University Guidance: Preparing for Life Beyond Shawnigan

When a student’s Shawnigan Journey comes to an end, they need to be ready for the next stage of their education. That’s where the University Guidance Office comes in.
“We’re here to support students’ plans for life beyond Shawnigan,” Director of University Guidance Mrs. Hannah Gottfried explains. “What are their next steps? And how can they meet their goals?”
The Guidance Office works with students, families and teachers to plan a path to success — however a student might define that — in advancing to post-secondary pursuits. The bulk of their work is done one-on-one, especially starting in Grade 11, helping students make plans and personalized timelines, and create balance and reduce stress wherever possible as they think about everything from deadlines, scholarships and moving into residence.
“There is so much for students to keep track of as the idea of post-secondary becomes more realistic,” Counsellor Vicki Heywood says. “All those little pieces that they need to track but don’t necessarily know they need to track.”
The seeds for post-secondary success are planted when students arrive for Grade 8. Although it isn’t directly related to the Guidance Office, Grade 8s take Health and Career classes, while exploring things that will apply to their educational future, like their learning style or what makes them excited.
In Grade 9, students who are looking at athletics as a post-secondary path begin working with Athletic Advisory Mr. Jame Pollock.
The process ramps up in Grade 10 as students enter Career and Life Education and are invited to join in on university workshops and fairs. They work on selecting courses for grades 11 and 12 that will apply toward their post-secondary goals, and discuss employment and volunteer opportunities over the summer that can help them achieve their aims.
In the fall of their Grade 11 year, students are introduced to things they need to think about during the year. There are tangible steps taken that include consultations with families and discussions about finances. In January, students begin individual meetings with their assigned counsellors. Students who hope to study outside Canada also participate in workshops that prepare them for essay-writing components that some universities require as part of the application process, and work toward their SATs.
Throughout this stage, counsellors make sure that the students guide the process and stress their independence.
“It’s a time for us to emphasize that it’s their process,” Counsellor Ms. Alison Dewis says.
In Grade 12, students and their counsellors “hit the ground running,” working on post-secondary applications and scholarships, visiting potential universities, attending workshops and fairs, and taking more classes that align with their goals after Shawnigan.
“It’s the hands-on year,” Ms. Dewis says.
With the goal of submitting their applications before December break, Grade 12 students prepare applications for a maximum of 10 schools, including a “reach” and a “safety.” Counsellors make sure the students aren’t just applying to the “best” schools, but the best ones for their needs.
“We ask them, ‘Why these schools?’” Ms. Dewis says. “’What are you going to do when you get there? Who are you? What drives you? And how can you find that in your future endeavours?’”
That doesn’t have to be university. It could involve going to college rather than university, taking a gap year, or earning a certificate. “Those are all things that we definitely feel should be discussed,” Ms. Dewis notes.
Along those lines, the School will be hosting the WorkBC Find Your Fit Tour coming to Shawnigan on February 7, giving students an opportunity to look into opportunities in the trades and other careers that students may not have considered already, from occupational therapist and medical sonographer to air pilot and auto service technician.
Throughout the process, the Guidance Office strives to keep parents in the loop. Prior to the pandemic, they used in-person sessions to keep parents informed, but now use Zoom meetings more frequently.
The Guidance Office is seeing wonderful results already this year as early acceptances have started to come in. After working to support students as they investigate, consider and apply to university options, the Guidance Office looks forward to celebrating with students as they receive their decisions and confirm which institution they will attend. Many are still awaiting decisions, but a few students who applied early to the UK and US have already committed to an institution. Follow our social media accounts for updates on early acceptances.
We acknowledge with respect the Coast Salish Peoples on whose traditional lands and waterways we live, learn and play. We are grateful for the opportunity to share in this beautiful region, and we aspire to healthy and respectful relationships with those who have lived on and cared for these lands for millennia.