Canada has a long history of blazing the trail of development and research in the humanities. From authors like Margaret Atwood and Michael Ondaatje, to researchers like Marshall McLuhan, Canada’s cultural influence far outweighs its relatively small population. Similarly, Canada’s universities punch far above their weight — there are three Canadian universities in the 2022 Times Higher Education World University Rankings. With broad applications across all disciplines, and a huge suite of applicable careers, a degree in the humanities from a Canadian university is extremely valuable all over the world.
Before you can think about what you’re going to do after getting your degree though, you’re going to need to review post-secondary pathways and work out a plan to acquire the necessary prerequisites to get into your dream school.
Applications to these schools are often quite competitive. Developing a solid application is therefore essential. Nowadays, many students are exploring the possibilities of online learning, and fortunately, there are numerous pathways available for you to get your high school credits online.
The flexibility offered by remote learning lets students develop at their own pace and study according to their own schedule, making time for those extracurricular activities that also look good on an application. Institutions like the Ontario Virtual School (OVS) offer Ontario Secondary School Diploma (OSSD) online high school courses, inspected by the Ontario Ministry of Education.
The Pathway to the Humanities
Regardless of the school that you’re thinking of applying to, if you’re interested in the humanities (actually, if you’re interested in higher education in Canada in general), you need to have Grade 12 English (ENG4U). Some of Canada’s elite schools, like the University of Toronto, require high grades in this and other courses, generally in the low to mid-eighties to be considered as a competitive applicant. Fortunately, OVS’ instructors are skilled at bringing individualized instruction, and model effective learning strategies.
Examining the requirements for entering the University of Toronto’s undergraduate English programs are useful in showing the kind of preparation required to apply to humanities programs in general, as many of the requirements are similar. You’re going to need an Ontario Secondary School Diploma (OSSD), with six grade 12 U/M subjects, including the already mentioned ENG4U.
As a student, the sensible plan here would be to focus on courses that help develop the skills that you’ll be using in your undergraduate studies. Becoming familiar with the specialized content that you will be working with is essential for success at university. Therefore, courses like Grade 10 Canadian history are recommended, as they introduce students to historical thinking, source analysis and the historical inquiry process.
Even if you don’t go on to study history, you will certainly be using these skills consistently throughout your undergraduate studies and beyond. Learning how to study world issues in courses like CGW4U is also important, as you’ll be introduced to geo-technologies and the skills of geographic inquiry. Even if you’re studying English, you will be using these skills as you examine and research the literature of other communities and the effects of issues and trends like globalization and colonialism on national literatures. Results in these OVS courses can be sent directly to OCAS, and are easily integrated into university applications like OUAC.
Take a Closer Look at U of T
Taking a closer look at the University of Toronto’s English undergraduate programs is useful in illustrating the general structure of English and humanities programs. English courses are arranged into four series. The first, the “100” series are sweeping surveys of literature, from The Iliad to the 19th century. Most of these courses include small group-tutorials which introduce critical reading and writing skills. The “200” series provide various introductions to the study of English literature, grounded historically, theoretically, or generically.
At the “300” level, students study specific periods, themes or diasporas literature in more detail, such as African Canadian literature, or North American Asian literature. Finally, at the “400” level, students make in-depth studies in areas studied by faculty themselves, actively participating through oral presentations and research-based assignments.
The University of Toronto’s Department of English offers a variety of different Programs of Study. The “Specialist” program is the most extensive, where student’s focus their research on English, and take all their courses within the department. The “Major” program on the other hand gives students the room to study other courses outside of the department for those seeking to pursue other interests. This is the most popular program in the department.
The next is the “Minor” program, able to be combined with majors and minors from a variety of other disciplines. It may all sound a bit confusing right now, but this flexible and self-directed approach allows students to develop their own specialties and deep knowledge and competency in their areas of focus.
A humanities degree opens doors into a vast number of different careers. It’s also a popular “stepping stone” degree into fields like law, business, and other specialized professions. With a humanities degree, students develop both open-mindedness and flexibility. They also develop the critical thinking and evidence analysis skills that are essential in navigating the complicated interconnected world of the 21st century. This puts them in strong positions to build highly successful careers. 60% of American CEO’s have a background in the humanities.
Other popular, highly paid career options include communications, marketing, content strategy and technical writing. Even though Science, Engineering, Technology and Mathematics (STEM) degrees get a lot of attention nowadays, the humanities and English are both very valuable disciplines with a huge variety of career applications.
If you’re a high school student looking for a clear path to pursuing the credits you need to graduate and attend a top-tier humanities university like U of T, hopefully this article has helped show you the steps necessary to succeed.
Whether you’re a full or part-time student, take a look at the courses on offer at OVS today to get your head start.