LIFE AFTER HIGH SCHOOL: How Our Private Schools are Preparing Students for Post-Secondary and Beyond

With infinite possibilities at their fingertips, students today are facing immense pressure when it comes to choosing what path to pursue after high school. But the reality is, career paths of the future are incredibly diverse and incessantly shifting. In fact, research shows graduates today may end up working a job that hasn’t even been invented yet.

When it comes to that next step after high school, it’s about more than just academic marks. Rather than getting caught up with finding the perfect career to pursue for the rest of their lives, students should be focusing on developing a portfolio of talents—building upon their communication, collaboration, project management, critical thinking and problem solving skills—in order to construct a strong foundation for their future.

Pickering College in Newmarket developed its Global Leadership program to help students do exactly that. “Our mission at Pickering is to instill in each individual the ability and responsibility to make the world greater, better and more beautiful than when they discovered it,” says Jessie-May Rowntree, Director of Admission and Marketing, Pickering College.

Students at Pickering can graduate with two diplomas: the Ontario Secondary School Diploma (OSSD) and the Global Leadership Diploma. The Global Leadership program guides students through the 10 demonstrations of global leadership, providing real world experience that will serve them well in post-secondary and beyond. For example, in grade 11, Pickering requires students to complete a university-level interdisciplinary project where they promote an innovative solution to a specific social issue they want to address.

“One hundred percent of Pickering College graduates are accepted to post-secondary institutions,” notes Rowntree. In efforts to help them determine what direction they’d like to pursue, each student is assigned to a teacher advisor starting in grade nine. “This is someone they can bounce ideas off of and get advice from,” Rowntree explains. “They sit together in morning meetings, eat lunch together three times a week and have meetings outside [of school].”
Students also benefit from the expertise of a guidance counselor, who is available to “help them explore what they’re passionate about, what they’re academically successful at, and help them look at different career options and areas of study,” says Rowntree.

Villanova College in King City takes pride in offering students the opportunity to explore their passions while building rigor through their academic program. “This starts from the decision of our scheduling and the fact we’re a non-semestered or what we call a full-term school,” says Paul Paradiso, President, Villanova College. “Managing eight different courses, and expectations from eight different teachers, will help develop students’ time management, organizational and communication skills.” Not to mention, the school challenges students with a strict assessment and evaluation policy. A mark of 70% is considered as close to a failing grade as a 50%, and students struggling with low grades are placed in a mandatory program for extra help.
In addition to receiving their OSSD, students also have the opportunity to apply for the Villanova College Diploma, which requires a higher minimum grade average in core subject areas, and contribution to school life in either arts, athletics or social outreach in each of their academic years, as well as experience serving the community at large.

While the Ontario government requires students have 40 hours of community service in order to graduate, Villanova requires 60 hours. “Our after school program is quite extensive, and it is an expectation that students get involved – that they’re not here strictly for the academic pursuit,” says Paradiso. Students are encouraged to give back through the school’s various outreach programs, such as “Sandwich Patrol” where students share their time and food with the homeless. “They have to be able to contribute to school life as well as to the broader community, as part of meeting the mandate here at the school. And we hope they will continue once they leave.”

When it comes to choosing a post-secondary path, students at Villanova benefit from individual counseling, as well as career fairs presented by parents of students, university representatives and former graduates. “It’s a really important decision kids need to make,” says Mark Musca, Head of School, Villanova College. “They need to go into a field they’re passionate about, but they need to know upfront that every job has pros and cons. And they need to know what these are in advance, before making their decision.”

While both Villanova and Pickering College are university-preparatory schools, they recognize the options available to students today are vast – including the potential to pursue avenues in university/college partnerships, gap years for work or travel, as well as athletic and artistic scholarships. This is why they’ve placed a high priority on developing programs dedicated to helping students identify their passions, develop a foundation of skill sets to build upon, and determine the right fit for the next step in their careers and their lives.


Local Links

Pickering College, Newmarket

Villanova College, King City


by Charlotte Ottaway

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