For many adults looking to study at university, pursuing full-time studies in the classroom just isn’t an option. But evening classes and distance/e-learning are other ways to get that desired degree or diploma.
“It provides an avenue for you to study that you would not have had otherwise because of those other responsibilities you have in your life,” says Ann Marie Vaughan, the director of distance education and learning technologies at Memorial University in Newfoundland and Labrador.
These “other responsibilities” include things such as jobs, family life and financial obligations.
Continuing education departments offer different options to meet students’ education needs, such as certificates or professional development workshops.
“They can take specific courses that are aimed at giving them practical skills for the jobs they currently have or aspire to,” says Betty MacDonald, the director of continuing education at Saint Mary’s University in Halifax.
Vaughan is a distance learner herself and is pursuing a doctorate in education through a university in Calgary.
“I just find it to be a tremendously rewarding experience to do both, and it was a value that I don’t think I fully understood until I became a distance learner,” says Vaughan.
Taking individual courses can turn into receiving a full degree.
“There are some ways to be able to move from certificates to diplomas to degrees in the credit-based environment,” says Vaughan.
And there isn’t any reason for adults to worry their past grades won’t get them into university for credit-based studies. The entrance requirements for mature students at most schools are different from those for a student coming fresh out of high school, says MacDonald.
At Saint Mary’s, a mature student is defined as anybody who is older than 22 or has been out of high school for five years. Their admission is based on their work and life experiences since leaving school.
How to finance one’s studies is a major question for students of all ages. Universities typically have financial aid and awards offices, which help students determine if they qualify for student loans and help steer them towards potential scholarships and bursaries.
“We offer a number of bursaries each year, both in terms of students with financial need and students who are achieving academic excellence or excellence in their areas,” says Gervan Fearon, the dean of Ryerson University’s G. Raymond Chang School of Continuing Education in Toronto.