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Susan Bloch-Nevitte: College/university info fairs: separate solitudes seems “old school”

HEQCO’s communications team seized the occasion of the recent Ontario college and university information fairs to shoulder up to prospective postsecondary students, since our home on the 24th floor of the Toronto Star Building doesn’t lend itself to day-to-day contact with students.  (That will change, however, when Collège Boréal moves its Toronto operations to 1 Yonge Street from its current locations at Carlaw and College streets.)  The annual information fairs attract thousands of students (primarily high school, mostly from the GTA and Golden Horseshoe, average age 17) and are a great opportunity for other cohorts (like us) to hear what students have to say, see how postsecondary institutions are marketing themselves in the new millennium and investigate the state of swag nation.  Following are random observations from one who admittedly last attended some eight years ago:

Barely two weeks separated the college and university fairs, and given the diverse postsecondary pathways of today’s students and the numerous university/college partnerships, it’s not clear to me why there remains a separate solitude between the two events. Seems a bit, um, old school.

The booths at both fairs would hold their own at any high end trade show, replete with big screens, colourful graphics and branded staffers at the ready; computers were plentiful but the printed viewbook still lives and thrives; pens, buttons and branded post-it notes were readily accessible; some enterprising grade 8/9 teachers brought their students by the busloads; food fare at the university fair far outpaced that at the college version; and overheard repeatedly: “what GPA do I need for your program?”

While in the zone, we also conducted an informal survey on student attitudes about postsecondary education. In all, through face to face and on-line surveys, we connected with more than 400 students.  Here’s a sample of what they told us:

  • Top two reasons for going to college or university: employment skills, earning a diploma
  • Biggest issues: financing education, getting a job after graduation
  • Top info sources: parents/family, guidance counsellors, websites
  • Per cent who feel well prepared academically for PSE: 81 college; 70 university
  • Per cent who do not feel well informed about getting grants or loans for PSE: 75
  • Per cent who feel they’ll need more than one PSE credential for career success: 63 college, 66 university

Susan Bloch-Nevitte, executive director, communications

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