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West Island College (Calgary):
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Grades 7 TO 12 — Calgary, AB (Map)

West Island College (Calgary):

Roundtable Q&A Discussion About West Island College (Calgary) (2020)

West Island College (Calgary) alumni, current students, and parents shared their insights on the school’s culture, values, strengths, and weaknesses. Hear what Christina, Chaz, Jack had to say about the school.

Video Contents

Highlights from the Q&A discussion

Christina — alum

Christina attended West Island College from Grade 7 to Grade 12 and graduated in 2013. She then went on to attend Queen’s University, earning her Bachelor of Science with honours in life sciences, and then completed her Master’s degree at Columbia Business School. She now works as a sales and training analyst for Scotiabank in Toronto. She felt that the teachers at West Island College cared deeply for the students, and she appreciated the support that they gave her academically and otherwise.

  • “What I appreciated most when I was at [West Island College], looking back at it, is how much teachers actually cared about us and the well-being of the students. In the classroom, and out of the classroom, they were always there for us no matter what.”
  • “[West Island College] is committed to excellence at all times. … Whether it was in academics, in leadership, in getting involved in club activities, or volunteerism. There was really that sense of community, pride, and purpose. A sense of wanting to be the best that we can be at whatever we're doing.”
  • “Looking back at it, [West Island College] really did foster my work ethic. I think that's something that has carried me through from Grade 7 to Grade 12, throughout my undergraduate degree, throughout my MBA. Now, in a professional setting, that hard work really has helped me. ... No matter where I've gone, or what I've done. That's what I would say.”
  • “[West Island College] is very supportive to students. .... What differentiates [West Island College] would be providing the best possible holistic experience, whether it's learning in a classroom or outside of the classroom. For me, I think travel studies was a big component of that, and kind of a big selling feature of [the school].”
  • “I had the opportunity to go on two travel studies trips during my time at [West Island College]. My first one, I went to Brazil, and it was a small group of us. We were with our friends and our teachers, and we were able to build a medical clinic in the middle of the Amazon jungle, which is quite an experience.”
  • “[The international trips at West Island College] are something I would never think about doing, be able to plan by myself, or want to do by myself. Having that experience with my friends, giving back to the community, and learning about the jungle ... was a really cool experience. Then we also got to go to explore a city like Rio after. So that was a great all around experience, and travel experience.”
  • “Three words I would use to describe [West Island College] are curious, dynamic, and hardworking. … [The school] fosters curiosity across academics, clubs, what you're interested in, and what you're not interested in. ... During my time, the institutes weren't there, but I think that just goes to show that [West Island College] is always evolving, and always wants to give the best to their students.”
  • “[West Island College] is dynamic in the sense of being a versatile school that provides a holistic learning experience to students. Giving opportunities for students to go to the New York Stock Exchange? I would have loved to do that. I would have loved to go to a hospital and I would have loved to go to the oil fields and see what's going on, because it is important to learn what you like and what you don't like.”
  • “Learning is dynamic at [West Island College], and not just in the classroom. … We were very driven. My classmates were all really hard working students. I think that kind of oozes out in the culture of [West Island College]. We work hard, but also play hard, and really reap the rewards of that hard work.”
  • “One of the main surprising facts [about West Island College] … was how much students actually learn at [the school] throughout the day, and the different opportunities that [students] are exposed to on a daily basis. Also, [they gain] the confidence to explore those opportunities, and speak highly and openly about them.”
  • “There's all these different opportunities for students at [West Island College]. You don't necessarily [hear about] them on a day-to-day basis. … Almost all students at [West Island College] like to get involved.”
  • “[West Island College] fosters students and really showcases that leadership and fosters leaders for the future. Leadership in general is a skill that I think that everyone can continue to work on. … That's normalized at [West Island College], and leadership is something that you do on a day-to-day basis. ... I think that's something that really differentiates [the school], and surprises parents about [West Island College], and the students that come out of it.”
  • “As a student … you don't have to know what you want to do right now. … But you have to go out there and explore the opportunities. … The institutes that are offered at [West Island College] gives [students] the opportunity to explore. [The school] gives them the opportunity to figure out what they like, and what they don't like, which are to both equally important aspects of their learning and their experience. … If you want to go to post-secondary school, that's amazing. … I think in today's day and age, it's all about being adaptable, and versatile, and being able to apply those skills that you have that you learn [at West Island College] and foster throughout your time there. Your leadership skills, your hard working skills, problem solving, critical thinking, and technical skills.”
  • “We did have a diverse group of people in our class at [West Island College], from different cultures. Because our classes were so small, we were able to get to know her classmates quite well, and learn about their families, learn about their different traditions in a sense like that, or different ethnic holidays or that kind of thing.”
  • “[At West Island College] ... we really got comfortable with writing tests and writing and doing assignments that are worth a significant amount of marks. … Getting comfortable with those large exams that are worth a large amount of marks was definitely helpful [for university].”
  • “Getting comfortable with being uncomfortable is something that [West Island College] does foster, and that definitely helps you in your first year [at university], because it's very stressful. You're balancing a lot of different balls all at the same time, and there's a lot of discomfort, and a lot of anxiety. So being familiar with that feeling, and being familiar with all those moving parts definitely helps.”
  • “From Grades 7 to Grade 12 at [West Island College] specifically, there are a lot of initiatives to give back [to the community]. I remember in Grade 9 or 10, we did Big Brother Big Sister programs.”
  • “I think there's always opportunities to recognize our privilege, and also give back to the community. Because we can, and because we want to.”
  • “I took AP biology and AP physics. … It is worth it, and it's helpful just in your first year [university]... if that's what they're interested in. … [Students] do have the opportunity for this extra challenge, and to take that on. … These are challenging courses.”

Chaz — alum

Chaz graduated from West Island College in 2016, and then went on to Queen’s University, completing a Bachelor of Applied Science in mechanical engineering. He is currently participating in a new graduate program as an analyst for infrastructure and natural resources for the Ontario Teachers Pension Plan. While he was at West Island College, Chaz appreciated the wide variety of extracurricular activities, some of which were international. He believes that the school prepared him to take on many different academic and personal challenges.

  • “What I appreciated most about [West Island College] was the breadth, the depth, of the experiential learning opportunities there. There's a variety of clubs, speaker series, and different academic offerings that are provided. … On the business side, I had case competitions at the Haskayne School of Business, and was able to start my own apparel company. That set me up well to run a half a million dollar apparel business while I was at Queens [University].”
  • “[A] highlight of [West Island College] was definitely the New York trip. Being able to really get a feel for what finance actually looks like, walking around the Goldman trading floor, walking on the floor of the NYSE, [and having] a lot of really interesting conversations with professionals in that field. On the engineering side of [West Island College, we had] a bunch of great site visits, and conversations as well. [Students] had the opportunity to go up to Fort McMurray and speak with the engineers on the mining site.”
  • “[The experiences at West Island College] were definitely very formative for my understanding of my career path. I think back to when I was a student. … It's really hard to project out what an academic or a professional career path will actually look like day to day. So that experience of being able to speak with people in their own environment as they lived was invaluable.”
  • “[What differentiates West Island College is] the commitment that the school has to supporting its students and any initiatives that they're hoping to pursue.”
  • “Three words that I think encapsulate the way that I see [West Island College] are curious, supportive, and balanced.... I think much like the students, the school is striving always to to learn more and develop a better understanding of the world. I think that's something that's really kind of baked into the culture.”
  • “I think there's always a recognition that [West Island College] is a community, and it's greater than the sum of its parts. There's really a team player attitude, and everybody's there to contribute and help each other out.. .. The school really does breed really well-rounded young adults after they've gone through six years of the academic rigour, drama productions, music and arts, outdoor education, and travel.”
  • “[West Island College] has a tendency to pull people in. ... [Parents] may end up seeing a bit less of their child or children than they might expect during the week. [West Island College] is definitely not just your standard 8:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. [schedule]. There's really a culture of engaging beyond the curricular environment.”
  • “There's a million different ways to get involved at [West Island College]. In student government, drama productions, and varsity athletics. … There’s lots of things that will be happening after school, and there's definitely a lot of buy-in from the faculty, and from the students to run those programs, make sure that they're done really well, and get a lot of engagement. I would definitely say that those extracurricular activities, and times outside of the classroom, for me, were some of the times where I met, and got to know some of my closest friends. I gained a lot of skills, and a lot of diverse experiences from all those different avenues.”
  • “I'd say that [West Island College] is a very safe environment to be able to try,  put yourself out there, and make mistakes.”
  • “There's a ton of great opportunities at [West Island College]. Some of them might make you a little bit uncomfortable. You might be a bit hesitant to chase them down at first, but I would definitely recommend to [students] that they do, because they will get a lot out of the experience.”
  • “The first thing you see when you step into [West Island College]. ... is a wide array of flags that represent the backgrounds of the students attending the school. I think that is representative of the celebration of the diversity of the student body, and how the school celebrates the kind of unique perspectives and experiences that each student brings to the table.”
  • “A lot of the time it might feel like it is a structured environment at [West Island College]. Throughout high school, you'll have a lot of support. … But I think what I found, and what a lot of people find, is that a lot of that structure isn't necessarily just inherent to that environment. It's actually a structure that you create, and you've learned.”
  • “As you get to university in a new environment [after West Island College], you have the learned process to be able to be successful. You have a solid academic foundation. You understand how to write exams, you know how to study. You understand your learning style.”
  • “I think that the pursuit of learning, and the way that students at [West Island College] approach broadening their horizons, and their experience bases goes hand in hand with developing a better, more holistic perspective of the world. There's a lot of things that feed into that, and part it is certainly recognizing that being able to attend this school, and have access to all these programs is a privilege.”
  • “I found personally that the AP courses I took had helped tremendously to bridge into my first-year [university] curriculum. I took AP calculus, and then AP physics, which were really well aligned with the engineering general year.”
  • “Even if it's not necessarily a direct input to your undergrad, [taking AP courses at West Island College] are a great way [for students to] challenge themselves, and explore something that they are interested in a bit further. I'd say overall, it's not necessarily much of an added burden, you still have the benefits of a smaller class size, and you're able to pace the content at the right level for those students that happen to be in the classroom.”

Jack — alum

Jack graduated from West Island College in 2019, and is currently a student at Western University. He is enrolled in a Bachelor of Engineering Science degree, with a specialization in software engineering. Jack valued the diverse community at West Island College, and made many close friends during his time there. He appreciated the many opportunities the school gave him to explore his interests, which helped him decide on his academic goals and discover his passions.

  • “The thing I really valued most about [West Island College] while I was there was the teachers' support. I remember one specific time I had done really bad on a physics test. I went to the teacher and I was like, ‘oh, I feel like I studied super hard for this, and I still did really bad.’ I really liked physics, but it was definitely my most difficult subject. I was also playing volleyball at the time, so I couldn't make the regular time that she had to help us. She said, ‘you could be there before school, after school, at lunch, just tell me when, and we can work at times that I'll be able to help you.’ I think that support was something that I really valued at the time.”
  • “Something that really differentiates [West Island College from other schools] would be the institutes. ... I remember going on site visits to a marketing company. … And we went to lots of different tech companies. … That really pointed me in the direction that I wanted to go [careerwise].” 
  • “I think another really big thing about [West Island College] is the ability to be on multiple sports teams. That's something that I really liked, because I didn't want to just be really good at one sport, I wanted to play multiple sports.... I think the quality of the sports at [West Island College] is still really good.”
  • “Another thing that I think is really neat about [West Island College] is all of the different travel opportunities. We had international studies trips. … Those were really cool, to go and see the world. I think to see it with your friends, and with your teachers from an academic perspective was a bit different. In addition to that, we did different ‘one off’ trips. There was [one trip] where [students] went and sailed with our friends throughout the Gulf Islands.”
  • “The first word [to describe West Island College] is friendly. One thing that I remember when I look back at [West Island College] is that I would walk through the hallway on the way to my locker first thing in the morning, and by the time I got to my locker, 10 people had already said ‘good morning’ to me.”
  • “Students at [West Island College] are very friendly towards each other. ... I think everyone has good respect for each other, and in general is just super friendly. I think another [word to describe West Island College] would be supportive.”
  • “You see  the students grow throughout the year. … It wouldn't be uncommon to have the same art teacher from Grade 7 to Grade 12 at [West Island College]. So you really get to have a relationship with your teachers, which is nice.”
  • “When I look at the alumni from [West Island College], they have done all types of different things. There's people in biotech, working at Google, and just doing some really amazing things all around the world. Sometimes I see little posts from it, and I'm like, ‘woah I didn't even know that person went to work [to West Island College]’, and I can't really believe it either, that this little school from Calgary could punch so high.”
  • “Technology has really become a more important aspect of [West Island College]. One of the changes that was made when I was in Grade 11, is that all the senior students are supposed to have laptops. ... [West Island College] has grown in terms of its tech offerings.”
  • “In Grade 12 at [West Island College] you just have a lot of opportunities to organize events for 150+ people. I remember we had one meeting, where we were organizing bussing for 200 kids to get them to Banff. … You get to work with an actual budget. In terms of organizing those events with friends [and faculty], you make really good relationships, and you also gain those skills to manage an event. Those are all really big things that as parents you may not see, but happen behind the scenes.”
  • “I had really great math teachers [at West Island College] that really hammered down integrals, and derivatives, and all this stuff. In my first year [university] calculus class. … I wouldn't say I learned any new notation or anything. ... Through AP math, and through all the different things at [West Island College], I felt very prepared for that. In addition, I would say with the very large class sizes, and the limited support at university, [students] do find a way to work around that.”
  • “I remember one social class at [West Island College] the teacher was talking and he said. ... ‘You go to one of the best schools, in one of the best cities, in one of the best provinces, in one of the best countries in the world, and it's a privilege to be here. ’… I really internalized that. I was talking to different staff about their decision to teach at [West Island College] some of them said, ‘I had this stereotype of what a private school would be like, and then coming into [West Island College], many of the things I thought weren't necessarily true.’”
  • “I feel like every week there was some type of bake sale, or clothing drive, or something at [West Island College]. So with all the resources that come with going to private school, I think there's still a huge drive, and acceptance, that it is a very fortunate experience to have, and to give that to others.”

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More written reviews


Alum, Adam Broniewski (2020)

My time at West Island College (WIC) was incredibly memorable and has been influential in shaping me into the professionally satisfied, emotionally balanced, and driven person I am today. The time ...


Parent, Jing Li (2020)

We have two sons in WIC, both of whom started from grade seven. My older son is graduating in June 2020 and my younger son is in grade 10. We think what they appreciate the most is the faculty and sta...

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