Going back to school after having spent years in the working world can be a big adjustment.

Not only do you have to get back into the habit of studying and doing assignments, but you may also find yourself taking courses covering information you already know. For example, it may be frustrating to be required to complete a basic computer course if you have worked in an office environment and have already acquired those skills.

Most post-secondary institutions offer a process for students in this situation to demonstrate previous knowledge. If you can prove the knowledge you have gained outside of the traditional classroom (such as volunteering, employment or other study) meets the learning outcomes for a subject, you may be granted advanced standing or credit recognition.

This procedure is considered a “challenge” process that measures learning through a variety of methods, and may include tests, portfolio assessment, interviews, demonstrations, essays and work samples. Completing a prior learning assessment can be time-consuming, so I encourage you to start the process early. Every institution is different and not all courses are eligible for this status, so be sure to research what your school requires. You may also be expected to pay a fee for the assessment.

When determining if this process is right for you, review subject outlines, which can be obtained from the registration department or your school’s website. Match your knowledge base with the learning outcomes on the subject outline. The next step often involves scheduling a meeting, usually with the program coordinator or faculty to determine if the challenge is appropriate for you. After completing the required tasks and being formally evaluated, a grade is recorded. If your challenge is approved, you would not have to take the course and will have a reduced workload. If the challenge is denied, you would be informed and advised to take the full course load.

Going back to school either full-time or part-time is commendable. You will, no doubt, learn a great deal throughout your new endeavour. However, do not minimize your current knowledge, abilities or previous experience. As Zig Ziglar once said, “Success is the maximum utilization of the ability that you have.”

– Tracy Rogers is the Career Services Co-ordinator for Seneca College, Seneca@York Campus.

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