Not everyone takes the same educational path. You may be coming back to school after several years away due to illness or family commitments. Or you may be returning to school to upgrade your skills in order to make a job or career change.
Try Things Out
Been out of school for a while? Aren't sure whether you can meet the demands of college or university? Want to be sure a particular program is for you? You can always test the water by doing the following:
- Take a non-credit continuing education course. You can do this without applying for admission to a college or university, or enrolling in a specific program. If you want to experience a learning environment without the pressure of assignments and testing, this is a good option.
- Attend a lecture. Some institutions will allow you to sit in on a lecture in the program of your choice.
- Audit a course. While you don't do the assignments or exams, and can't receive a credit, you can attend the lectures and do the readings. This usually costs less than registering for a credit course.
- Take a course specially designed for students returning to school. Some colleges or universities offer special courses to help you upgrade your skills and/or decide whether you're ready to enroll in a program.
- Take a credit course. You'll have the chance to try out the program and spend time at the college or university to see if it’s right for you.
Many colleges and universities have procedures in place to encourage mature students to re-enter educational institutions. You are considered a mature if you have been out of high school for more than 2 to 3 years and are over a certain age. You may or may not have a high school diploma.
As a mature student you may be:
- Exempt from some admission requirements.
- Encouraged or required to take non-credit preparation courses to help upgrade your skills (e.g. writing skills).
- Required to write tests as part of the admission process, particularly if you did not complete a high school diploma or your marks were low.
- Required to write placement tests once you are admitted to determine what courses you must take in your first year.
- Contact the college or university's admissions office, or visit their website, to find out about the specific admission requirements for mature students. If you need academic accommodations to write admission or placement tests, you can arrange them with the college or university's disability services office or the organization administering the test.
Prior Learning Assessment and Recognition (PLAR)
You may be required to perform a Prior Learning Assessment and Recognition. PLAR is based on the premise that many adults acquire skills and knowledge through work experience, community involvement, home and volunteer activities, training programs, non-college and independent study, and travel and leisure activities. The PLAR system evaluates this learning and relates it to formal courses and programs at educational institutions. Using PLAR, adult candidates who can demonstrate or document that they have achieved the learning outcomes of a given course may be given formal credit. It may save you time and money to examine whether or not you qualify for such credit.
Contact the college or university’s Admissions Office or visit their website to find out about the specific admission requirements for mature students.
If you need academic accommodations to write admission or placement tests, you can arrange them with the college or university’s disability services office if you have all the proper documentation for your learning disability.