University Websites: Just Give Me What I Want
By Julie Jacques
Entering Dawson, many moons ago, it was clear to me that I would be going to university after graduation. What I didn’t know then, was that researching universities now was going to be like hell on earth. My suffering is reduced only in the knowledge that it is universal.
Take... “McGrill” University’s website. At first glance, it seems well organized. Its front page invites you to choose a program, redirecting you to over 300 programs you can research (and that’s just for undergraduate studies)! If that seems intimidating, it’s because it is.
You’ve made it to the categories– would you like to study Engineering, or perhaps Humanities and Social Science? By now, you probably have an idea of which field you want to pursue, so this part is easy. Pick your preference and you’re redirected to a long list of related programs. Never fear, two advanced search options should help you narrow things down.
First, location! If you didn’t know, McGrill has two campuses. The Uptown campus and the Taco Bell campus are your options. For some, the specification doesn’t change much. For example, out of eighty-three programs in the Humanities and Social Science field, only three are offered on the Taco Bell campus… so either you’ve narrowed your choices down incredibly, or not at all.
Moving on, you can now filter by program type! You have the two obvious choices, major and minor, but also less obvious options like joint honours, liberal program, professional program, and specialization. You take a detour to research what all of these mean, although it is very possible you never reach a valid conclusion, seeing as each university offers a different definition. Some, like McGrill’s neighboring Cornucopia, don’t even offer many of the same options.
Maybe you’ve done your research and are cautiously interested in a joint honours program. Awesome! English literature is posted underneath the joint honours tag– you click to explore it in more depth. It tells you the requirements, the R score cut-off, different careers it could lead you to, the kind of course work you can expect, as well as possible minors for the program and related majors. These are all useful pieces of information, but you’re interested in a joint honours program. Is there any mention of which program it could be paired with? Nope!
After traversing the depths of the internet, jumping from McGrill’s English department, to the meaning of life, stumbling across strange underwater creatures on the way, you find the page about joint honours. Here, you learn that you don’t apply to a joint honours program at the same time as applying to your undergrad. You must first complete at least 9 credits, but no more than 18, in one discipline. Simple, right?
Sure, they give some vague guidelines– you can do joint honours with two different programs that fall under the Bachelor of Arts. This is helpful, but you spent 25 minutes searching for this information. Do you even want to do joint honours anymore? Either way, I hope you’re writing all this down, because this sanctified path may never again be found.
There’s also the possibility you will only be allowed to declare a major after your first year. This information, of course, is conveniently placed under a tab titled “you’ve been admitted!” It seems as though only those who have already promised McGrill their youth and firstborn child may have ready access to knowledge. The rest of us are left traversing the Cloud, reduced to beggars. Please sir, I just want to know…
It seems the only clear part of any of these websites is the page explaining how much it would cost to attend– go figure, right? They break your spirit before all else.
Even pages which have no reason to be unclear– those detailing offered classes, for example, use terminology unknown to those without the newest brand of brain-microchip, or experience in a university setting. They might be useful to students researching graduate programs who’ve been through the ringer once before, but us dispensable CEGEP students have no such frame of reference.
My list of complaints goes on for miles, but the word count cuts me short. I’ll leave you with this: at the end of the day, it pays to research. A measly application will put you out of $100, so you better know what you’re getting yourself into. Don’t leave it to the last minute because trust me, the Higher Education Overlords do not make things easy for you.
Image: "McGill University" by Restless Journeyman is licensed with CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.