All Posts Tagged With: "university rankings"
CLICK HERE TO GO TO THE TOOL The annual Maclean’s rankings assess Canadian universities on a range of performance indicators in six broad areas. The Maclean’s ranking tool lets you create a customized ranking by selecting whichever indicators matter most to you, and deciding how much weight to give to each indicator to contribute to the [...]
The annual Maclean’s rankings assess Canadian universities on a range of performance indicators in six broad areas. The Maclean’s ranking tool lets you create a customized ranking by selecting whichever indicators matter most to you, and deciding how much weight to give to each indicator to contribute to the final score.
Here is a description of each indicator used in the Maclean’s ranking tool.
Maclean’s calculates the number of students over the past five years who have won national academic awards. The list includes 40 fellowship and prize programs, encompassing more than 18,000 individual awards. Each university’s total of student awards is divided by its number of full-time students, yielding a per student count.
To gauge students’ access to professors, Maclean’s measures the number of full-time-equivalent students per full-time faculty member. This student/faculty ratio includes all students, graduate as well as undergraduate.
Awards per Full-time Faculty
Maclean’s calculates the number of faculty over the past five years who have won major national awards from more than 40 awards programs covering a total of 860 awards. To scale for institution size, the award count for each university is divided by each school’s number of full-time faculty.
Social Sciences and Humanities Grants
Maclean’s measures the success of faculty in securing research grants from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC), taking into account both the number and the dollar value received in the previous year, and dividing the totals by each institution’s full-time faculty count.
Maclean’s measures the success of faculty in securing research grants from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), taking into account both the number and the dollar value received in the previous year, and dividing the totals by each institution’s full-time faculty count.
Total Research Dollars
Maclean’s measures total research dollars, including income from sponsored research, such as grants and contracts, federal, provincial and foreign government funding, and funding from non-governmental organizations. This figure is calculated relative to the size of each institution’s full-time faculty.
This section examines the amount of money available for current expenses per weighted full-time-equivalent student. Students are weighted according to their level of study—bachelor, master’s or doctorate—and their program of study.
Scholarships & Bursaries
This indicator calculates the percentage of a university’s operating budget spent on scholarships and bursaries.
This indicator calculates the percentage of a university’s operating budget spent on student services.
This indicator calculates the percentage of a university’s operating budget allocated to library services.
This indicator calculates the percentage of the library budget spent on updating the collection. In acknowledging a shift from the traditional library model—books on shelves—to an electronic access model, this measure includes spending on electronic resources.
Holdings per Students
This indicator calculates the number of volumes and volume equivalents per number of full-time-equivalent students.
Maclean’s solicits the views of university ofﬁcials at each ranked institution, high school guidance counsellors from every province and territory, the heads of a wide variety of national and regional organizations, and CEOs and recruiters at corporations large and small. Respondents rated the universities on quality and innovation.
The Maclean’s ranking tool lets you mix and match data from the most recent edition of the Maclean’s University Rankings to build your own, customized university ranking.
Maclean’s ranks Canadian universities on a range of performance indicators in six broad areas, assigning a weight to each indicator that determines how much it contributes to the final score. The ranking tool lets you select whichever indicators matter most to you and lets you decide how much weight you want to give to each indicator.
For example, Maclean’s weights the Student/Faculty Ratio indicator at 10%. That means each university’s performance on this indicator contributes 10% to their final score. If you place a high value on access to your professors, you can weight this indicator at a higher percentage. You can customize a ranking based on this indicator and just two or three others but give 50% of the weight to Student/Faculty Ratio. Or you could choose this indicator along with up to six others, but still give Student/Faculty Ratio the heaviest weight. You decide.
How it works:
Select the performance indicators that most interest you. You can select up to seven at a time.
Then click NEXT.
Assign a weight to each of the indicators that you have chosen based on how much you want each to contribute to the final score. The total must add up to 100 per cent.
Then click NEXT.
Select the universities you wish to compare. You can choose all universities, or select by region, such as universities in the West, Ontario, Quebec or the Atlantic region. Or you can create your own list of up to 49 individual institutions.
Then click NEXT.
Our ranking tool will perform the calculations using the indicators, weights and schools that you have chosen. Voila! Your own personalized ranking of Canadian universities.
Note: Ranking for the Personalized University Ranking Tool is not calculated in the same way as the annual Maclean’s university rankings. Though the two use common data, the rankings use a statistical percentile method and are three separate rankings, one for each of the three categories of universities: Primarily Undergraduate, Comprehensive and Medical-Doctoral. As such, results obtained from this online tool may not agree with the Maclean’s annual rankings, even if the same set of weights are applied to the indicators.
Our 132-page guide to Canada’s top schools is out now
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.
Medical Doctoral universities offer a broad range of Ph.D. programs and have medical schools
For the other two categories, click here.
|2013 Ranking||University||Last Year|
* Indicates a tie
Primarily Undergraduate universities are largely focused on undergraduate education with fewer graduate programs
For the other categories, click here.
|2013 Ranking||School||Last Year|
|7||St. Francis Xavier||(6)|
|17||Mount Saint Vincent||(17)|
* Indicates a tie
Comprehensive universities have a signiﬁcant degree of research activity and a wide range of undergraduate and graduate programs, including professional degrees
For the other two rankings, click here.
|2013 Ranking||School||Last Year|
* Indicates a tie
Only two of 19 schools improve their positions
Times Higher Education’s World University Rankings are out and most of our schools are down.
Only two of 19 Canadian universities on the Top 400 list improved their positions—the University of Ottawa and the University of Montreal.
One explanation for this year’s poorer performance is that our schools are losing ground against institutions in Asia, particularly in places like Singapore and South Korea. (See here.)
Despite the tumble, Canada still has more schools on the list than most countries. Only the United States, United Kingdom, Germany and the Netherlands have more in the Top 200.
Below are where our universities fell in the 2012-13 Times World Rankings, along with where they sat in the 2011 Maclean’s University Rankings. Stay tuned—our 2012 rankings will be out soon.
21. University of Toronto (2nd in Maclean’s Medical-Doctoral)
30. University of British Columbia (3rd in Maclean’s Medical-Doctoral)
34. McGill University (1st in Maclean’s Medical-Doctoral)
84. University of Montreal (12th in Maclean’s Medical-Doctoral)
Continue reading Canadian universities drop in Times World Rankings
Subject rankings for science, medicine, engineering…
Here are the top five highest ranked universities in the QS World University Rankings by Subject and the rankings of Canadian schools in science, engineering, and health disciplines. For arts, humanities and business, click here. For the full rankings, visit TopUniversities.com.
1. Harvard University (United States)
2. University of Cambridge (United Kingdom)
3. National University of Singapore (NUS) (Singapore)
4. University of Oxford (United Kingdom)
5. Karolinska Institute (Sweden)
11. University of Toronto
25. University of Alberta
26. University of British Columbia
29. McGill University
51-100. Western University, Université de Montréal
101-150. University of Waterloo
151-200. Dalhousie University, Laval University, University of Saskatchewan
Three Canadian universities made the cut
Business Insider has published an engineering schools ranking that answers the question potential students are most likely to ask. Which schools do my future employers think are best?
The ranking is based on a survey of 723 leaders including developers, engineers and others at popular tech companies. Each leader rated schools from “not valuable” to “most valuable.”
The Top 50 campuses were overwhelmingly American with a few contenders from Britain, India and Israel. Canada had three out of 50. The University of Waterloo, the darling of Canada’s tech sector, was #29. The University of Toronto was #35. The University of Ottawa ranked #44.
Asian Tigers and Australia dominate new ranking
University rankings often favour older institutions, because, in many cases, older schools have bigger endowments, more alumni and prestige.
The new QS Top 50 under 50 ranking takes the age-bias into account by removing all the universities founded before 1962.
Young schools are ranked on the same six criteria used in the QS World Top 300 ranking: academic reputation, employer reputation, citations per faculty, student/faculty ratio, international student ratio and international faculty ratio.
But the results are very different. In the World Top 300 rankings, the U.S. and U.K. dominate. Canada has 14 entries, but none are in the Top 50.
Results from the National Survey of Student Engagement
Click on the charts below to see results from the 2011 National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE), a study that university administrators pore over each year to find out how their students are learning. Both first and senior-year students have answered questions that illustrate how well their universities performed on the five Benchmarks of Effective Educational Practice: level of academic challenge, student-faculty interaction, active and collaborative learning, enriching educational experience, and supportive campus environment. You may be surprised about who’s on top. It’s not always the same schools that rank highly in the Maclean’s University Rankings.
Select a chart below. On the next screen, place your cursor over the chart and click to enlarge.
How guidance is failing our students
From the 21st Maclean’s University Rankings issue—on newsstands now.
Until mid-July, 25-year-old James Douglas pretty much had his life planned out. A fourth-year political science student at a major Canadian university, he anticipated finishing his degree at the end of the summer semester, in August, and graduating with his B.A. this fall. Douglas was in touch with several prospective employers in Toronto, his hometown, as well as in Ottawa, and had allowed the lease on his apartment to lapse. Then he received the phone call that upended all of that.
The call came from the registrar’s office, and informed Douglas that his application for graduation had been turned down. At issue was a three-credit course taken early in his career that his academic adviser had sworn up and down could be put toward his degree as an elective. Not so, the registrar’s office now said. At his entreaties, university officials dug into “some dusty book with fine print on p. 709” and pronounced the course in question as unfit to count toward his poli-sci B.A.
McMaster, Alberta, Montreal, Ottawa and Queen’s leap ahead
Eighteen Canadian universities are in the Times Higher Education’s Top 400 Rankings for 2012, the same number as in 2011. But take a look at the schools’ positions in last year’s Top 200 Rankings (in parentheses) and you’ll see that more Canadian schools improved this year—some greatly—than fell in rank.
The U.S. dominated once again with 18 of the Top 25 universities, compared to four for the U.K., two for Canada and one for Switzerland.
You’ll notice that big schools with huge amounts of research funding dominate the list. That’s because research and citations account for 60 per cent of the marks. For a fuller ranking of Canadian schools, click here for the Maclean’s 2010 Rankings or pick up a copy of our 2011 Rankings, out on newsstands in late October.
Does your university fall in the World Universities Top 500?
The Shanghai Jiao Tong Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU) is well-respected, mainly because the annual Chinese study uses six objective criteria to compare schools. The rankers consider every university in the world that has at least one Nobel Laureate, fields medalist, highly-cited researcher or researcher published in Nature or Science. Indeed, those criteria make up most of their methodology, which can bias the rankings toward science-intensive, anglophone schools.
Canada does quite well again this year, with its Top 100 schools all falling fairly close to where they were five years ago. And despite having only one in 200 of the world’s people, we have four of the world’s Top 100 schools. That ratio is beat only by the U.S., which has 52 per cent of the world’s Top 100 schools, but just 4.5 per cent of the global population and the United Kingdom, which has 10 per cent of the Top 100 schools, but just one per cent of the world’s people.
The study also reaffirms the University of Toronto’s place as global research powerhouse. No school from Australia, France, Germany, China, Israel or Scandinavia beat the University of Toronto, which is at number 26. In the Top 25, the U.S. has 20 winners, the U.K. has three. Japan and Switzerland have one each. Here’s a list of the 23 Canadian schools that made the Top 500.
26. University of Toronto (24. in 2006)
37. University of British Columbia (36. in 2006)
64. McGill University (62. in 2006)
89. McMaster University (90. in 2006)
101-200. University of Alberta, University of Montreal, University of Calgary and University of Waterloo
201-300. Dalhousie University, Laval University, Queen’s University, Simon Fraser University, University of Western Ontario, University of Guelph, University of Manitoba, University of Ottawa, University of Victoria and University of Saskatchewan
401-500. Carleton University, University of Quebec, University of Sherbrooke and York University
Students tell what they really think about their university, from the quality of their profs to whether they feel they get the runaround
Here you will ﬁnd additional results from the Canadian University Survey Consortium (CUSC). The CUSC survey, which was commissioned by the universities, asks more than 100 questions about specific aspects of the undergraduate experience—inside the classroom and beyond—designed to provide universities with data to help them assess programs and services.
Each year, the survey targets one of three student populations: first-year students, graduating students and all undergrads. In 2010, 39 campuses took part, administering an online questionnaire to a random sample of approximately 1,000 first-year students at each university. Institutions with fewer than 1,000 first-year students surveyed them all. In total, more than 12,500 students took part with an overall response rate of 39 per cent.
If you’re living on a scurvy diet of raisin bread and Stove Top Stuffing, Maclean’s is here to help
Four 21 year-old University of Toronto undergraduate students are gathered around the table in their Woodsworth College residence’s communal kitchen on a recent Friday night inspecting a bounty of fresh vegetables. “Leeks!” shouts Tingting Zhang, a psychology and neuroscience major who could point out the difference between a ganglia and an axon in her sleep, but takes childlike delight in recognizing the ubiquitous vegetable before her roommates do. Karen Sohn, an economics and psychology major, holds a bunch of thin grass-like spears. “Chives?” It’s more of a question than an answer. Aaron Shapland, who studies Middle Eastern civilization and geographical information systems, takes the easy road and correctly identifies the lone red onion. Meanwhile, the bag of baby arugula stumps Dorin Manase, who studies biology and computer science. In fact, they’re all baffled. “Is that leaves?” asks Tingting. “It tastes like nuts.” In an age when all things gastronomic are featured front and centre in television, movies and blogs, you might think this bunch would be more food-savvy. But as Karen pops a yellow-coloured cherry tomato into her mouth, she confesses, “you couldn’t find four people who make more disgusting food.”
Maclean’s is here to help. We’re armed with three simple recipes, for a soup, pasta and mussels. All require just one pot, minimal ingredients and extremely basic kitchen know-how. Our mission is to get these four students eating better fare than Stove Top Stuffing, pasta topped with ketchup, and Campbell’s cream of mushroom soup poured on top of a microwaved chicken breast, “Chicken à la King”: staple student meals from the 1990s. Surely times have changed.
Nobu Adilman, actor, writer, and one of the hosts of the Food Network’s Food Jammers, who graduated from Halifax’s Dalhousie in 1995, says, “It’s a matter of having only so many minutes in a day. You’ve got so much s–t flying at you and you don’t want to spend all that time on cooking. So you just eat to soak up the booze.”
Most students juggle full course loads, part-time jobs and extracurricular activities, which doesn’t leave a lot of free time to visit farmers’ markets, let alone plan a week’s worth of meals. Luckily, in downtown Toronto there are other options: “I don’t know if you saw the hotdog vendor across the street, but she’s going to be my best friend next week during exams,” says Aaron as he chops an onion. Dorin, who just finished an exam, ate cereal for his last three meals, while Tingting polished off an entire loaf of raisin bread yesterday: “Breakfast, lunch and dinner, just in my room,” she says. “I didn’t even use a plate because I was cramming: I had two assignments due.”
Bestselling cookbook author Bonnie Stern, who also runs a Toronto cooking school, has a brighter outlook on students’ eating habits. “They’re much more savvy than they used to be because of the Food Network. They love that feeling of making something—the excitement of it. It’s very cool now.” She ought to know: for the last 15 years her school has offered a university survival class for students leaving home for the first time. “They do have a short attention span so we try to just do one class and then pack it full.” One of the most popular recipes is an Asian-inspired salad dressing, named after her daughter Anna, “who went through all of university without eating a salad.”
Not all university students are clueless come dinnertime. Amanda Garbutt, 22, has been preparing meals since her first year at McGill University in 2006. “I would whip up something in the floor’s kitchen and no one else could even fry an egg.” Soon she was teaching her roommate basic kitchen fundamentals. “We’d buy identical ingredients and split the stove in half and she’d take the left side and I would take the right and we’d make identical meals.” Friends started coming over to watch. “They’d bring wine and it became a social event. And then I came up with BYOI, bring your own ingredients, and I would pick a recipe—a risotto, stew or soup—and assign everyone an ingredient to bring and it would end up being very cost-effective, and we’d all take turns stirring and chopping. It was fun.”
April Engelberg, also 22, met Amanda on their first day at McGill and came up with the idea of filming these sessions. The result was The Hot Plate, a show launched through TV McGill, the University’s student-run television station, in the fall of 2008. Engelberg and Garbutt, who graduated this May, are now developing The Hot Plate’s website, which features about a dozen instructional videos for simple dinners, and their cookbook, which comes out this month.
Like Stern, Engelberg has “noticed a massive trend toward students caring more about cooking. It’s cool to say last night I made risotto, and people are always taking pictures of their food and posting them.” Still, Garbutt says, “Some students go for the McGill pizza down the street. ‘Two bucks? I can do that for breakfast, lunch and dinner until I get scurvy.’ I actually know someone who got scurvy from a pure mac and cheese diet.”
Back in the Maclean’s kitchen, so far scurvy-free, we’ve hit a few snags. Tingting discloses that they don’t have a cheese grater. “I usually use a potato peeler,” she says. There’s also no measuring cup—no measuring device of any sort. More surprising is the absence of a colander from the kitchen of this pasta-loving group. “We use our hands,” says Tingting. “It’s not what you’re supposed to do?” When her three roommates cast steely glares in her direction, she adds, “We wash our hands first.” “Welcome to college,” says Aaron.
After they devour the leek and potato soup, which Tingting says “tastes like it’s from a restaurant,” the pasta is successfully drained, sans colander, and tossed simply with extra virgin olive oil, ricotta salata, cherry tomatoes and basil. “Mmm,” they hum. We do a second version with a handful of the arugula mixed in—a clever way to sneak a salad into a main dish. “I like it,” says Dorin, who’d earlier confessed to usually eating just meat. “I was skeptical. But it’s really good.”
The last recipe for curried coconut mussels, courtesy of Chatelaine, requires the most effort out of our three dishes—that is if you consider ripping out a few beards from the shells laborious. Not only are these bovines cheap (Chatelaine’s food editor, Claire Tansey, says they usually cost about two dollars for 250 grams) but they’re also high in zinc, protein and omega-3 fatty acids. Pair them with a buttered baguette and call it dinner.
The four students gather round two kilos of steaming mussels piled high in a stainless steel bowl; not an ideal serving vessel for hot food, but it worked in a pinch. They all like mussels, but this was their first time making them. It’s also the first meal these roommates have shared since moving in together this September, although you’d be hard-pressed to tell: as they dunk their bread into the sauce and devour dinner, they talk and laugh as though this were a typical evening. “We should definitely do this again next Friday night,” says Aaron. Mission accomplished.
Learning at these three schools happens outside the lecture hall
Like Rodney Dangerfield and rolling in the mud, Concordia University has a tendency to be underappreciated. Long considered the red-headed stepchild of Montreal’s two English universities, it is often lost in the ivy-tinged shadow of McGill. Many wear their alma mater’s scruffier-than-thou reputation on their sleeve. “Concordia is to McGill what the United Church is to Catholicism,” says one-time contemporary dance major Amy Blackmore. Still, the university has consistently found itself on the wrong end of Maclean’s rankings.
But while the numbers may show the 30,000-student university has certain challenges, they obscure many of the innovative aspects of a Concordia education that attract people like Amy Blackmore. Case in point: the faculty of fine arts, based in the glass-and-steel confines of the university’s new Engineering, Computer Science and Visual Arts Integrated Complex. By design, the roughly 3,700 fine arts students live and work in one of Montreal’s busiest strips—from which students and faculty alike draw inspiration. “There’s no sense of there being an ivory tower here,” says Chris Salter, a computer design professor. “There are no closed-off spaces. There’s more of what I’d call seepage.”
“Seepage” is an odd yet apt description of the department’s philosophy. Students who choose ﬁne arts won’t simply learn their chosen craft; more often than not, they’ll learn how to put it to use once they graduate. The department of design and computation arts doesn’t simply teach the esoteric aspects of the craft, but the practical as well. “In any given week I’ll be teaching the academic, such as media theory, to the hard-core technical, like digital audio design,” says Salter. The department offers a double major in computer science and computation arts, the only one of its kind in North America.
If there is a technological pièce de résistance in the department, it’s the Hexagram Institute. Established in 2001, it is the conglomeration of 16 so-called “new media labs” devoted solely to what the university calls “new processes, creative communities and innovative works or prototypes.” Translation: students get to dream up and make really, really cool stuff.
D. Andrew Stewart, a Concordia graduate, is using Matralab (one of the Hexagram’s spaces) to hone the T-Stick, a length of plumbing tube stuffed with electronics and layered with a touch-sensitive surface. The tube reacts to movement and touch, and when hooked up to a computer it can be manipulated to make custom sounds (a flute, maybe, or a sample of Stewart yelling something quasi-obscene). “It’s all open source,” Stewart says, “meaning you could build one yourself with instructions from the Internet. The gyroscope in it is from a Nintendo Wii controller.”
Matralab director Sandeep Bhagwati, who is also one of nine Canada Research Chairs in fine arts, says Stewart’s T-Stick is typical of the department’s beyond-the-box, interdisciplinary approach to art and performance. Indeed, it’s what attracted him to Concordia. “I have a very structured background as an orchestra director and composition professor,” Bhagwati says. “I really don’t like the divides. I needed input from people who were not musicians.”
Music therapy is another example of the department’s mix of theory and practicality. Music majors typically had three choices once they graduate: teaching, performing or gut-wrenching unemployment. You might say that Concordia’s music therapy program is a welcome fourth option. One of only two master’s-level programs in the country, music therapy students spend three days a week during the 12-month period (a total of 1,200 hours) working at various prenatal, health and palliative care centres, as well as women’s shelters and special education facilities around Montreal.
For professor P. K. Langshaw, interaction with the community at large goes both ways. In 2001, Langshaw began an ad hoc outreach program between her students and those of Dans La Rue, a resource centre for street kids featuring an alternative school. The reason: Langshaw, whose many specialties include computer art design, wanted to demystify the subject for DLR students. Her instinct has legs: today, DLR students can take classes at Concordia, earning the equivalent of six credits for producing university-level works. “For a lot of DLR kids, digital self-expression isn’t something that’s necessarily in their realm,” Langshaw says. “But here they are treated the same as any Concordia student.” It’s a ﬁtting partnership: Concordia itself is dans la rue—and proud to be far away from the ivory towers of certain other universities.
- Martin Patriquin
How to be a student locavore
Top tips from Canadian local food movement leaders Sarah Elton, author of Locavore, and Nick Saul, executive director of The Stop, a Toronto-based organization that strives to make healthy food available to everyone through community building, cooking, gardening, and food banks.
Get organized: “Students are great at pushing policy forward and getting their administrations to change,” says Elton, food writer and columnist for CBC Radio’s Here and Now in Toronto. She suggests students push to get “the university to have food procurement protocol that guarantees a certain percentage of food comes from local and sustainable farms.” Which is exactly what Local Food Plus, a non-profit organization committed to creating local sustainable food systems, did when they first teamed up with Aramark food services in 2005: a partnership that resulted in 10 per cent of the food served at U of T’s Aramark venues being certified local and sustainable, a figure they hope to increase to 25 per cent this year.
Buy in bulk: “It’s an affordable way of buying local,” says Elton. “Or buy directly from farmers. If a group of people share a purchase, it can ease the financial burden of a one time pay-out.”
Start or join a co-op: That’s what Elton did in university. “Choose one that focuses on buying local and sustainable food. I was able to buy great food at a price I could afford.”
Ask questions: Nick Saul of The Stop says, “Do a bit of a food audit on campus; that could extend to asking, ‘Why do we have these crappy pop machines?’ Or, ‘Why is the cantina serviced by these big bad companies?’ Doing a bit of muckraking in that sector is really important and can make a big change fast.”
Start a cooking collective or garden: “The food movement is pretty robust,” says Saul, “and I can’t imagine it not finding its way onto campuses, whether that’s more individually expressed through a house on campus where everyone is interested in local, organic, sustainable food and they figure out a cooking collective, or they take over a green space and have collective gardens or individual plots—that could easily make a pretty big mark.”
‘You are the Weird Mom,’ whispered my daughter. ‘There’s one on every tour and you are it.’
The first stop on the university road trip that my 17-year-old daughter Hayley and I took in August probably shouldn’t have been my alma mater, the University of Virginia. Her uni tour wasn’t about me. At least, that’s what I kept telling myself.
I’m an American who has spent the last 16 years living in Toronto, raising two Canadian children. I’ve grappled with the politics (you don’t vote directly for the prime minister?), the history (you won the War of 1812?) and the baffling modesty (hey, the pursuit of happiness is my inalienable right). So I’ve long imagined that when Hayley applied to universities, some would be in the States. She spent her first year in Los Angeles, and I thought she should experience what it’s like to live in her birth country rather than next to it. But because even I have figured out that Canadian universities deliver an equal education at a much lower cost, I posited that the only schools worth heading south for were the Dream Team, the super-high-end institutions that offer the moon—and, not incidentally, generous financial aid.
Hayley doesn’t have a particular school or subject focus yet; her objective is a wide-ranging liberal arts education. So we took the loose approach: we’d pack a credit card and a stack of CDs, chart a course—the University of Virginia, Georgetown, Yale, Brown, McGill, Queens—stay in roadside motels, and see what happened. What happened was this: Hayley displayed the usual anxieties about Getting Into University and Starting Her Future. And I decided that the best way to help her through it was to go barking mad.
It began three minutes after we pulled into Charlottesville, home of UVa. Okay, so I may have been driving a tad erratically, making screeching U-turns whenever something caught my eye. And it’s possible that my running commentary—“Oh my God, they knocked down my dorm!”—was more fascinating to me than to her. (I graduated in 1984. Things changed. Duh.) But I thought she might perk up as we walked the leafy, colonnaded campus built by Thomas Jefferson in 1819 with bricks from his works at Monticello. (I’d been a tour guide there, so I was full of fun facts.) I showed her my favorite deli, where I was—perhaps inordinately—pleased to see that “my” wild turkey sandwich was still No. 1 on the chalkboard menu. I was expecting her to be charmed by the things that had charmed me (“Isn’t it cool that Jefferson made the library the quad’s focal point, when at other schools it’s a church?”). But no matter how hard she tried, she couldn’t quite hide the “Yes, but can we go now?” in her voice.
It should have been a reminder that my daughter isn’t mine anymore, and hasn’t been for a long time. Eventually, Hayley articulated what she was feeling: she wanted to like my school, for my sake. But another part of her wanted to dislike it, because she wanted to make a different choice, live a life different from mine. You’d think I’d have been able to figure that out.
Our next stops were better. Georgetown, in Washington, was chockablock with political internships and study abroad programs—all of which Hayley realized she wanted, the minute she saw it. The school also guarantees residence for all four years, some in chic row houses that—okay, sue me—I would die to live in myself. Brown students design their own curriculums from a mind-blowing spectrum of subjects. And at Yale—ohhh, mommy really wanted to go to Yale. No class has more than 30 students, there’s a Gutenberg Bible in the library, and a master who lives in each freshman dorm arranges intimate teas for the students with guests like Bill Gates and Denzel Washington. At one point during the Yale speech I smacked my hands audibly against my face in wonder. “You are the Weird Mom,” Hayley whispered, pretending to edge away. (I’m sure she was only pretending.) “There’s one on every tour and you are it.”
Still, we could be a good team. She’d dole out my road food, and we’d alternate CDs, playing each other songs that meant something to us. (Father and Son by Cat Stevens: Hayley was bemused to find out that I, too, had once related to the lyric, “From the moment I could talk, I was ordered to listen.”) We figured out that it’s wise to attend both the formal information sessions and student-led tours, and that they fill up early. We developed an attack strategy: snag a nearby hotel room the night before, scope out the campus in the morning, and hit the road by lunch.
Unfortunately, we also learned that every other family on our uni route not only knew all that already, but they’d been planning for it for months, if not years. We kept seeing the same faces—the humble father from Guatemala and his dazzling son who spoke fluent Mandarin—who came equipped with hotel reservations and restaurant lists. They’d mastered the lingo. (Did you know that a student entering Grade 12 is called a “rising senior”? I didn’t.) They’d memorized the school stats and entry requirements, and rattled them off like Gatling guns: the Ivy Leagues like to see a 2,200 (out of 2,400) on the SAT, and high 700s (out of 800) on the SAT 2’s (individual subject tests). Alternately, you could skip the SAT and take the ACT, but then you’d need to brush up on science, not vocab. Apply for early decision to indicate your commitment, but only to schools that resubmit your application if the early decision is no.
I was overwhelmed. (Not to mention irked: would it kill Canadian high schools to give Grade 11 students information about applying in the States, so they could have the option?) Back in 1980, my “approach” to school selection was akin to picking names out a hat. There were no such things as SAT 2’s, I’d never heard of the ACT, and no one took me on a uni tour. Many of these parents, by contrast, were towing kids who were entering Grade 11. And some were entering Grade 10. Yikes. I’d forgotten what a big business university is down south. These kids (and their parents) wanted a capital-f Future, and they were charging in to get it like Rommel into Egypt.
Hayley is a dedicated student, she has what the U.S. admissions folks call “competitive” grades, and she’s always displayed a keen self-knowledge about which schools were right for her. I could see that two universities in particular had lit her up. But she’s also hard on herself, and when confronted with a mob that is storming toward something, her inclination is to pull back. So I shouldn’t have been surprised when she announced that she liked the U.S. schools. Loved a couple, in fact. But she wasn’t sure she would apply.
I hit the roof. Literally: I smacked the roof of my car. I wedged myself into my fallback position—guilt-inducement, learned at my own mother’s knee—and stayed there, loudly. At one point I heard myself hollering, “You are making this decision out of spite! You will regret it for the rest of your life!” and I saw how ridiculous I was. But I couldn’t stop.
In the miles of silence that followed, I had to own up to it: perhaps some of that, um, passion was my own regret talking (all right, yelling). I didn’t make the most of my university years. I cared too much about landing a job, and not enough about enriching my mind. I would love to have that time back, to do it more fully and without fear.
But mostly it was about my daughter, and my profound hopes for her. At schools on both sides of the border, my eyes kept filling with tears, not because I’m hormonally challenged, but because the belief that one should dream as grandly as possible moved me. At 48, I know something Hayley doesn’t: most people end up living smaller lives than they’d imagined. I want her to live the biggest life she can.
In early October we were on the road again, driving to Buffalo for Hayley’s second stab at the SAT. We laughed (sort of) at my August histrionics. Hayley told me she’d made her decision: she was applying to Canadian and U.S. schools—not because I wanted her to, but because she wanted to. She’d be thrilled to be accepted into any of them, and she hopes I’ll be thrilled for her. (I will.) She wants to attend a university that “scares me, but in a good way.” And what impressed her most about her uni tour was the number of people who cared deeply about where they went to school—how much they yearned for it, how hard they worked for it. “I saw how many people really value their education,” she said. “I want to value mine that way.”
I could be letting myself off easy, but maybe every university tour is fraught. Maybe it’s meant to be. By the time our children are on it, they’re not children anymore. They’re adults, making the first major decision of their adult lives, and we parents have to stand down and let them. It’s Hayley’s road now. I’m just glad to be along for the ride.