Tag Archives: Mike Peirce

Freshman’s survival guide

Posted by: Mike Peirce on September 29, 2015 9:00 am

In preparation for the university adventures my graduating students were heading off to in September, for many years I would invite last year’s graduating class back to talk about their first year experience. Passing on their words of wisdom to the current graduating class became an annual tradition. With orientation week over for the 2015 incoming university freshmen, I felt it would be a good time to review some of the pearls of wisdom my graduates have passed on to students heading off to university for the first time.

While this one really is a no-brainer, my graduates stressed the importance of getting to those lectures. This is where professors give all kinds of clues to how to succeed in their courses. I always suggested going one step further. I recommend that students visit each professor during office hours with a question regarding the material in the course. Since so few students actually do this, it is remarkable how well a professor will remember you. In your favorite courses, this may provide the opportunity to develop a relationship which will lead to the possibility of using this professor as a reference for graduate studies or employment down the road. I always told my class that if they have to come back to me, their high school counsellor, for an academic reference following their undergraduate degree, they really haven’t done their job. Continue reading

*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA

Choosing a university program

Posted by: Mike Peirce on August 24, 2015 3:10 pm


Over the past month, I have spent a great deal of time reviewing Canadian university programs as I updated the material for the 2015-16 edition of “For Grads Only”. This publication is near and dear to my heart as I believe it is a useful tool for students beginning their search for their ideal university and program. During my research, the program searches on the University Canada website made me think about what a student goes through as they decide their course of action for university application. Did you know that if you simply search for Bachelor degree programs taught in English in Canada, there are almost 6,400 possibilities to consider? There is no wonder students are often overwhelmed by deciding what to study. The importance of this decision can never be underestimated as a student needs to know what the program they will enroll in before they can decide which university to apply to. After all, if the university doesn’t teach the program, no sense in going there. Over the years, I have realised that students researching undergraduate university degree programs fall into one of three groups: 1) those who know what they want to study, 2) those who have some idea and 3) those who haven’t a clue. The neat thing is I believe there is no problem being in any one of these three categories. The process of choosing just needs to be adjusted a little. Continue reading

*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA

University and Employability Skills

Posted by: Mike Peirce on July 22, 2015 2:47 pm

glasses-272401_640There has been a tremendous buzz in the media lately about unemployment, the lack of skills and how universities aren’t preparing their graduates for the world of work. To be frank, I take it all with a grain of salt. While there is no doubt that unemployment is a problem, I am still an old fashioned believer that students should pursue their passions and a university degree opens doors. In 2010, University Canada published an entire series of articles about the value of a university degree (http://www.univcan.ca/media-room/publications/the-value-of-a-university-degree/). On average over their lifetime, university graduates earn $1.3 million more than high school graduates and $1 million more than community college graduates. The National Center for Education Statistics (nces.ed.gov/programs/coe/indicator_tba.asp) publishes rates of employment by educational level and the university graduates and again university graduates are well ahead of other educational paths. Similar results are found by the U.S. bureau of Labor Statistics (http://www.bls.gov/emp/ep_chart_001.htm).

The issue for the vast majority of students starting university is that they aren’t yet ready to choose a specific career path and that’s okay. University is a place where students can explore their passions. For years, I took annual road trips to universities to chat with my former high school students. A key question I often asked was “What are you studying now?” Inevitably, the vast majority would tell me about a fascinating course or professor they experienced which changed their path. I am pleased to say that virtually all of them are highly successful and employed. You see, whatever they studied, they learned valuable transferable skills which have opened doors for them. Continue reading

*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA

Media and Parents in the Post-Secondary Decision-Making Process

Posted by: Mike Peirce on July 11, 2015 2:50 pm

stanford-63689_640While many students would hate to admit it, their parents often play a key role in their post-secondary decision-making. They often finance the education, may have expectations based on their own experiences, or simply be there to support their child during a stressful decision-making process. After all, choosing a university is often the first major decision which has a long term impact on her or his life’s journey. When I counsel students making their decisions, I try to ensure that the parents are included in the process in a supportive role. In order to do so, I spend a great deal of time dispelling myths, helping them to understand current post-secondary realities and educating them about where they might find reliable information regarding their child’s choices. I do find much of the conversation is reminding parents that all they read or hear in the media is not factual nor reliable. I recently heard a TV financial celebrity talking on a highly respected talk show state a number of “facts” about university admissions which were so far off the mark, I cringed. Part of the problem is that much of the other advice he gave was valid. How does a parent discover what is valid and what is not? Another pet peeve of mine is the annual university rankings which are published by popular media magazines and newspapers. These are often based on criteria which have no influence of the individual student’s experience. How does one combat this? I have found that my most successful strategy is to educate the parents about resources which do provide reliable and valid information which is useful in supporting their child’s decision. Some like the University Canada (www.universitystudy.ca), the Common University Data from the Council of Ontario Universities (http://cou.on.ca/numbers/cudo) and eInfo (http://electronicinfo.ca) websites I have mentioned in earlier blogs. I recently read an article reviewing Major Maps, a new resource from Queen’s University Career Services (careers.queensu.ca/students/wondering-about-career-options/major-maps-2015). This is a truly valuable resource helping students (and especially parents) to understand the possible directions a student might take when completing a degree which is not specifically career focused. The maps offer more than a simple list of potential career paths, they also offer suggestions about how a student might get involved beyond the classroom to better prepare for the job market upon graduation. Contrary to the media, there continue to be remarkable opportunities for graduates in all university disciplines. Parents, who are worried about the employment opportunities upon graduation, need to see this type of resource so they can support the son or daughter who has a fascination in an area where career opportunities are not quite as obvious.

For a list of many of the web resources I like to use, visit my website at www.PeirceEducational.com/Links.html.

*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA

Professional Development Always Refreshes Me

Posted by: Mike Peirce on June 12, 2015 12:00 pm

I have just returned from the annual conference for the New England Association of College Admission Counselors (NEACAC) and feel great about going. The nice thing is that this conference deals with most of the major topics in US post-secondary education covered by the national conference but is affordable for a counsellor on a budget!

One might ask why a Canadian counsellor goes to a New England conference but I feel it is important to stay in touch which changes in University admissions which may impact the students I work with. Some of my students are interested in applying to US Universities so part of my responsibility is to be aware of what is happening. It also gives me the chance to brag a little about what Canadians have to offer. I was thrilled to see a full room for my presentation about Canadian Universities as well as the number of US counsellors who spoke to me after about the wonderful value our Universities are for US students. We tend to forget that Canada is a great destination for international students.

One of the big topics at the conference was concerning the new SAT which will be initiated in March 2016. There are some pretty substantial changes being made to the test so it will be important for students to be aware of what they are heading into. Gone are the old SAT word pairs (thank goodness) but the revised testing will take longer, almost 4 hours…. and will involve significantly more reading throughout the test (including the math sections). Looking at the style of questions, the new SAT will be testing more curriculum knowledge rather than simply measuring aptitude. Detailed information regarding the changes to the test can be found at: https://collegereadiness.collegeboard.org. One of the positive changes is that students can sign up for FREE on-line test preparation through a partnership between the Collegeboard and Khan Academy (a large on-line education provider) removing the advantage more affluent students once had with their ability to pay for significant test preparation. Details can be found at: https://www.khanacademy.org/sat. Certainly any student considering application to a US University should take advantage of this service.
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*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA

University Decisions: Quality Versus Reputation

Posted by: Mike Peirce on May 28, 2015 2:00 am

I recently attended the Ontario Universities “Dialogue” conference at McMaster University and heard many of the same discussions raised…. mark inflation, credit factories, use of additional information forms… and then a counsellor asked a question I hadn’t heard in a long time. It was a relevant question but it took me back a little. “What is the retention rate of 1st year students going into 2nd year?” Many of the universities couldn’t answer off hand but for those interested, the information is readily available on the Council of Ontario Universities under the Common University Data page: http://www.cou.on.ca/facts-figures/cudo. There are numerous excellent sources of information about our post-secondary institutions which we need to encourage students and parents to use in their research. The question also reminded me of how often I run into parents and students who are asking the question “Who has the best reputation for….?”

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*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA

Students in a Supporting Role

Posted by: Mike Peirce on May 11, 2015 1:03 pm

A number of years ago I conducted a student health and lifestyle survey in my school to consider the effectiveness of our student support resources. What we discovered won’t surprise many but it was still an eye opener. In spite of having access to trained counsellors, health professionals and supportive teachers, our students turned to their peers first when they faced the struggles of adolescence. Thus began my journey in the world of peer support programs. Some may call them peer counsellors, peer mentors or peer advocates but by any name, they added a tremendous resource to our school’s student support structure. They now serve as primary referral agents for our student services. Without trying to be dramatic, I can honestly say they have saved lives.

peersThere are several core components to having a successful peer program in a school setting. The adult facilitators in a school setting need training in order to support an effective training program for students. The administration, faculty and staff at a school need to be educated about the role these students will play. Students are not primary caregivers but receive training to support their peers as they struggle with adolescent issues while understanding when a peer might need a greater level of support. At this stage, they refer on to an appropriate resource.

Student training typically revolves around several fundamental skills, listening being the key focus, followed by questioning, decision-making and values. In my school, students applied for the role and are trained year long. Other than our start-up year, returning peer counsellors select the next group to be trained based on an application, essay and interview. The outcome of the selection process ensures that successful applicants broadly represent the diversity of the school population. For the training, other than the first and last sessions, returning peer counsellors run the sessions with the adult facilitators serving in a supportive role. Students study the importance and meaning of confidentiality and develop a code of ethics for the group. During my more than 20 years in peer programs, I have found the students to take this responsibility extremely seriously and have gone to great lengths to maintain this as the trust other students put on them is dependent on their performance.

There is a great deal of research showing the effectiveness of peer networks in schools and other communities. The Peer Resources Network (www.peer.ca) has been an invaluable tool for me over the years providing training, manuals, research findings, and professional development opportunities for peer trainers. In an age where bullying, mental health issues and social media have all made supporting students more and more complicated, students helping students can be a very effective strategy for any counselling department to consider. The system established in my school has now run for more than 20 years and continues to be a critical part of our student support initiatives.

*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA

Researching Canadian Universities

Posted by: Mike Peirce on April 30, 2015 8:50 am

I am preparing to present at the annual conference for the New England Association of College Admission Counseling (NEACAC) in early June to give a presentation on Canadian universities for guidance counsellors from the New England area. As a long time counsellor specializing in university decision-making, I head south every year to hear the latest changes to the admissions processes for students applying to US universities. I believe Canadian students have a wealth of post-secondary educational opportunities in Canada, the US and around the world so I try to stay abreast of developments in the world of university admissions. I have no agenda for where students should apply but try to ensure they are informed with relevant information about whatever university options they might have, be it in Canada, the US, the UK or other areas of the world. I also feel it is important to share information regarding Canadian universities with our UScounterparts, who are painfully unaware of what Canada has to offer.


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*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA