Potential students who want to get an in-depth, hands-on feel for what their college experience will be like can take a Test Drive at the Nova Scotia Community College.

Virginia Johnson, director of student pathways at NSCC, says the Test Drive program started in 2003 when enrolment continued to grow but the available spaces didn’t.

“We all know what it’s like to be in a classroom where you’ve got people who it’s just not the right fit for them,” Johnson says. “We’re trying to ensure that when our classes start in September, we’ve got the most engaged, committed and focused students in the classroom.”


Test Drive mostly attracts high school students, who can register online. They then go to one of NSCC’s 13 campuses across the province for a full- or half-day shadowing a student currently enrolled on the course. That student “mentor” meets them at the door and gives them the scoop on campus life.

“By having the mentor be a current student, we thought that this is where (potential) students would find out the real information about what the program is like, what the faculty is like, what the parking is like, what the food is like. They are getting not just what we wanted to show, but the real deal,” she says.

Test-driving students meet faculty, attend classes, labs and shops. This gives them a clear and full picture about what is being learned — and how.

Johnson says NSCC runs about 2,000 test drives a year and about 50 per cent of those individuals go on to enroll at the college.

That’s just fine with NSCC — Johnson says it’s better for the college and the student to find out the fit isn’t right earlier rather than later. It may also contribute to the college’s 86 per cent retainment rate for enrolled students.

She cites the example of someone drawn to health discovering that being a dental assistant means standing on your feet all day, or a would-be carpenter put off by the idea of working outside in freezing temperatures.

“If you want to be a plumber, but you’re not flexible and able to work in small, confined areas ... you should know that before you actually get into the program,” she says.

People can sign up for test drives via nscc.ca /Learning_Programs/Test_ Drive, where they will also find short videos from students that give a taste of some courses.

Test Drive runs from mid-October to the end of March. NSCC doesn’t have formal open days, but students can always arrange a visit via nscc.ca.

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