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Understanding Post-Secondary Education in BC

In my other work life, I work as an undergraduate advisor for a university. I often meet with people who have no idea where to begin. I get asked a range of questions like:

  • What is a certificate, diploma, or degree?
  • What is a major, a minor, or a concentration?
  • If I take this degree, what job will I get?
  • What do I do if I’m not admitted to the university I want?
  • When should I be applying?

I have come to realize that a lot of people don’t really know where to find the information they’re looking for. They don’t know the multitude of options available to them, and they often make choices that make me cringe because I know better alternatives are out there. Today’s blog is a brief introduction to the tools I use when discussion the various options for people exploring public post-secondary education*.

Step 1:

Find the program. Understand what you should be considering as you explore education.

Step 2:

admission

Find the admission requirements for the program. Speak to the Advisor of that program. Know exactly what is required for admission and when the admission deadlines are (usually around the end of January for a September start). Take a tour of the campus to make sure it feels right.

At this point, you may need to:

  • Have your credentials translated: Many people use the International Credential Evaluation Service (ICES) through BCIT. Make sure this is required as it can be an expensive and unnecessary process depending on your goals.
  • Have your credentials evaluated for equivalencies: Many people come to me with their credentials from another university. While I would love to say that all of the courses will transfer into the program of choice, I am unable to say how coursework will be evaluated until someone has applied to the university/college (paid the application fee and submitted all required documents). At this point, the admissions office will evaluate for transferability/equivalencies and then inform the student their decision; then, I am able to provide the guidance required.

Step 3:

If you don’t meet the admission requirements, look at ways to get them:

  • English – many schools offer a multitude of learning options. You may want to be in touch with your local library to find conversation circles to practice your English, or inquire where you should be looking for more information. Richmond Public Library offers English Circles on Fridays and Sundays.
  • High school continuing education – Look to your local school district’s website to see what type of continuing education options are available. Often, high school courses are offered for a nominal fee.
  • College transfer – Many colleges will allow students admission as a mature student (over 21 years of age) into their General Arts & Science programs. Students can then take the required number of courses required to transfer to a university (usually 8 courses). The courses taken can be counted directly towards the program requirements of your intended university program so long as you are careful in planning. The BC Transfer Guide articulates how courses transfer from one institution to another in BC.

Step 4:

Check back with the advisor of the program you’re intending to be admitted into to ensure you’re on track. Also check with the advisor of the program you’re in (if you’re transferring from another school) to see what advice they have. The more you ask questions, the more you understand.

Step 5:

Take the program, but get involved in other ways. Completion of a program does not equal an employment outcome. You must have experience alongside your education to be considered when applying for a job. Things you should be exploring in ANY campus:

  • Co-operative Education – allows you to gain work experience related to your degree choice.
  • Career Services – assistance with resumes, cover letters, employment search techniques, and so on.
  • Volunteer experience – all experience is good experience, paid or non-paid.

At any point during the process, you can check in with an advisor if you need clarification. This is what we do. If you’re not getting the answers you seek, ask again or find another advisor.

*It should be noted that there is both public and private post-secondary education in Canada. I am biased. I feel that our public education system outweighs the private education system for a number of reasons:

  • Private education is more expensive
  • Private education is not transferable to a public institution
  • Private education often has a lower employment success rate as employers do not recognize it as much they would public education

If you have questions, leave them in the comments and I will answer you as best I can. If I don’t know, I will direct you to someone who will.

A Day to Remember

As a child, my classmates and I would dutifully practice and recite the poem ‘In Flanders Field’ for the yearly Remembrance Day ceremony put on at my school. My thoughts then were of memorization and trying not to trip up over the words of the poem while our community watched on. As ceremony continued, the senior citizens of our community would present themselves to us in uniform and polished medals and share their words on the impact of The War: what it meant to their generation, and in turn, ours. I remember looking at them, at how old they were, thinking that this war was long ago and that it meant little to me. I wondered why we had to participate in something that had nothing to do with us. I also remember their emotion, the tears in their eyes, opening their memories to us so we would see.

Time passes. I grew and began to realize that the war was not, as my child’s mind thought, so long ago. I began to see the young faces of these seniors and recognized what they endured: the bravery demonstrated by going off to war, the ultimate sacrifice they made to ensure future generations:my parents, my own, my children, would be free to have choice. What used to be a poem of recantation has now become a very emotional and real one for me. To see the source of the poem: red poppies growing over the graves of the fallen, the sheer number of the fallen. I look at my forbearers with new eyes. I wonder what they endured. What they sacrificed. How they were able to return to their ‘normal’ life. I remember because I have been taught to remember. I remember because stories teach us to remember. I remember so my children will remember.

This November 11 marks 100 years since the start of the First World War, and 96 years from its end. 888,246 British or Colonial military lost their lives aPoppiesnd about 17 million people overall. In London this year, an installation by Paul Cummins, entitled “Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red” has placed a ceramic poppy in the dry moat of the tower of London. Each poppy represents a British or Colonial military fatality during the war. This spectacular, visual display emulates, very clearly the blood spilled and lives lost during this war. Let us remember those who died to give us our today. Let us remember the men and women who have served, and continue to serve our country during times of war, conflict and peace. On Tuesday, November 11th at 11:11 a.m., the 11th month, the 11th day, the 11th hour, take pause and reflect what others have sacrificed to give you the freedom you have today. Two minutes of silence is little in comparison to what has been given already.

There are events scheduled for every community in the Lower Mainland. If you’re not familiar with Remembrance Day, I encourage you to attend, observe and try to appreciate the way we honour those who have and continue to sacrifice themselves to continue our democratic freedom. Your local libraries are involved, your city is involved, and you should involve yourself. This is a Day to Remember.

Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC)

Have you ever had an interest in taking a course at university, but didn’t want to pay the price required to enroll? Not only is there the cost of tuition, there’s the additional cost of the application fee, the required textbook and additional student fees. Post-secondary education offers a chance to improve your knowledge in a particular subject or work-related area, but it comes with a very high price tag. Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to try the course without the financial cost, to see if you liked it before embarking on the path to a post-secondary education? You can.

West Vancouver Memorial Library will be hosting an information session, to provide insight into a way that you can take university courses, through accredited and recognized universities, for minimal, or no, cost. MOOC – Massive Open Online Courses, are a recent development in distance education that allows access to online courses aimed at unlimited participation and open access via the web[1]. The courses are typically non-credit, but there are often options for receiving recognition for having taken them, and opportunities for receiving credit (which does come with a cost)[2].

MOOC_poster_mathplourde

MOOC courses have many things in common: video based lectures, interactivity through online quizzes, the ability to participate in online discussions, and frequent feedback so you can monitor your own progress. To find out if you’re interested in participating, it’s as simple as looking through the West Vancouver Memorial Library’s list of MOOC institutions and going from there. The library offers these tips to help you decide if a MOOC is right for you:

  • Watch the instructor’s introductory video
  • Check the course outline for prerequisites and the level at which the course will be taught
  • Look at the instructor’s college webpage and search the web for course reviews[3].

If you’re interested in finding out more, head to the West Vancouver Memorial Library on Tuesday, September 23, from 7:00 to 8:00 pm. Give yourself the gift of learning without the financial strings attached.

[1] Wikipedia
[2] West Vancouver Memorial Library
[3] West Vancouver Memorial Library