Going back to school?

It’s never too late to go back to school. In today’s world, for example, even if you were a high school drop out, most colleges and universities allow for “mature student” applications. The criteria is usually that you have been out of school for one or two years, probably working at some kind of job or involved in child care. In fact, even if all you finished was Grade 10, Grade 11 or part of Grade 12, even without the advanced credits (what we used to call OAC’s), you can skip what you missed and go immediately into first year college or university.

That said, your mature admission will likely be conditional until you have successfully completed a couple of credit courses.  While student loans are available for full-time programs, depending on financial need, they are also available for some part-time programs.  As each province and territory is different, I would suggest doing an online search to find out the criteria. Here, for example, is the link to the Ontario Student Assistance Program

For those who want to take it slower, most boards of education throughout Canada have adult education centres (with provision for childcare) that offer high school graduation options, both during the day and evening. If anyone is interested in that option, they should just do a web search of both the public and Catholic school boards in their community. To search google, just use the official name of the board and the phrase “adult education programs.”

Or, if someone is out of work, each province and territory provides some type of job training and upgrading through their social assistance and disability support programs. For example, in the province of Ontario, both “Ontario Works” and the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) provides both financial assistance and college admission into special “catch up” programs because those programs improve the likelihood of long-term employment.  Similarly, at the federal level, Human Resources Canada offers retraining or upgrading options for those receiving employment insurance (EI) benefits. 

Of course, there are now dozens, if not hundreds, of online e-learning options as well. See this one example. A caution, however, when you are looking at online programs, be very careful about fees. For example, what are you paying for? My guess is that tuition costs at public institutions will be far less than those at private schools or private e-learning organizations.

While there is no doubt not everyone is financially able to drop everything and return to school during their child bearing and/or breadwinner years, think about doing so at retirement. In Ontario for example, once you pass your sixtieth birthday, you can attend university almost completely free of charge. It’s usually referred to as the “senior’s option.” Here is a link to the Brock University (located in St. Catharines, Ontario) fees site with the note on seniors “waiving” their tuition at the top of the page.

Here’s how it works: once you have been admitted you will receive an invoice for your tuition fees. All you have to do then is pay a visit to the finance department and tell them you are sixty (showing proof) and they then wave those fees. If seniors have to pay anything, it is only the charges related to student union and student activity fees.

I beat the system forty years ago. I had graduated from Grade 12 when Grade 13 was what you needed to be admitted to teacher’s college. Since I was in no position to leave work (I was a single parent at the time), I applied to university as a mature student. Gradually, by attending one night a week, I acquired five university credits.

Then, quite unexpectedly in 1971, a big change came to Ontario. All teacher’s colleges became affiliated with a university meaning that students applying would require a B.A. or B.Sc to be admitted. But, since they couldn’t just go from Grade 13 admission one year to a full B.A./B.Sc the next, they did things gradually.  Starting September 1971, admission would be on the basis of five university full credits, in 1972, ten credits and in 1973 a complete degree.

Well, you can guess what happened. In the spring of 1971, I applied for admission in the Brock University teacher education program with my five credits. And, I got admitted — without having to do Grade 13! 

So, anyone can go back to school — whether to complete what you didn’t finish or to undertake an entirely new challenge — no matter what your age or financial circumstances.


Some online resources:

  • Adult Education Canada (Link)
  • Toronto District School Board Adult Education (Link)
  • Vancouver School Board (Link)
  • University of Calgary Multi-disciplinary programs (Link)
  • Brock University, St. Catharines, ON Mature Admission (Link)
  • Ontario Works Employment Programs (Link)
  • ODSP Employment Supports (Link)
  • Human Resources & Development Canada (Link)
  • Publicly funded e-learning options across Canada (Link)

Note: I have no connection whatsoever to any of the above resources. They are provided only as examples of what is available. People are advised to check out other sources as well, including those within their own community.