in Boston many years ago, which was one of the best in the United States, their slogan was, “We will teach you how to make a living, you can get educated on your own time.” Maybe our educational institutions should adopt the same philosophy. At least it would save a lot of people a lot of money.
Dolores Murray, Sarnia, Ont.
Why do so many young people have no future? We have lost a large amount of our manufacturing. No economy can function properly without an adequate level of manufacturing. Every Western country has the same problem and needs the same solution.
Edward J. Farkas, Toronto
As a mother of four, two of whom are in their early 20s and another two in high school, I was disappointed that your story suggested our young people have “no future.” My husband and I graduated in the mid-’80s. He worked as an engineer and I worked in advertising. Between us, we were able to rent a basement apartment. We still lived there when our first daughter was born in 1988. We continued to live in rented accommodation after our second daughter was born; I walked to a laundromat, kids in tow, for years. Those were tough times, but we lived frugally and when the housing market took a dive in the early ’90s we were able to buy one-half of a modest duplex. Many years, later, we were able to buy a detached home in a nice neighbourhood. It hasn’t been easy, but it has been rewarding. Canadian youth should know that there is a future, regardless of your background or level of education. Work hard, think creatively and be flexible, and you’ll be surprised at the riches life has to offer.
Heather MacDonald, Ottawa
Young people today are a product of parents’ obsession with only a university education. My own son went to community college for one year and then became a heavy duty mechanic apprentice. Now going into his third year of apprenticeship, he earns $65,000 a year before any overtime and he regularly receives unsolicited job offers. I am confident that he will not be a member of your new underclass.
Paul Schroeder, Winnipeg
The opening sentence of this article claims that “Melanie Cullins is no pipe dreamer.” Oh really? This 28-year-old you profile has no job, a husband doing contract work, no benefits or pension, two babies and she still expects to own a home in one of Canada¹s most expensive cities and get a job making the amount she would like to make in a job she would like to have. If this is not a pipe dream, I don’t know what is. If the expectation of the boomers’ children is to all live like this in their twenties, Canada is in real trouble. Later in the issue you point out careers where numerous jobs can be found. It is a shame it takes a magazine article to tell these people what industries the jobs are located in.
Jeff Brisbois, Port Williams, N.S.
The current blame for this problem is shared by all facets of our community: parents who expect their offspring all to be leaders, professionals, and rich but not have to get their hands dirty; educators who attract students with false promises of a bright future while offering underwater basket-weaving courses to expand their institution’s population with no emphasis on what it takes to “earn a living.” We need to require all high school graduates to work for two years prior to further higher education. Teachers should have experienced several facets of commercial life prior to entering the teaching profession. All employers of 10 skilled persons should be required to train one apprentice. Encourage the colleges and universities to teach practical courses that will result in gainful employment, and minimize financial support for students taking non-commercial courses. Explain to parents that there is no shame in living a life of basic rewards for meaningful work. The future of Canadian society as we know it will depend on getting this problem solved.
Brian Riden, Stirling, Ont.
You quote a professor of labour studies from McMaster University, who himself was in university for over 10 years, as saying “the risk of trade jobs is that technical change comes along and wipes out your trade.” All the technology in the world is never going to replace someone who can tape drywall, fix your furnace or climb hydro poles.
Evan Bates, Parry Sound, Ont.
Much of the bad news for today’s youth has been apparent for some time: the high levels of student debt, the underemployment, and the lack of skilled trades workers. What really shocked me, though, was the continuing disparity in earnings between men and women in the same profession (“The million-dollar promise,” Society, Jan. 14). What year is this again? In order to become a civil engineer, a nurse, a lawyer or a pharmacist, women and men follow the same curriculum, write the same exams, and pay the same tuition. It seems to me that tuition for women should be lowered to reflect the wage gap they will face upon entry into the workforce.
Mary Mackay, Ottawa
The story also ignited a debate online, with plenty of comments on Twitter and Facebook.
By Tamsin McMahon - Wednesday, November 21, 2012 at 9:50 AM - 0 Comments
Cambrian College is offering financial incentives to prospective students, starting in kindergarten
Bursaries and scholarships are great when students have already made up their minds to go to college or university. The challenge for Sudbury’s Cambrian College, which serves remote and rural populations in northern Ontario, is how to get students to consider going to college in the first place.
Three years ago, the school launched something called a learning account, aimed at the students least likely to attend college: Aboriginals, those with disabilities and those whose parents didn’t have a post-secondary education. The program offers students credits toward future tuition costs in exchange for attending a series of workshops. Students can earn $70 in “Cambrian Bucks” for attending a conference on coping with learning disabilities, $20 for a science workshop and $320 for a four-day program aimed at Aboriginal pupils. The college also gives $120 to parents who attend a two-day program to learn how to help set career goals for their children. So far, 410 students have signed up with an average of $250 in tuition credits, although they can earn as much as $3,000.
The tuition credits act like a bursary, but with a long-term goal of getting the kids to start working toward college while still in elementary school. “For most of these underrepresented populations, getting them to post-secondary is a long process,” says France Quirion, Cambrian’s associate vice-president of student services. “They don’t live and breathe post-secondary. It’s just a foreign concept. Continue…
By Scott Feschuk - Thursday, November 8, 2012 at 9:00 AM - 0 Comments
Attention high school students: I don’t know you (unless I do, in which case: Hi!), but as a diploma-having university graduate who successfully completed an entire four-year degree program in only six years, I am fully qualified to guide you through your upcoming life transition.
I’ll admit a lot has changed during the past 20 years. For instance, that Salisbury steak I had one Tuesday in the residence cafeteria has pretty much worked its way through my system. Also, whereas I was taunted and pelted with eggs during Frosh Week, new guidelines now restrict upperclassmen to cocking one (1) eyebrow at newcomers for no more than 12 seconds. Consider yourselves hazed!
For further information on ﬁrst year, please consult this list of Frequently Asked Questions.
Q: What should I not do at university?
Don’t sweat the roommate thing.
These living arrangements couldn’t be more normal or natural. Dave—here’s Phil. You’ve never met, you may not be the least bit compatible, and each of you has at least one habit that will make the other guy want to punch you in the throat—but hey, enjoy the next eight months of stressful, high-stakes academics alongside a complete stranger in this cell-sized hellbox!
It’s fun to envision what awaits you. Maybe your roommate will instantly become your bestest friend and you’ll wear each other’s clothes. Or maybe she’ll have punishing body odour, night terrors and the world’s foremost collection of doom metal. Oh, good, it’s 6:30 a.m. and she’s playing Eyehategod again! All you can do is make the best of it. I knew two guys in residence who hated each other but found a way to tolerate life together by rarely coming into contact. Think of it as useful preparation for marriage.
Q: What should I deﬁnitely not do at university?
Plagiarizing is commonplace now. Recently, a researcher was even censured for his habit of self-plagiarizing. Self-plagiarizing? It’s not worth the risk of going blind, people!
At the risk of overdoing it with the slang preferred by today’s teens, I’m not some rule-loving dip stick from Squaresville who’s trying to play back-seat bingo with the Man. I myself pushed the boundaries as a student. Once I even composed an essay for a friend, who in the place of a mark received a note from the professor that said: “This is a terrific essay, Nick. Who wrote it?”
And that’s my point: if you plagiarize, you’ll get caught. THE ALL-SEEING EYE OF GOOGLE WILL FIND YOU. Kids today are always getting busted for cheating or plagiarizing and I just have to wonder why they don’t do things the old-fashioned way: put in a half-hearted effort, earn a terrible grade and make your parents wish you’d never been born. That method works, folks. It’s time-tested.
Q: What should I not, under any circumstances, do at university?
Don’t pass out in a ditch.
I haven’t done a lot of bone-stupid things in my life—but I did spend one entire night in a ditch during my second year at school. You may be thinking to yourself: I would never pass out in a ditch! But take it from me: drink enough (i.e. too much), stumble out of a bar, start sway-walking home and all of sudden those ditches start to looking pretty enticing, especially once you somersault into one.
Drinking is as much a part of university as later regretting having drunk so much. But here’s a general guideline worth following: it’s more fun to be the slightly tipsy person who experiences, remembers and possibly live tweets the mayhem than the blind-drunk fool who wakes up with a screaming hangover, no eyebrows and his pants filled with poop (his own, if he’s lucky).
Q: Hey, is there anything I should not do at university?
Don’t skip too many classes.
It’s thrilling to have full control over your life for the first time—and it’s fun to blow off the occasional lecture to do something more important, like nothing. But you don’t want to wind up like me. You are reading the words of a man who skipped so many classes in first year that he ended up having to withdraw from introductory geology. I still feel a wave of shame every time I see a—uh, what are those things called again?—oh yeah, a rock.
By Josh Dehaas - Thursday, November 1, 2012 at 7:29 AM - 0 Comments
Everything you ever wanted to know about campus life, plus lists … lots of lists
The 22nd annual Maclean’s University Rankings issue—the holy book for anyone planning their education in Canada—is now available on newsstands and tablets.
The 2013 issue, our biggest-ever, features 132 pages of charts, stories and advice designed to help future students choose the right school, while sparking conversations on the quality of the post-secondary experience from the size of classes to the cost of textbooks.
The issue also offers a peek inside campus life from coast to coast, including an examination of the viral videos phenomenon, a deeper look at the scourge of drinking, Emma Teitel on fraternities, the college advantage and pages more. There are online extras, too, like photo tours of life at 24 campuses.
And, of course, the issue features the 22nd annual rankings.
If there’s one trend in the rankings, it’s the rise of the west. Every university from Saskatchewan to the Pacific Ocean maintains or improves its standing. All four of British Columbia’s ranked universities placed in the top two in their categories.
That said, Ontario, Quebec and Atlantic Canada still have some of the mightiest institutions. For the eighth year in a row, McGill ranks first in the Medical Doctoral category. The University of Toronto, which once dominated the rankings, is third. In second place is the University of British Columbia, up one spot this year.
In the Comprehensive category, Simon Fraser University ranks first, followed by the University of Victoria in second place, and the University of Waterloo in third. The top three remain unchanged, but fourth place is a surprise; the University of New Brunswick climbed two spots, buoyed by a low student-faculty ratio, high total research dollars, a high operating budget and its libraries.
In the Primarily Undergraduate category, where Canada’s smaller schools are compared, Mount Allison University in Sackville, N.B. is once again first. No surprise there; this is the 16th time in 22 years that Mount A. came out on top.
The University of Northern British Columbia’s second-place finish is an even bigger story. UNBC, an 18-year-old school, debuted at ninth place 14 years ago. This year it has the highest total research dollars, and the second best student-faculty ratio—impressive for such a young school.
The University of Lethbridge, Alberta’s rising research star, moves into third place. Its reputation is second overall in its category.
Trent University, l’Université de Moncton, and St. Thomas University are most improved. Each leapfrogged peers, climbing more than one spot. Moncton, in fact, is up five spots, thanks to an improved showing on student and faculty awards, spending on libraries and reputation.
Wondering how we rank? Maclean’s considers 14 indicators of the quality of students, faculty, libraries and finances to assess 49 schools. Each is placed in one of the above three categories—Medical Doctoral, Comprehensive or Primarily Undergraduate—to recognize differences in levels of such things as research funding. For a full description of the ranking methodology, click here.
For all charts—from the Reputational Survey, to the research funding, to the amount of students bursaries and awards—pick up the 132-page Maclean’s University Rankings. You don’t want to miss this provocative issue, and you won’t find it anywhere else.
By Paul Wells - Wednesday, May 30, 2012 at 9:11 AM - 0 Comments
Paul Wells: After thinking about it for three months, close to half the population is with the protesters
Three months in, it’s getting harder to dismiss the Montreal tuition protesters as a tiny bunch of malcontents. It’s true that they are calling for the perpetuation of Canada’s best bargain in higher education. It’s true that the active, on-the-street protesters represent a minority of the student population and a smaller minority of the larger student-age population.
But the protesters are not alone against the rest of Quebec. They have had substantial popular support at every stage of this dispute. And as the conflict settles in and becomes more bitter, support for the protesters has grown. A Léger poll for QMI last week showed that 43 per cent of respondents were “more favourable to the student position,” which the poll defined as a continued freeze on tuitions. That’s a nine-point increase in support in 11 days, thanks largely to a tough law the Charest government passed to increase restrictions and penalties for protesting. To sum up, after thinking about it for three months, close to half the population is with the protesters. So are many editorialists and the members of Arcade Fire.
My hunch is that if Charest could back down, he would. He spent most of his career as premier demonstrating that he doesn’t actually care whether Quebec’s universities are underfunded. He maintained a tuition freeze for his first four years in office, then increased tuitions at $50 a semester until this year. During that time, Quebec’s university rectors say, the annual funding shortfall in Quebec’s universities, relative to those in the rest of the country, increased from $375 million to more than $620 million.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, December 16, 2011 at 4:55 PM - 0 Comments
Paul Dewar offers a tuition break for a year of community service.
Dewar’s ‘Your Canada Year’ will provide 10,000 youth with a grant for training or post secondary education in exchange for one year of service with a non-profit organization … Under the program Canadians between ages 17 and 25 will be eligible to volunteer in Canada or overseas. In exchange they’ll receive a maximum of $1,500/month to help cover expenses during their service and a grant of up to $6,000 for one year of post-secondary education or training afterwards.
By the editors - Wednesday, November 2, 2011 at 12:50 PM - 1 Comment
The high cost of a university education has led to questions about its reliability as an investment
Let’s talk about investments. Stocks? A reliable pipeline stock like Enbridge Inc. is up only 2.5 per cent over the past year. Bonds? Canada Savings Bonds are paying 0.5 per cent in the first year. Real estate’s a roll of the dice, and some people are calling for a crash. I’m not even going to get into collateralized debt obligations since, like the leaders on Wall Street who navigated us into the 2008 financial toilet, I don’t understand how they work.
There is one sure bet, though, and no one understands it better than you and your parents. It’s an investment in your own education. That sounds corny, but listen to the numbers: the annual return on a university education in Canada is at least 10 per cent. That’s 9.9 for men, 12.1 for women. As the brilliant and frugal Ben Franklin (his raised eyebrows on the U.S. 100 dollar bill a steady rebuke to our spendthrift ways) said a few hundred years ago: “If a man empties his purse into his head, no man can take it away from him. An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest.” With this in mind, we suggest you think of Maclean’s 21st annual university rankings issue as a comprehensive guide to the important business of investing in yourself.
The connection between a university education and a satisfying and successful working life is not speculative. University graduates have the highest employment rate in Canada and are much more likely to find full-time jobs. A degree is an insurance policy against the vagaries of the global economy. In the 2008 recession, says Statistics Canada, degree holders were less likely to be laid off, and more likely to be hired back promptly if they were laid off.
By Scott Feschuk - Monday, October 31, 2011 at 8:30 AM - 28 Comments
Steve Jobs’s advice to graduates is very practical…if you happen to be a rich genius
After Steve Jobs died, his famous 2005 speech to university graduates went viral all over again. Many find the address moving and inspiring. But in a magazine issue dedicated to students at the beginning of their adult lives, it’s worth asking: just how practical is the late Apple CEO’s advice?
Jobs began his speech by talking about his decision as a young man to quit college. Only after dropping out, he said, was he able to drop in on the classes he actually found interesting, such as instruction in calligraphy. (His knowledge of fancy lettering later paid off when Jobs was designing the typeface for the first Macintosh computer.) His point: you should always go with your gut, make bold decisions and “trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.”
Surely we can all agree that giving up on formal education and, instead, learning how to draw pretty letters worked out well for Steve Jobs. Then again, Jobs was a genius and a once-in-a-generation creative talent, so I suspect that dropping out of school to study the banjo or grow the world’s largest pumpkin would also have done the trick.
By Josh Dehaas - Thursday, July 28, 2011 at 4:50 PM - 2 Comments
Students can now download other people’s notes for a small fee. So much for going to classes.
It was two o’clock in the morning on the night before her physiology mid-term when Jennifer Hidy turned on her laptop and saw what she calls “the blue screen of death.” A virus had killed her hard drive, erasing all of the carefully curated lecture notes that she was planning to read in the wee hours of the morning before her nine o’clock exam. She had visions of failure. She considered calling a friend. Then she remembered hearing about a new website called Notesolution.
Hidy headed to the school library, entered her University of Toronto email address into the site and—much to her relief—found that someone else had uploaded notes for her physiology classes. She printed them off and studied. A mere seven hours after recoiling from the blue screen, she sat down and aced her exam.
That’s the type of user that Kevin Wu, Jack Tai and Jackey Li envisioned helping when the three University of Toronto commerce students (now graduates) founded Notesolution last fall, says Wu. Since launching at four universities last November, the site has grown to 10 schools and nearly 10,000 members.
By Peter Shawn Taylor - Thursday, July 21, 2011 at 11:05 AM - 3 Comments
Catch up on everything you wish you’d learned in school, a half-hour at a time
You’ve grasped the intricacies of quantum mechanics, toured the great museums of Europe, understood the significance of the Peloponnesian War and come to terms with why evil exists. So what’s next? Perhaps wine appreciation, the mysteries of brain science or Hitler’s rise to power.
Welcome to The Great Courses, a company that’s been selling erudite audio and video lectures delivered by top-notch professors to well-heeled and inquisitive American customers for over 20 years. Now it’s planning a big Canadian presence too. Minds: prepared to be expanded.
The course selection at The Great Courses reads like an educational playground for the intellectually curious. It’s as broad and detailed as any university course calendar, although much more convenient. Courses typically consist of 12 to 36 half-hour lectures on CD, DVD or audio file. Packed with undergraduate-level information, each lecture is short enough to enjoy while commuting, after dinner, or while killing time during your kid’s dance lesson.
By Peter Shawn Taylor - Thursday, April 14, 2011 at 7:49 AM - 0 Comments
Book by Andrew Ferguson
If the purpose of art is to elicit an emotional response, then this is a book of intense artistry. The reaction from most Canadian parents who read it will be intense, hand-raising, thank-you-God relief they don’t have to participate in the madness that is the U.S. college application process.
Crazy U combines U.S. writer Andrew Ferguson’s first-person account of helping his son get into college with a behind-the-scenes investigation into the American university industry. It is a world of competition, conflict and confusions that can apparently only be solved by generous applications of cash.
Ferguson provides a brief history of the controversial SAT test, its opponents and the various prep courses that cling like remora to its underside. He visits with Kat Cohen, an independent college admission counsellor who charges $40,000 for her “platinum package” of advice on how to get into the school of your choice. As personal essays are now a major component of applications, and since these unfairly favour Type-A boasters, Ferguson finds a “model essay development service” that promises to turn every student into a mouthy extrovert. He spends $199 on an essay and finds “every sentence contained a little stink bomb of braggadocio.”
While fascinating in their own right, Ferguson’s experiences—thankfully—have limited applicability to Canada. Some Canadian schools do require personal essays. But aggressive competition for spots in top schools, driven by what Ferguson calls “that feral look of parental ambition,” is largely absent north of the border. For that we can thank the uniform quality of Canadian universities, a more civilized application process and our muted interest in the provenance of degrees.
Regardless of cross-border differences, however, Ferguson is a witty writer worth reading for his talent alone. Describing the university brochures sent to his son, he says they “were printed on paper so thick and voluptuous they might have been mistaken for the leaves of a rubber plant—you didn’t know whether to read them or slurp them like a giraffe.” There’s plenty to slurp here.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, March 29, 2011 at 10:12 AM - 211 Comments
Michael Ignatieff promises student aid.
The Liberal leader’s proposed “learning passport” would provide tax-free grants of $4,000 — or $1,000 a year for four years — for students across Canada to attend college or university. Students from low-income families would qualify for as much as $6,500 over four years, or up to $1,500 a year. The money would be provided through existing registered education savings plans, or RESPs, but families would not be required to make contributions. The funds would be held until the student decides to go to school.
By Josh Dehaas - Thursday, March 3, 2011 at 10:30 AM - 0 Comments
Mom, dad, big brother and sister—everyone was scrimping to keep Jessica Holman in university. The Maclean’s $20,000 scholarship changed all that.
Jessica Holman almost didn’t apply to university. Once accepted, she almost didn’t go. Even after a successful first semester of social work at Carleton University, she often felt she should be working instead of studying. The thing constantly nagging at her? Money.
That’s why Holman started crying when a woman from Maclean’s told her that she’d won the $20,000 scholarship contest, which was part of our 20th Rankings Issue celebration. She was chosen at random from more than 27,000 entries. “Maclean’s didn’t know how badly my family needs the money, so it’s kind of astonishing that we were the ones who won,” says Holman. “Now we don’t have to worry about whether or not I can go back to school next year.”
When she says “we,” she means her entire family back in Oakville, Ont. Her mom, dad—even her older brother and sister—are all scrimping and saving to help her pay for school. Her experience is a good reminder of how much many Canadian families sacrifice to send their kids to university. All in, it now costs roughly $80,000 for a four-year undergraduate degree, according to TD Economics. For many families, it’s a struggle to put even one child through school.
By Kate Lunau - Wednesday, March 2, 2011 at 10:08 AM - 4 Comments
Cheap loans and tight job prospects create a new crop of entrepreneurs
After graduating from the University of Western Ontario in 2004, long-time friends Joe Facciolo and Skai Dalziel, both from Barrie, Ont., set off to travel the world. By the time they came home, in 2008, the job market had toughened considerably. “I was looking for work in alternative energy, but nothing really materialized,” says Dalziel, 30. Chatting about their travels, and how hard it was to find a good restaurant in a new city, the two friends were seized by a business idea. “We said, we’re young and we don’t have a lot of responsibility,” Dalziel says. “We figured it was a good time to give it a go.”
That fall, they moved to Whistler, B.C., where they knew the tourism market was strong. By November, Whistler Tasting Tours—which provides guided tours that visit some of Whistler’s best restaurants, providing a multi-course dinner in one evening—was born. “One of the biggest challenges was securing ?nancing,” Dalziel says. “Banks weren’t interested in getting involved.” The Canadian Youth Business Foundation (CYBF), a charitable organization that works with entrepreneurs aged 18 to 34, gave them a $15,000 loan, and Whistler Tasting Tours was profitable within its first year; now they’re talking about branching out to other locations. Running a business, “you’re letting go of your social life,” he says. “But it’s really rewarding.”
Facciolo and Dalziel are two of countless twentysomethings who’ve avoided a more traditional career path, launching their own business instead of working for somebody else. Driven by a tight job market, the number of tools available online, and a growing sense of do-it-yourselfism, entrepreneurship is booming among students and recent grads. And with role models like Mark Zuckerberg, the 26-year-old billionaire founder of Facebook, they’re in good company.
By Kate Lunau - Monday, February 28, 2011 at 9:54 AM - 51 Comments
Should schools be in the business of turning out employable grads?
Carlie Deneiko is from the tiny town of Watrous, Sask. (population 1,800), more than an hour’s drive southeast of Saskatoon. As a teen, she dreamed of travelling the world, but her priorities are shifting. “I’ve got a boyfriend, and I’m really settled,” says Deneiko, 20, a student in the faculty of education at the University of Regina. “It’s becoming more important to me to get a job.”
Deneiko’s not too worried: her education comes with a job guarantee. She’s one of 355 students enrolled in a new program at the University of Regina that promises students they’ll land a job—in their chosen field—within six months of graduation. If they don’t, the university gives them another year of tuition for free. The UR Guarantee has other bells and whistles (like internships and work programs), but for Deneiko, it’s that extra year of free tuition that pulled her in. “If I don’t get a job, I’m coming back to get my special education certificate,” she says.
Since it launched in September, the UR Guarantee has been incredibly popular. Enrolment in the program, which is open to all first-year students, has already jumped by 24 per cent, says president Vianne Timmons. “We looked at students’ motivation for attending university,” she says, “and realized they’re looking at a degree primarily as a launching pad for a career.”
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, February 3, 2011 at 9:30 AM - 26 Comments
The Prime Minister’s Office presently includes at least three former members of the student council at the University of Western Ontario and the student newspaper at Western has groomed some of the finest writers in Ottawa (Wells, Feschuk, Delacourt), so not only because student politics are fascinating experiments in democracy is it worth following the Gazette’s exhaustive election blogging. To wit.
The current social science president is the front runner going into the campaign because of his largest faculty on campus base and the lack of another widely-known candidate. His platform will likely be fairly safe — think Mike Tithecott’s last year — which is good for him because it gives us media types less fodder to grill him on. It’s bad for constituents (that’s you!) because they may not see much innovation or challenging ideas put forth, but no one ever remembers the platform anyway, so outside council chambers and the Gazette office the point is moot. Forgione is personable, clean-cut and prepared — at this stage he’s easily the favourite.
By macleans.ca - Thursday, November 25, 2010 at 10:30 AM - 624 Comments
We find the trend toward race-based admissions policies in some U.S. schools to be deplorable
Maclean’s annual University Rankings issue is our most popular and most discussed magazine of the year. The 2010 edition, released two weeks ago, was no exception. Alongside our comprehensive rankings of Canadian schools, we also tackled the biggest issues facing today’s university students. There were stories dealing with school stress, problem roommates, difficult school choices and sex. And when students told us race is becoming a conversation on Canadian campuses, we took a closer look at that as well.
Our reporters Stephanie Findlay and Nicholas Köhler spoke to university students, professors and administrators about campus racial balance and its implications. The resulting story was titled: ”‘Too Asian?’: a term used in the U.S. to talk about racial imbalance at Ivy League schools is now being whispered on Canadian campuses—by everyone but the students themselves, who speak out loud and clear.”
The article has generated a great deal of response, a representative sample of which is included in this week’s Letters (page six). Some of the comments we have seen on the Internet and in other media have suggested that by publishing this article, Maclean’s views Canadian universities as “Too Asian,” or that we hold a negative view of Asian students.
By Julia Belluz - Thursday, November 18, 2010 at 11:40 AM - 0 Comments
What can you do when anxiety hits?
HIT THE GYM: “It’s been proven repeatedly that physical activity helps people manage anxiety and elevate mood. Make sure you incorporate that as part of your week.”
MANAGE EXPECTATIONS: “It’s important to learn to have reasonable expectations of yourself when you go to a new place. You’re not going to figure out the way to learn and instantly get 90s in all classes.”
TAKE A BREAK: “There’s no doubt that people are more efficient when they work for ﬁxed periods of time, followed by planned breaks.”
PHONE A FRIEND: “It’s important not to allow yourself to become isolated. Staying in touch with people by phone and visiting them regularly is key. So is getting involved with campus activities because they provide vehicles for meeting new people.”
By Cathrin Bradbury - Wednesday, November 10, 2010 at 4:35 PM - 5 Comments
McGill student Linda Frum upset the establishment by writing the first honest guide to Canadian universities
In 1987, McGill student Linda Frum upset the establishment by writing the first honest guide to Canadian universities. Twenty-three years later, Frum is a Canadian Senator and a mother whose teenagers are about to pick schools. She spoke to Maclean’s editor Cathrin Bradbury from her home about what’s changed on campus since 1987, what hasn’t, and what should. To read the entire interview, pick up a copy of Maclean’s 2010 University Rankings issue.
On why kids need to grow up:
On why teaching kids “how to learn” is the wrong approach:
On why students should pay attention to the aesthetics of potential campuses:
On why she no longer believes universities need “less money”:
On why she loves the idea of liberal arts foundations, but fears it’s a lost cause:
On what she thinks still holds true about Western and Queen’s:
On which schools are undervalued and the ignorance of Canadians about each other:
By Julia McKinnell - Tuesday, September 7, 2010 at 9:46 AM - 0 Comments
You may think you’re the only one feeling miserable, says this expert. You aren’t.
Many kids arrive on campus only to find, “This is way harder than I thought,” writes Dr. David Leibow in a new advice book for first-year students called What to Do When College Is Not the Best Time of Your Life. Usually, it’s a case of thinking, “I’m having trouble keeping up with my work. I don’t feel really close to anyone. I can’t fall asleep, then I can’t get up.” You may be looking around, thinking, “Everyone else is having the time of their life,” writes Leibow, a psychiatrist with years of experience treating college kids at Columbia University’s student mental health centre.
First off, you’re not alone. “Many of your fellow students go to the student counselling service or to private psychiatrists; they just don’t tell you about it. Which is a shame. Because it’s hard not to feel abnormal when you don’t know what normal is. Of course, it would be helpful if people were more open about what they really felt and thought. But, since no one wants to appear weak or inadequate, it’s unlikely a wave of honesty will sweep your campus soon.”
By Stephanie Findlay - Sunday, September 5, 2010 at 12:20 PM - 0 Comments
How university students are spending less time hitting the books while earning better grades than ever
In 2006, Philip Babcock, a labour economist at the University of California, was surfing online when he came across a survey on the time use of undergraduate students at his school that shocked him. He noticed students were reporting perplexingly low studying times. Comparing his own university experience to his teaching experience over the past five years, Babcock had a gut feeling students weren’t studying as much, but remembers thinking, “people are always criticizing the generation that comes after them. Maybe they’re working their tails off.” So he decided to test the hypothesis. In the resulting study, to be published in the Review of Economics and Statistics later this year, Babcock and his co-author, Mindy Marks, found that since 1961, the amount of time an average undergraduate student spends studying has declined by 42 per cent, from 24 hours a week to 14. That drop is found within every demographic subgroup, within every faculty and at every type of college in the United States.
The study didn’t look at Canada, but the trend is true across North America. In his upcoming book, Lowering Higher Education: The Rise of Corporate Universities and the Fall of Liberal Education, James Côté, a sociology professor at the University of Western Ontario, analyzed a data set taken from 12,000 students from the U.S. and Canada and found similar results. Study times have gone down and grades have gone up, with the Canadian university average climbing from C to a B+/A- over the past 30 years.
By Julia Belluz - Thursday, July 22, 2010 at 12:40 PM - 0 Comments
A growth opportunity: Sharia-compliant finance is now a $950-billion industry
Starting in September, students can enrol in Canada’s first university course in Islamic finance. Walid Hejazi, the professor at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management who is developing the three-day program to begin in January 2011, says it will cater to executives who “want to get an edge to differentiate themselves.” Participants will study sharia-compliant financial instruments (Islamic law prohibits usury), as well as the legal and tax implications of Islamic finance.