I applied for universities in 2002 for Computer Science. I applied to UofT, YorkU, Carleton, Waterloo and Laurier. I got in all of them in the Computer Science program with an average of about 83 I think. I did not get any scholarships except for Carleton. Mind you, this was the time when OAC (grade 13 was in effect) - but I don't think that should make a difference.
I was also fortunate enough that my highschool offered AP courses, so i took AP Calculus and AP Physics. This meant that I basically aced my first year calculus and physics courses because the material from the AP course was almost identical
In the end I chose York because of location and also they had a brand new computer science building (new labs, new everything). I don't regret my decision, York U was awesome
Although I am not an artist, I only heard good things about Blender and K-3D. Your requirement is to build a portfolio. My suggestion is to pick one of the above (let's say Blender) and start doing 3D art.
Once you know how to use one of them, when you switch to Maya or 3DS you will probably know how to use at least 75% of the features. There's a similar analogy in the programming world when it comes to IDEs - should I use a free one or a commercial one. In the end, it doesn't matter that much. What matters is the end result. These tools you can learn as you go along.
Think about this as learning to drive in a cheap car vs learning to drive in a BMW M6 - you can achieve the same result with both
In terms of what game developers "prefer" - well this is very specific per project. Some game studios even have their own custom data files, so you shouldn't worry too much about what programmers prefer in general, but focus more on your actual art.
As others have pointed above, University is not training you for a job, but it will teach you how to LEARN. This is the most important thing I have come out of from University: I have gained the ability to learn. Indeed you can learn by yourself too, but when in school - you have a prof (a mentor let's say) and colleagues (which in the future will be the equivalent of co-workers). No person in this world lives their life on their own. You need to experience being/talking/interacting with others. The actual details you learn during your courses will not necessary help you FIRST HAND in your job (or maybe they will less than 5% of the time), but the fact that you are going through those courses, doing the labs, the exams, learning the theory, etc is what's going to make you that much of a better person in the future.
Also, a good advice for anyone doing technical majors in school is to try to take as many electives as possible that are OUTSIDE technical subjects. (ie - take arts, philosophy, psychology, etc). You will become a well rounded person and that helps a lot, especially in game design / game development.