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Parallel Planning: What if I don't get into my program of choice?

What is parallel planning?  Why is it important?
Parallel planning is a process whereby individuals can consider their career interests and plan ahead for more than one occupation and educational pathway.  People may think of parallel planning as "keeping more than one door open" or being considerate of a "back-up plan" or "plan B".  One common reason to parallel plan is because of competitive admission to faculties and programs.  Parallel planning can be done at any time, but engaging early may provide peace of mind and confidence. 

What if I don't get into my program of choice? 

Whether you are planning ahead, or in the midst of dealing with admissions results, it can be important to refer back to the career planning process and consider: (1) your career preferences and who you are, and (2) your knowledge of industry. Ask yourself: Why did I originally choose this occupation, faculty or program? Does this option still make sense? How does it fit my talents, interests and values?  Are there other options that interest me?  Ultimately a Career Consultant can help you to explore or articulate your career preferences, and help you identify additional occupational and educational options.

Many factors may influence your decision: grades, interests, aptitude, finances, geography, family and community. These are significant to career planning and will also be addressed throughout this resource.  Select a tab below to start exploring options connected to your parallel planning.

Also consider gaining further insight through paid work and volunteering!
Experience in a career-related work or volunteer position can help you learn about a given field and your work preferences. This can support your career-decision making, competency building and employability. A Career Consultant, and exploring UMConnect and other job posting boards, can help you locate relevant volunteer work, part-time jobs, summer jobs or full-time employment.

Try Again? Reapply?

Many successful professionals applied more than once to their program of choice.  If you feel confident about your educational goal and plan to reapply to a program, it can be important to consider why you weren't accepted the first time. There may be resources you can use and actions you can take to help with your future application.

Tip:Inquiry to the program's Admissions Officers may help you determine the obstacles or shortfalls in your application.

Some common obstacles to program admissions are:

  • Grades / GPA - this is the most common reason why people are not accepted into a given program. Think about whether your grades accurately reflect your ability and how you might make improvements. Ensure that you have a good academic plan! Talk to an Academic Advisor in your current or target faculty.

    Also keep in mind that the program you're applying to may calculate and utilize an Adjusted Grade Point Average (AGPA) instead of your cumulative GPA. Read the Applicant Bulletin carefully to learn more about how your grades are calculated for admission. You may wish to take more courses or retake courses, but it is important to learn how a repeated course is calculated in your AGPA or admissions score. Meet with an Academic Advisor to develop a strategy. 

  •  You can keep track of your grade point average with a GPA calculator.
  • Difficulty with studying, essays, exam writing or time management (i.e. balancing work and other commitments). Further development of skill in these areas can have a great impact on your academic success. Please visit the Academic Learning Centre for support with study skills and more!
  • Personal life obstacles. Sometimes issues like stress, exam anxiety, illness, or other sudden life events can impact academic performance. Counselling support may be helpful in these situations. Personal Counselling is available at the University of Manitoba. Students should also be aware that Authorized Withdrawl from a term or course(s) may be an option when completion or success is compromised due to medical or compassionate circumstances.
  • Aptitude and interest. Over time, our interests can change or we learn that we have greater aptitude in some subjects over others. If you've discovered that you no longer have interest or aptitude in a subject area that's important to your chosen occupation, this may be a prompt for you to consider another occupation or degree.
  • Note: If you are continuing to take more courses to improve GPA and chance of admission to a program, talk to your Academic Advisor about parallel planning. Instead of randomly selecting additional courses to boost your GPA, working towards degree completion in a faculty may be useful to your career goal or back-up plan.

    Think about whether your grades might be influenced by:
  • Difficulty with the interview or lack of experience - In some instances students may not perform well in an interview the first time around, be it a panel interview or Mini-Multi-station Interview (MMI). Lack of interview preparation or career-related experience can be culprits. You may wish to book an appointment with an Career Consultant for help with interview skills, a mock-interview, or for help in locating volunteer or work activities. Further career research and industry experience can help you build important skills, knowledge, confidence and awareness of your strengths and weakness. In fact, more experience may be more important to your career success than continuing to take more courses.
  • Professional entrance exam score (MCAT, LSAT, DAT, PCAT, OAT, GRE, GMAT) - Entrance exams can be a heavily weighted component of your admissions score. Re-writing an exam upon further study or tutoring can be a helpful strategy. Also be aware that each school weighs these exams differently, or entrance exams may not be required by some schools. 
  • References / letters of reference are also required for some professional programs. It is important to select individuals that can best speak to your knowledge, skills, experience, personality, enthusiasm and commitment to entering the profession. Consider and select your references carefully; ensure that you've provided them with enough information and that they're able to provide a strong recommendation.

Dealing with Feelings

It's important to consider the emotions that can be wrapped up in parallel planning.  When students are not immediately accepted into their desired program, there may impacts on family, finances or self-esteem. A variety of emotions can follow and impact how someone proceeds to move forward.

Here are some tips to help you cope with the emotions that may come when your initial plans don't work out as planned:

  • Acknowledge and express your emotions. Negative emotions feel bad so people often try to avoid them. Bottling up or ignoring negative emotions tends to cause them to amplify instead of go away. Ask yourself how you are feeling and express this feeling by talking about it or journaling.
  • Give yourself permission to grieve. Other future plans may have been tied to this educational goal and timeline. Allow yourself time to grieve the loss of these future plans or come to grips with altering your plans.
  • Avoid dwelling on things you cannot change. Constantly thinking about not being accepted into the program prevents you from living in the present and moving forward.
  • Make time for fun - During times of stress or emotional difficulty people often neglect their own needs. Make sure you set aside time to engage in activities that you enjoy.
  • Exercise - It can help you release built up tension, feel happier, and clear your mind.
  • Get some needed R&R - Take some time to Rest & Relax to help reduce your stress level.
  • Reach out for support - Talking to other people can help you solve problems, feel connected, and ease your mind.

Take action! It is common to feel stuck or lost. Taking small steps in the right direction can help. To learn about services that can assist you currently, or in the future, please visit the Student Counselling Centre and Career Services homepages.

Consider another program or path to your occupational goal

For some occupations, there is more than one appropriate degree path or educational option. It is important to understand occupational and employment requirements. When the job requirement is a specific degree type, it can be helpful to research the different programs and their admissions processes. Admissions requirements can vary by school with components weighted, calculated or valued differently.

Across Canada, for example, medical schools weight GPA, MCAT and interview performance differently.

Some programs take into account your work, volunteer and life experiences. Your place of residence, eligibility to qualify for an access or equity category, or previous professional background may also be additional factors for program admissions. Carefully read program requirements in applicant bulletins and speak with Admissions chairs and officers.

When applying to additional institutions, consider:

  • Your strengths and weaknesses from an admissions standpoint - In which areas do you perform best? Is it your AGPA, admissions test score, interview, or experience? Perhaps you can focus on applying to the programs whose admissions criteria aligns with your strengths.
  • Geography - What regions would you be willing or interested in moving to for school? And where do you want to live and work upon graduation? Keep in mind that your current residency may influence your eligibility... Some programs have provincial residency quotas that impact likelihood of admissions.

To learn more about educational programs, locally, nationally or internationally, speak with a Career Consultant. You can also utilize the following resources to gather information:

Explore additional occupations!

There are many occupations that could be well suited to you. Start by considering who you are and what you are looking for in a satisfying career! Meeting with a Career Consultant can be an important first step.  The link above also refers to formal and free online assessments that can support your self-exploration and articulation of preferences.

For example, if you originally chose to pursue a career in Nursing, ask yourself “why?”. Do you like biology, helping people, working with equipment and hands-on work? There are other occupations that can fit these preferences. Perhaps a career as an Ultrasound Technologist, Physiotherapist, Midwife, or another health care profession would be satisfying. To learn more about Health occupations generally, you can explore this section within the National Occupational Classification. There are many factors that can influence which career options are feasible for you; a Career Consultant can help you navigate appropriate options.

Career Services assists students in developing career plans and making informed career decisions. We can help you to learn more about yourselfoccupational options and educational programs. It is also critical to reflect on your past experience and engage in activities: work, volunteer and academic courses that will help you learn more about yourself and the world of work. For more information about Career Services and how we can help, please review our services and visit us at 474 University Centre or phone: 204-474-9456.

  • What is important to you? What’s your criteria for career satisfaction? Consider your original choice... what did you like about this job and how did it suit you?
  • From a practical standpoint, what factors are influencing your decision? Geography/mobility, finances, family, grades and past academic performance, ...?
  • What are your favorite subjects or topics? What do you enjoy learning about? What skills or talents would you like to utilize in your career?