If you’ve been out of school for a while, returning to the hallowed halls of academia can create a tricky paper chase as you track down your records to show you’re eligible. Experts suggest talking to the post-secondary institution to get a list of what you need.

Trevor Adams, program director for continuing education at Halifax’s Saint Mary’s University (SMU), says to first check that you have the appropriate prerequisite credentials to get into the program. He says you’ll need to go through the requirements course by course, because even if you have the relevant undergrad degree, some courses expire after 10 years.

Students also need to have their existing official transcript sent to the new school. Even if you have a copy, it must be an institution-to-institution transaction, so you’ll need to contact the registrar from your former school.

“It’s to help prevent things like forgery,” Adams explains.

It’s good to sit down with someone like Adams to see what courses you may be exempt from and to figure out what life experiences might translate into some sort of credit through a process SMU calls PLAR – prior learning assessment recognition.

Adams says students should put everything on the table. “Some universities or colleges will give you credit for life experience. If you’ve been a manager at a bank or whatever, there is some value in that work,” he says. “Leave no stone unturned. They may assume you need to start at level zero when in fact you could be getting credit for your first year of your new program.”

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