For Dylan Bennett, going to Selkirk College this past year was literally a last-second decision.
“I had my mind made up in Grade 11 that I was going to go out East and take actuarial science,” Bennett says. “Then it was late-March, beginning of April last year. It was time to make my choice.”
Nelson’s Dylan Bennett completed his first year of post-secondary close to home and found the Selkirk College experience has prepared him well for his future at the University of Waterloo where he will transfer to complete his degree.
Bennett, who had won the Governor General’s Award for having the highest GPA in his school, had plenty of reasons to go, and plenty of choice. He loved math and his marks got him accepted to Waterloo University and the University of Toronto, both excellent schools for the subject. A lot of people he knew were moving away. Even his girlfriend was leaving town, heading east for university.
“But I panicked,” he recalls. “At the last second I went ‘Aaah!’ I was not sure I was ready to go. I wasn’t sure I was ready mentally. I was worried that if I went, I’d spend $18,000, not go to class and bail at Christmas.”
Good Reasons to Stay
There was plenty to keep Bennett in his hometown of Nelson as well.
“I coach soccer and I wanted to keep doing that,” he says. “I could keep coaching, pay for my year at school and still go to school out East after a year here.”
But choosing not to leave, when so many classmates were moving away, was no slam-dunk decision.
“I am a pretty competitive person,” he says. “I didn’t want to be the kid who went to Selkirk and all his friends went to the big schools. But I realize now it doesn’t matter at all. It can even be an advantage.”
Bennett decided to take math courses, including calculus, economics, computer science and algebra, close to home. They are all courses in the School of University Arts & Sciences that he can transfer to university this coming year.
“Sometimes if you go to a school and then try to transfer credits, it can be hard,” he says. “But Selkirk is designed to make transfers easy. They help you figure it out, the syllabus shows you just what credits and courses are transferrable.
“I specifically took courses that will transfer to meet my requirements. That’s important because in higher maths, I can’t do two years here. No one goes to Selkirk for maths for a year and then stops. They’ll want to continue to other institutions.”
Bennett says he benefited from the smaller class sizes and closer relationships with instructors than you would get in a first year math program at a larger institution.
“Universities can have 400 people in a course,” he says. “My biggest class this year, calculus, had maybe 80. And the labs for it are split up even further.”
A Step Up and a Step Forward
Bennett says going to Selkirk is an almost-perfect transition between high school and college.
“It has a mix of the best elements,” he says. “The teachers care more than at a big school, but they don’t baby you like at high school. It’s not their job to get you there, that’s up to you. But if they can help you, they will.“
Now he’s hearing from friends who did decide to leave town and it’s made him more convinced he made the right decision.
“It wasn’t so bad for them at beginning,” he says. “But a couple of friends found the second semester lonely. They’re in the longest semester with no break, and some of them are homesick and wanted to come home.”
Dylan’s mother, Karen Bennett, is also a Selkirk alumna. She watched her son agonize over his decision last year. She was glad he chose to stay home to start his post-secondary education, just like his older sister did a few years ago.
“It’s just such a nice, easy transition,” she says. “We’ve talked to lots of parents, having had two kids do it this way. It is a year less of airfare and accommodations somewhere else. Financially it is a huge savings and it is a great transition year. They are still going to post-secondary, but they’re at home. They’re not worrying about doing their own laundry or food, as well as keeping up with the first year of school.
“We’re happy he stayed home. It’s a good choice.”
The year at Selkirk’s also helped Dylan focus his future plans.
“I was going to go into actuarial science… the study and calculation of risk,” he says. “But this year I took an economics course in Selkirk and I really liked that. So that’s what I’m actually going into now. I’ve been accepted by Waterloo and I’ll go there in September.”
So what would Dylan tell students agonizing about their own future in academics? Should they stay or leave?
“Consider Selkirk College as an option. I did not think it was,” he says. “All through high school, I was wondering where I should go. I only thought of moving away, and to the biggest universities. I did not even consider Selkirk earlier, and I wish I had.”
“It’s been a good decision,” he says. “I got to keep coaching, I made money this year instead of paying $20,000. I had a lot of fun. Three of my best friends went to Selkirk and we could still hang out. Sure, I’ll make friends when I go away to university next year, but I had some extra time with the friends I have.”