Interview with Upper Canada College Alum, Sevion DaCosta
- University (major)
Claremont McKenna College (Philosophy, Politics, Economics (PPE) with a Legal Studies Sequence)
Sevion graduated from Upper Canada College in 2017 before pursuing his undergraduate degree in philosophy, politics, and economics at Claremont McKenna College in Southern California. He feels that Upper Canada College shaped him into a well-rounded person by exposing him to so many different clubs, sports, and academic challenges. He appreciates how the school was able to offer him financial aid for the duration of his time there, and for the many opportunities that were offered to him, academically and otherwise. Sevion is thankful to have the Upper Canada College alumni database at his fingertips because he has gained new mentors who are always there for him, personally and professionally, whenever he needs them.
Highlights from the interview
I truly believe Upper Canada College is one of the best schools in Canada. We're able to be successful in so many different facets of school life.
Since graduating from Upper Canada College in 2017, I started going to Claremont McKenna College in Southern California. It's a small Liberal arts College where I'm majoring in philosophy, politics and economics with a legal studies sequence, and I've really been able to build off of the skills and the different activities that I did at Upper Canada College. I played football at Upper Canada College, then played football for my first two years at Claremont McKenna College. I founded the Mock Trial Club at Upper Canada College, and now I'm President and CFO of the Mock Trial Club at Claremont McKenna College, and I've also been a part of a multitude of other clubs that have related directly to the skills that I learned at Upper Canada College. I'm also a research assistant at the Rose Institute of State Local Government, and then during the summer I've been able to expand myself and do a lot of different experiences.
I've been up to a lot since Upper Canada College. It's really prepared me for success. I definitely wouldn't even have looked at some US schools if I wasn't at Upper Canada College. It opened my eyes up to many different experiences that you could get from applying to different schools. The university counsellors were very helpful in allowing me to lay out my vision of where I wanted to attend, the things that I wanted out of my school.
Without receiving a significant scholarship, I know I wouldn't have been able to go to Upper Canada College. Upper Canada College’s academic rigour allowed me, no matter what school I was applying to, whether it was in the US, Canada, or the UK, because Upper Canada College has the IB program. We’re well known to be considered for some of those scholarships. Thankfully, because I was at Upper Canada College, I was able to apply to five US schools, and five Canadian schools, and then was able to take my time and make a decision that I felt was best for me as it related to specifically PPE for my major
PPE is a special major at my school where you have 12 students in each cohort. So 24 students total can major in it, and you apply your sophomore fall. We have a tutorial and seminar-style class. So essentially, if you and I were partners, I would write a paper one week, you would write a response paper, and then we would sit down in front of our professor for an hour, and you would tell me everything that's wrong with my paper, and I'd have to defend it. The Upper Canada College style of classes prepared my articulation and argumentation skills to make sure that I was prepared to argue my points in university At Upper Canada College, we did a lot of readings So it prepared me in that realm. The general academic rigour at Upper Canada College has allowed me to focus on these different aspects.
I'm able to take that background that I learned at Upper Canada College, and apply it at university.
At Upper Canada College, I made sure that I took advantage of that full opportunity. I was extremely grateful to be there. At that time, I was on the football team, the basketball team; I was a head steward in my final year. I was part of the Green Club, and I was part of Horizons, which is how I was first introduced to Upper Canada College. I was a math tutor and part of the soccer tutors. I was also involved with admissions a lot, so I gave a lot of speeches to donors, or helped out in that department. I had a lot of attributes. I had a lot of co-curricular activities I was doing with intramurals. I was the athlete of the year my first year in the upper school, and then I got the Studies Math award and the Parents Organization Award. I was also a Lang Scholar from Grade 10 to Grade 12. The Lang Scholars like Upper Canada College's version of the Rose Scholar, which is only offered to Grade 10 and 12 that excel academically, in co-curriculars, and athletically.
I got the acceptance, and the financial aid offer at Upper Canada College was amazing. It made a lot of sense for me to take that opportunity to step out of my comfort zone and try something new. I was a founder of the Mock Trial Club at Upper Canada College where I was co-president with others. It was created in Grade 11, and in Grade 12, we placed second in Toronto in the mock trial competition.
The thing I would most appreciate about Upper Canada College is the ability to become extremely well-rounded. I think I came in in Grade 7 knowing that public speaking was one of the things that I enjoyed, and I also played soccer before, but I found that I was able to kind of expand my knowledge of different academic courses as well as the co-curriculars. I played volleyball and I was in the drama club the first year that I got there. I joined the rugby team for my first-ever time. I was able to join the debate club in the prep school, and then as I went and transitioned to the upper school, I was able to expand that knowledge a lot more. As it relates to my applications to universities, that's one of the things that stood out that I was a part of so many different things. I was also the co-president of the Black History Club at Upper Canada College. Upper Canada College allowed me to do many things that I don't think I would have particularly gotten at other schools, build my skill sets, and become very successful.
What differentiates Upper Canada College from other high schools is that balance of making sure that they can help each student become as well rounded as possible, and that they find their niche for what exactly they truly love. I was part of the band in Grade 8, but I found that wasn't the best thing for me; some people were amazing in band and were able to go to the Berkeley School of Music and take that to the next level. The drama program is amazing for those who are interested in that. Our academic program is the best in Canada. Upper Canada College makes sure that students are getting a great academic program, but when it comes to athletics, we're still beating these other schools, because our coaches are there for us, teaching us the ins and outs and the fundamentals of the program.
Upper Canada College always has one of the smallest football teams in our division. But we are always successful because we have coaches who care so much and are willing to dedicate that time. The students were dedicating that time as well.
At Upper Canada College, the focus is on making sure academics come first. But it's also on making sure that students are as well-rounded as possible and that they find the thing that they will excel at, which is what separates us from other high schools.
The three words that I would use to describe Upper Canada College would be energetic, well-rounded, and passionate. At UCC, the focus is on making sure academics come first, but also on making sure that students are as well rounded as possible and that they find the thing that they will excel at, which is what separates us from other high schools.
Upper Canada College school spirit is one of the best. Upper Canada College would make sure that we had fans out at our varsity football, soccer, and basketball games. What we call the ‘Blue Army’ allows us to engage ourselves throughout these different activities. The Blue Army doesn't just stop at athletics; it also goes to band performances or drama. Upper Canada College makes sure that we're willing to uphold each other from our standpoint of never walking alone as an all-boys school, and makes sure that students are supporting each other.
I believe Upper Canada College is one of the best schools in Canada because we are successful in so many facets of school life. So obviously Upper Canada College is strong in academics, but we also make sure we're very competitive on the band scene, athletic departments, etc. Our Model United Nations team is one of the best. No matter what boys feel that they would be best at, they can still attend Upper Canada College and excel.
After I was able to work with the Upper Canada College administration, I can see that they're very invested in making sure that students can become some of the best boys possible. The administration and the parents’ organization look and see ‘what's the best thing that we can do?’ They say, ‘okay, how can we continue to encourage, and make sure that the boys are understanding what's happening in the real world, or how to be a proper gentleman, or how to understand when you leave the school they're going to be in co-ed classes?’
Supporting others was one of the most important values of Upper Canada College that I saw in practice. The financial aid program grew extensively throughout my time there Seeing how much Upper Canada College cared about ensuring that people had that opportunity to attend, and not to be prevented by a financial burden The Lang Scholar program, the scholarship opportunity that I had, emphasized that ability Upper Canada College had to help me grow as an individual.
There were speakers that came to Upper Canada College that became my mentors. The Administration Department helped get internships for students in the Toronto area by setting them up with Upper Canada College alumni. We had small classes at Upper Canada College, which was one of the things I was looking for in my university experience. Each professor and I were able to have really strong relationships; we were able to ask questions, whether it was in class or out of class, to get a deeper knowledge and understanding of the topic you're learning.
One of the things families would find most surprising about Upper Canada College is how connected all the different programs are. Even though you're transitioning from the prep school, and it seems completely different from the upper school, there are a lot of events in which upper school students will go back and talk to the prep students and make sure that they're engaging with them to show kind of a mentorship opportunity, or what will happen when you eventually do go to the upper school. Even more so now, with the new curriculum change to being IB throughout the entire Upper Canada College school, it shows the connectivity between the prep school and the upper school, and makes it so you can easily transition from one school to the other.
There is no typical Upper Canada College student. The reason why I say that is because there are so many different aspects of the school. Some are extremely interested in computer science and robotics Myself, personally, I love literature courses and history courses. I kind of fell in love with economics. Some people are fully engaged in economics and were part of investing clubs and made sure that they were involved in Econ, and any other opportunities there. Some love public speaking, so they're in Model UN. Some are extremely sports-focused, and those who are really amazing at art. There's no typical Upper Canada College student just because there are so many different avenues for becoming your own true person. Still, within that same realm, students can interact with so many other people following their passions in different regards. Students can gain greater exposure to some of the things that make their fellow students extremely passionate.
There's no one unique model for an Upper Canada College student, but Upper Canada College as a whole helps to create the best students possible during their time there. The school explains, ‘yes, we have amazing opportunities, but it will be different when you go into the real world.’ We also have to understand, and we need to see what's going to be out there when we leave that Upper Canada College bubble.
One thing that I've learned is that Upper Canada College helps build students up, and allows them to succeed in those skills that they feel are most important to the betterment of themselves. And I think the main thing that prepared me at Upper Canada College was the ability to take on different interests. That's allowed me to gain a robust amount of opportunities that I would have never gotten otherwise. It's about taking those intrinsic skills that you learn throughout your time at Upper Canada College and applying them to make sure that you understand where other people are coming from, understand their personal experiences, find your true passion, and develop yourself outside of Upper Canada College.
I'm extremely grateful for my opportunity to be able to attend Upper Canada College. I've been extremely grateful for the opportunities that I had, and how much I was able to take advantage of those opportunities and build myself up in different ways that I might not have if I did not attend Upper Canada College. The main thing students learn from Upper Canada College is understanding how to balance and manage your time. So applying that to university, my first year I was able to balance all the different things that I was doing because I already had that perspective in mind before attending So for me, it's allowed me to say, ‘oh, wow, there's all these different opportunities’ I was able to now succeed in the different aspects because I've had that understanding and a foundation developed in me at a younger age. When I'm doing these things currently, I'm able to have that new perspective.
Having the Upper Canada College alumni database at your fingertips is an amazing aspect of the Upper Canada College experience as well. I have mentors who are Upper Canada College alumni that I call weekly or monthly to update them on how everything's going, get advice, and they are always there for me. So my perspective that Upper Canada College as a community has grown even more for me because I'm able to connect with those and find different aspects of the community that will help me grow and find out what I want to do professionally for the latter years of my life.
I would recommend prospective students attend Upper Canada College as long as when you go to the information session, you see that this is the best school for you. The main reason I would say that is because the opportunities you get at Upper Canada College are plentiful You get funding in different clubs, and you’re able to create your own clubs like I was fortunate enough to do, which means that you can tailor that Upper Canada College experience and get the most out of what you want.
The academic rigour at Upper Canada College prepares you for any college you want to go to, and for success in any area you're interested in. So whether you want to be a bit more general, having a PPE major, or you want to focus specifically on going to Western and going to the Ivy program, Upper Canada College allows you to focus on those specific areas. We're also very well known when it comes to academics that will prepare you for that. The third thing I would say is that the community at UCC is just amazing.
The Upper Canada College community is just amazing. It’s one of those values that just can't kind of be quantified. They have Upper Canada College alumni programs across the globe where you can go and meet other graduating Upper Canada College alumni. Being in LA, I was able to go to the Canadian Consulate General's house and meet with different Upper Canada College alumni that had graduated all the way from the early 80’s up until my current graduating class. They were able to talk about their different experiences, how it felt to move from Canada, then become like a lawyer, or pursue their passion for film, etc. in LA. I got to learn a lot of different perspectives, and that's one of those things where it's always going to be available. If you message someone on the ‘Common Ties’ network, they will get back to you and try and help you as much as possible.
The first thing you'd want to do when considering sending your child to Upper Canada College is understand if there is any financial burden. If there is, make sure that you reach out to the financial department, and see what scholarships or financial aid is available at that point, because Upper Canada College wants to bring the best students to the school. So if there's any financial burden, make sure that you do some research, but understand that Upper Canada College is willing to work with you, and that shouldn't be the reason you don't apply. Another thing is, as a parent, talking to your child, and making sure that they understand that if they do get in, no matter what their status is, that they deserve to be there, and that they're able to gain as many opportunities as possible. I grew up with a single mother, and as I got into that program, she told me, ‘you deserve this. You worked extremely hard,’ but to make sure that I continue working hard throughout the program You have to make sure you're fostering a relationship with your child, and talking to them about their different experiences so that you're able to help them in that same mind of being a soundboard, so that they can then go and apply the skills that they're learning either from you or in the college to get the best experience.
Another thing is just figuring out what the best opportunity for your child is and what year might be best. I was in a public school at public school until Grade 6, and I joined Upper Canada College in Grade 7, and I thought that was perfect for me. Financial aid at Upper Canada College now goes all the way back to Grade 5. So you might say it's best for your child to start in Grade 5, or maybe wait until Grade 9 or 10, as some people do. Understanding what's best for your child is an important thing to consider. I think it was best for me to matriculate it into Upper Canada College in Grade 7, and that helped my growth the most.
My piece of advice to a new student about to enter Upper Canada College would be to make sure you keep an open mind to different things that you may not have seen that you're interested in before. For me, that came in terms of drama, and being able to enroll in some of those programs, to be a part of different plays that allow me to have a different perspective, and actually improve some of my public speaking skills. As you're going into Upper Canada College, keep an open mind to various opportunities you can have. Don't limit yourself. Make sure that you're taking advantage of all those opportunities, because they sometimes only come once in a lifetime. It will help to show you what you want to get the most out of Upper Canada College.