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Degree Planning Guide: Assess

Assessyour academic strengths, interests and long term goals to help you select programs of study that align to your objectives and allow you to develop a skillset that is aligned to your intended career path.

Step 1: What are your long term goals?

Do you plan to seek employment upon completion of your degree or do you intend to complete further studies? Discover how your Bachelor of Arts degree will provide you with a broad range of skills that can transfer to many different types of careers.

If you plan to seek employment, what skillset will you need to develop for your intended career path? Consult the “Quick Guide to Planning your Future” for assistance. McGill’s Career Planning Service is available to assist you with defining the skills needed for different career paths.

If you intend to complete further studies, what courses and grade point average will you need to qualify for this program? Consult our "Timeline for Graduate Studies" and the OASIS Career Advisor for assistance.

Step 2: Complete a Self-Assessment

Education is a lifelong process and choosing a program of study is just a starting point. Keep your mind open to the possibility that that there may be more than one way to reach your academic goals.  It is important to base your degree planning decisions on your personal interests, your academic strengths and your long term goals and to allow room to make adjustments to your plan as you grow and evolve during your undergraduate studies.

Keep in mind that you may have:

  • an interest in a program of study, however, you may not possess the abilities to handle the academic demands of the required courses;
  • abilities in a particular area but do not have any interest in studying that subject;
  • an interest in studying a subject that may not translate into a career path you will enjoy. 

For example, you may think that you want to be a clinical psychologist, but in reality, you may realize that the years of study required to reach this long term goal, the difficulty of the course material and the fact that you are actually too introverted to deal with people and their problems on a daily basis does not make this goal a good fit.

The questions below are formulated for self-reflection to help guide you toward making a well-informed decision. You will gain valuable insight about yourself by looking for patterns that exist in the grades you have achieved in your course work. By the end of this exercise, you will uncover several academic preferences that contribute to your academic success. This valuable data will assist you with selecting a program of study and courses that reflect your academic strengths.

What are your academic strengths?

Using the "Method of Evaluation" section of the PDF icon Degree Planning tool select a term of study or courses in which you have achieved your highest and/or lowest grades. Using “MyCourses”, list the grades that you achieved in each component of evaluation. Using this information, answer the following questions to gain a better understanding of your academic strengths.

  1. Can you identify a preferred method of evaluation? Essay, Multiple choice exams, Fill-in-the-blank exams, Short answer tests, Quizzes, Weekly responses.
  2. Can you identify a preferred frequency of evaluation? Did you receive higher grades in courses that had frequent evaluations such as quizzes and weekly responses? Did you achieve better grades in courses that had only a midterm and a final exam? Did a final exam worth over 50% affect your final grade in a course?
  3. Did the instructor’s teaching style or accessibility to answer questions influence your final grade?
  4. Did an engaging teacher or interest in the course material influence your final grade?
  5. Are recorded lectures or accessible Power Point notes beneficial to your learning?
  6. Does mandatory class attendance, conference attendance, required group work or courses that require public speaking positively or negatively influence your grade?

What are the non-academic factors that influence your academic success?

  1. Did your study habits differ depending on the subject or teacher?
  2. Did your course load or the combination of subjects you took have an impact on your grades?
  3. Is the structure of attending school five days a week beneficial? Would you benefit from the flexibility of a three or four day school schedule?
  4. Is your class attendance and /or grades better for classes offered in the morning, afternoon or evening?
  5. Are you motivated or distracted by friends or acquaintances in your class?
  6. Does the size of a class influence your academic performance?
  7. Do your roommates or your home environment influence your motivation in school?
  8. Does commuting to school affect your studies?
  9. Does work, extracurricular activities, health, learning challenges or family obligations affect your grades?
  10. Does lifestyle, nutrition and/or exercise play a role in how well you do in school?

Step 3: Select a program of study

  1. Review the program choices available in the Faculty of Arts by consulting the BA Program Information.   
  2. Make a list of the programs of study that interest you and eliminate those programs that do not.
  3. Review the course requirements for each of the programs on your short list. Keep a list of the courses that interest you so that you can visit them during the course add/drop period.
  4. Consult the departmental website for each program on your short list.

Step 4: Evaluate your choices

Weigh the pros and cons of each program of study on your short list.

  1. Does the program fulfill your academic interests, contain the necessary program requirements for a future program of study or help you develop a skillset for your career goals?
  2. Do the courses in this program align with your academic strengths?
  3. Does the program have a large or limited number of courses from which you can select?
  4. Do you have the prerequisites or grade requirements for this program?
  5. Does the program require courses that you find challenging or course material that will take you longer to understand?

Need assistance planning your degree? Visit with a Faculty Advisor to help you organize this information in a meaningful way. They can also help you interpret complex policies, procedures and requirements that must be considered when planning your degree.

Step 5: Need more help to find a program of study?

The Program for the Advancement of Career Exploration (PACE) is designed to help you make decisions about your field of study and/or career options. It is a series of four workshops that include vocational testing and a complete self-assessment. Upon completion of PACE you will be able to understand your personality type, identify your skills, interests and values, and how they relate to various occupations. As well, you will have a better understanding of the available resources and be able to create a realistic action plan with measurable goals.