Monthly Archives: November 2008

Should You Pick A University Based on Rankings?


The latest issue of Maclean’s recently came out. It’s their University Rankings ’08 issue – their 18th annual ranking of Canadian universities against a number of criteria: performance of students, faculty, experience of students, reputation as seen by academics and employers, and then an overall ranking.

Let’s say you’re reading this rankings list as a university student (colleges, like RDC, don’t show up on the list) and you find your particular school is either ranked very high or very low. Should you be thrilled if it’s high? Should you demand reform and quickly transfer to a more highly-ranked school if it’s low? Or let’s say you’re a prospective university student, coming straight into a university program or else from a transfer institution (like RDC). The school you had in mind isn’t ranked as highly as you’d like? Should you be basing your decision on where to attend school depending on which schools rank highest?

Well, there are some reasons to pay attention to the rankings. There are also other reasons to make your decision WITHOUT concerning yourself too much over the rankings. Let’s explore.

Here are a few reasons you might want to pay attention to rankings:
– The criteria used to rank schools is thorough, varied, and can be useful. Do you want to know how undergraduate students feel about the school you’re interested in so you can get an idea of what your own experience might be like? Well, a look at the rankings done by students can help sway your decision. What do students really think of the school they’re attending? Or, is it important to you to have professors who are award-winning in their field? Have a look at how schools rank based on the awards/grants received by the faculty. Do you want to go to school with other students who are winning awards as well? Look at that criteria too.
– Are you trying to break into a competitive field and feel strongly that a potential employer might be interested in where you went to school? Have a look at how employers see different schools. Keep that in mind as you pick yours.
– Do you want to head on to do further studies at an Ivy League or other school that is incredibly selective about students? In this case, it MAY (not saying always) be advisable to try to attend a school that is highly ranked and also quite well-known. See the article in the Maclean’s issue about the student who feels his chances for being accepted at Brown, Yale, and Princeton were reduced because the small school he attended simply wasn’t recognizable to the admissions committee there. Think and plan accordingly.
-If you’re the type of person who just really likes the idea of attending a top-rated school, then great! Here’s a good way to see what that is. If that’s important to you, go for it!
– You’re trying to decide between a few schools that have accepted you. Everything else seems equal and you just can’t choose. You need a tiebreaker. All else being equal, maybe pick a school that’s ranked more highly. Why not?

Reasons to take the ratings with a grain of salt include:
– Subjectivity of ratings. Not to say Maclean’s doesn’t take a great scientific approach to their rankings and analyze the statistics appropriately. But all ratings have an element of subjectivity and results can get skewed in a lot of ways. For example, let’s talk about the rankings based on how employers feel about schools. Maybe they have an idea that one school is better than another and rank according to that perception. Does that mean they hire based on this perception? Not necessarily! There’s no reason to think an employer is going to hire solely based on a system of rankings they submitted to Maclean’s. They may be motivated by a number of other qualities of prospective hires that don’t show up in these rankings but are more important to employers than where the prospective hire went to school.
– Rankings can change! A school ranked highly this year may be in a downward trend and in a few years’ time, be ranked very differently. Same for a low-ranking school that is working it’s way up the list! Remember too that older schools tend to do better in terms of reputation (ie, how other people see them) because they have been around long enough to build up a strong one. Newer schools take some time to establish credibility. That is just a perception – doesn’t mean that the quality of education at a newer school is worse than that at an older school or vice versa.
– What is it you want to do? Are you interested in a career or graduate school program in particular? Research which schools offer the best programs for your goals, not how the schools rate overall. You can get a good idea of this by checking with prospective employers/graduate schools on their program recommendations, or talking with an instructor who knows about the field you are interested in working in/attending grad school in. They will likely have some very helpful insights.
– What is practical for you? Is it impossible to move? You may have to go to a school based on location, tuition, program availability, admission requirements, etc, rather than rankings. Do what is best for you. Spend your time being the best student you can be and building up your CV and resume through extra-curricular activities and volunteer work. Your grades and experience combined with your personality will likely shine through and influence your life much more than the name stamped on your degree, especially as long as your university is recognized and accredited.

Rankings are certainly food for thought. In the bigger scheme of things, are they really that important? It probably depends on how important YOU feel they are. You can get some interesting and very helpful insights from Maclean’s rankings, and those insights might well influence your decision. But at the end of the day, as always . . . it’s your choice, your experience, and your degree.

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Upcoming Career and Grad School Info Sessions


Criminology Information Session: If you’re interested in a career in criminology or criminal justice, attend this session on November 25, 4:00 – 5:30 p.m. in Rm 1328. Guest speakers include representatives from the RCMP, Parole, the John Howard Society, Parkland Youth Homes, and Correctional Services. You’ll also get information on graduate programs and volunteer opportunities.

Canadian University College Msc. In Marital and Family Therapy. Have you ever thought about becoming a registered therapist? Did you know that CUC in Lacombe offers a program for this? A representative from this program will be here at RDC to talk about the program and about how the U of C Collab Degree in particular can prepare you for it. Attend on Nov. 27 at 4:00 p.m. in Rm. 2505.

Both sessions are free and open to anyone with an interest in these areas! Even if you’re in your first or second year, come on in for information that can help you make choices about your eventual school/career goals.

If you would like more information, please contact Jennifer at 342-3313; jennifer.ramsden@rdc.ab.ca or Alison at 357-3674 or alison.morgan@rdc.ab.ca

Look forward to seeing you there!

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U of C Collab BA Degree – Apply Nov 1


Interested in completing a University of Calgary Bachelor of Arts degree while staying at RDC? If you want a degree in English, Psychology, or Sociology and meet the admission requirements of the program, this is an option you might want to seriously consider. What are some of the advantages?

  • If you are from Red Deer, you don’t have to move! You can stay here while completing the same degree as a U of C student on the U of C campus.
  • Instructors are a mix of RDC and U of C instructors. Class sizes are small, and you will make connections with your classmates and instructors because of this.
  • Because the program is small, you will also receive more attention and help from program staff! We get to know the students in the program and are here to support you throughout the process of obtaining your degree, from application to the program to application to graduate.

Here is an overview of how the program works:

  • After completing 14 to 20 half-courses as an RDC student, you are eligible to apply to Year 3 of a 4-year University of Calgary B.A. degree
  • The majors available are English, Psychology, and Sociology. Minors are available in Anthropology, English, History, Philosophy, Political Science, Psychology, and Sociology.
  • Entrance requirements vary from program to program. English and Sociology require a 2.2 GPA, and Psychology requires about a 2.7 GPA. Psychology also requires completion of Math 30 Pure or equivalent. For more details about admission requirements, please visit Jennifer or Alison in 2506I or J (see more contact information below).
  • You can apply to the program starting on November 1, 2008. Visit www.ucalgary.ca and click on the “Apply” link. Please let Jennifer or Alison know once you have applied so we can begin to put together a file for you. We can also help you apply – make an appointment and we can go through the application process with you if you would like.
  • Once you have applied, you will need to send official highschool and postsecondary transcripts to the University of Calgary. The U of C will then make an admission decision and notify you.
  • As a U of C student, you will register for all of your classes through the Collaborative Degree Office (2506 I or J). You will take senior level courses from U of C instructors on the RDC campus in order to complete your degree.

Please come talk to Jennifer or Alison about this program if you are interested! We are happy to give you details and answer any questions you might have! You can reach us at:

jennifer.ramsden@rdc.ab.ca; 403.342.3313; 2506I
alison.morgan@rdc.ab.ca; 403.357.3674; 2506J

You can also visit our website at http://www.rdc.ab.ca/programs_and_courses/departments/uofc_collab_ba/

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Are Student Loans Good or Bad?


Well, I actually don’t have the answer to that.

I do have student loans, though! And I am in the process of paying them off. And I can tell you that although I wish my loans were a little less, and although the loan payment every month  would be nice to have as cash in the bank . . . I don’t regret getting student loans and paying them off isn’t QUITE as bad as I thought it would be.

First of all, a student loan is an investment in your future. When you get a car loan, you get some use out of the car you’re driving. But all along, the car is depreciating in value. You’re never getting that cash back! When you get into credit card debt, you know that whatever you paid for costs WAY more in the end than it did in the beginning with the outrageous interest rates charged by credit card companies. When you get a mortgage, you’re making an investment in your future . . . but if you suddenly can’t make mortgage payments, is your bank going to cut you a break or make you a deal? Not highly likely.

Student loans are different than all this type of debt. Typically, the degree that you paid for with the loan is going to help you find a better paying job. It may not happen instantly, but over time, you will end up making more money, have a much better chance of being promoted or have the ability to go on to further education which will increase your earning potential even more than somebody who didn’t go to school. That’s a pretty big step up for the future.

The loan payments themselves are a little scary at first, and the sight of that loan which could take up to 10 years to pay off can certainly be depressing. But the government has programs in place that help you out. If you got good marks while in school, the government will forgive some of your loan, for example. You also have a six-month grace period after graduating to get out there and find yourself that first job. Let’s say you do find yourself that first job, but it’s nowhere near enough money for you to reasonably live off of and make loan payments. Student loans will let you negotiate a lower monthly payment and may even give you another six month break on their interest relief program, where you don’t make any payments on your loans AND the government pays the interest for you so the loan amounts aren’t increasing.

That’s not too bad when you think about how other lenders behave!

Could the system be better? Sure, it could. Should there be more money available to fund post-secondary education without needing a loan? Yes, that would be great, especially since a post-secondary education is almost a necessity in the workforce now. Should the government really charge interest and make money off the loan? Maybe not. But overall, things could be much, much worse. Student loans are seen as “good debt”, and so if you’ve got one, remember that!

It would be nice if we could all live at home and work during the summers to make enough money to pay for school without a loan. Kudos to those who can. It would be nice if we could manage to work 2 extra jobs around schooling without sacrificing a decent GPA, and maybe some of us can pull that off. But not everybody can! If you’re not in that boat and you’re coming to school with a loan, then take it with a grain of salt. Another payment you’ll be making monthly when you graduate. Just another something to budget for. Not the end of the world.

If you want more information on repaying Alberta student loans, check out edulinx.ca or call 1-866-827-0310. You can also check alis.alberta.ca – click on Students Finance.

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