Niagara students choose Brock for postsecondary education

After graduating from Port Colborne’s Lakeshore Catholic High School, Emily Armstrong wanted to go away for university. She visited several Ontario campuses, then, to make her mother happy, she toured Brock.Her decision was made.“The people there made it seem like I was already a member of the school and that they wanted to invest in me and my education,” said Armstrong, now a third-year Physical Education student at Brock. “I felt so welcomed. Coming from a small town, it felt like it was its own small town.”This week, Grade 12 students across Niagara are thinking about Wednesday’s (Jan. 13) deadline for high school grads to decide which Ontario universities they want to apply to.Last year, 42 per cent of Niagara’s university-bound high school graduates chose Brock. That’s strong local recruitment when compared to universities like McMaster, Queen’s and Waterloo, but Brock officials know that figure still leaves 58 per cent that left Niagara for school, and hundreds more who decided not to go to university at all.Brock puts a lot of effort into reminding high school students and their parents that the “hometown university” is a good choice. It offers more than 70 different undergrad degrees, keeps adding world-class facilities, and government data shows the employment rate for Brock grads is higher than the average for all Ontario universities.“We have exceptional programs, excellent co-op and experiential learning opportunities. And the student experience is fantastic,” said Beth Natale, Brock’s Director of Recruitment.With next week’s application deadline looming, recruiters are urging students to visit Brock’s main campus and the new Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts in downtown St. Catharines. Saturday (Jan. 9) there will be an open house at Brock starting at 11 a.m. Current students will give campus tours while Brock staff will be on hand to answer questions. Visit http://discover.brocku.ca/tours/ for more information or to sign up.Natale said visiting the university in person is always an eye-opener, even for local residents who attend events or shows and think they know the campus.“They’ve been here many times,” she said, “but they haven’t been here with the lens of being a student.”Josephine Moretuzzo, a lead guidance counselor from Blessed Trinity Catholic Secondary School in Grimsby, says secondary school students are increasingly sticking close to home after graduating, partly for economic reasons but also because there are solid options.“I always say, we have great schools in our back yard, so why would you travel,” said Moretuzzo.Moretuzzo expects half of Blessed Trinity’s 260 graduates this year to apply to universities. While guidance counselors need to remain unbiased, she said her own experiences with Brock have been overwhelmingly positive. Last year her own daughter chose to attend Brock.“They communicated with her almost immediately. Brock really did go above and beyond to make it personal. I can’t say that’s the case with other schools,” she said.Research shows the top factors influencing university choices include: academic reputation; availability of co-ops and internships; employment prospects; location; attractive campus; and reputation for student experience.Natale said Brock has strengths in all of these areas, including a leading co-op program for Ontario, and a student awards and bursaries program that just increased by $1.1 million to a total of $8.8 million.Plus, there’s the major financial savings of attending a local university and living (and eating) at home.For Armstrong, the tables have turned since that first campus tour she took to satisfy her Mom. She now helps lead tours, and has worked various jobs around the campus. And she’s using what she has learned in Phys Ed studies in her job as a personal trainer in The Zone fitness centre.“The more you learn about the university,” said Armstrong, “the more you love it.”Emily Armstrong

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