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canadian university report

Hashim Javed , who is in his second year of theatre studies at York University in Toronto.

Ever wondered what might have happened at university or college if you'd done things differently?

That question was put to six people. Three of them are still students, the others have graduated from university or college in Canada in various disciplines. They look back here on their academic experiences.

For instance, had they been told in high school that university wasn't just going to be hard, but really hard, requiring them to study more than eat, drink or sleep in order to succeed, what would they have done differently? Read on to get the benefit of their hindsight.


Master of Architecture (MArch) graduate, University of Toronto

I graduated in 2010 from the University of Toronto Architecture School having spent seven and a half years in both the undergraduate and masters programs. Here are the top five things, among others, that I wish someone had told me before starting architecture school:

1/ You have to always take huge risks with your work aiming to get an A+ knowing very well that you may get an F.

2/ Even if you work all the time – days, nights and weekends – it's better to work less but work smart.

3/ For every hour of studying you do, you'll most likely retain only 10 minutes worth of value.

4/ University will only teach you how to learn, not how to think.

5/ Learn to draw with your hand and mind together.


Classic art and archeology student enrolled at Concordia University

Time management is the key to happiness. It's nearly impossible to do, but to the best of your ability stay on top of your work, and most important, keep calm. Do not panic during exams even if you don't know the answer, writing something is better than nothing and with assignments it is always better to hand them in late than not at all.

I also wish I had been told not to be afraid to fail, and that failure is actually something you can learn from. It's necessary for personal growth. I thought I knew what studying meant in high school. I definitely did not. I learned what it actually means to study in my first year, and it was a nasty shock after my first round of exams when I totally bombed and nearly flunked out. I found comfort in the fact that I was not the only one, and then I learned from my mistakes and never put myself in that position again.

Also, I wish I had been told that it is okay to change your mind. Or change your school, your major, your living situation and your friends, if you want to. Change is constant, and you must learn to roll with the punches, do what will make you happy.

I probably was told to get involved in everything, to say yes to everything, but I only heeded that bit of advice in my last year and it has ended up being one of my favourite years in school. I'm now so sad to be leaving.


Real estate broker, BA graduate in sociology at McMaster University

The top three three things I wish somebody had told me before I went to university are as follows:

1/ Frosh week is the best week of your life. Take that opportunity to make as many new friends as possible. There is no time to be shy. Participate in every event; dance, cheer, paint your face red, be absolutely ridiculous. The people you meet this week will be your crew for the next four years.

2/ Don't worry about your high school friends, or anything else about home. I promise you, everything will be exactly the same when you return home after graduation. So enjoy your time away. Miss your friend's birthday for that rugby kegger. Your friend will forgive you, but your memories from that nightwill be forever.

3/ Explore your school. There are so many activities, groups, clubs, teams, random events, etc. to get involved with. Take advantage of them. Because once you graduate, it is hard to find a group of 20 people to play inner-tube water polo with. If your school has powder-puff football, you MUST play.


Psychology student enrolled at Laurentian University at Georgian College Barrie campus, who anticipated graduating from the four-year program at print time

I am sort of an unusual case. When I started school, I had applied two days before the fall semester started. I got accepted three days later. My mother had called saying there was a university program offered through Georgian College, so I immediately applied. I didn't research a thing and just took courses that I thought sounded interesting; I am now regretting that decision. I didn't attend orientation and as such had a very rocky first year, trying to find buildings and room numbers.


Second year of theatre studies at York University

My first degree is in Commerce. Then I discovered theatre in an academic setting and it changed my life. After backpacking through British Columbia and Pakistan, I moved to Toronto to study theatre, cultivating my ability to tell stories relevant to all humanity. But the journey hasn't always been easy.

The best thing for someone to have told me in high school would have been some sort of acknowledgment that becoming an actor is not an outlandish idea. I wish someone had said that they understood that becoming an actor is my dream. A dream much like someone else's, and achieved through hard work and persistence.

Simply, I wish someone had said something which might have strengthened my belief that one day I would be an artist. Now that I have been a professional artist for four years, I am training to develop myself further. But I wish I had been given that encouragement from the beginning.


Soprano, bachelor of music at the Glenn Gould School at the Royal Conservatory in Toronto, and master of music at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music

There are so many things that I wish I had asked but was too afraid of being "wrong."

So the first thing I wish I had been told is to take advantage of your teachers and mentors and ask them questions. Start conversations, be memorable and always be curious.

I also wish I had been told from the get-go to study abroad for at least one year and really learn a new language and culture. It seems that all of my regrets are based on the things that I didn't do, so, basically, I wish I had been told to do it all.

Answers have been edited and condensed.