If you’ve already started your career, heading back into the halls of academia may feel surreal. But here’s a fact: mature students belong at post-secondary institutions just as much as students who transitioned straight from high school. This is proven by the number of mature students at polytechnics, colleges, and universities across Canada, which continues to increase year over year.
BCIT defines a mature student as someone over the age of 25 who has decided to embark on a new post-secondary education path after a period of work experience. This work experience is an asset, as it provides mature students with the sort of real-world, hands-on knowledge other students are aspiring toward.
Since BCIT focuses on practical skills training, it’s a popular place for mature students who need to upskill and reskill to meet the demands of a changing job market. The close integrations with business and industry mean it’s also an ideal school for those looking to further their careers.
While you may have concerns about returning to school after a long break, there’s no need to be apprehensive. Here are five reasons why resuming your learning at BCIT is the right move.
1. Past work experience can count toward your program
While it might be true that your past experience won’t be acknowledged by most post-secondary schools and employers, BCIT is not like most post-secondary schools. Advanced Placement and Prior Learning (APPL) programs offer students with various education and work experience the opportunity to build upon their skills.
While APPL is designed to support all adult learners, it was first introduced to recognize the prior learning, training, and experience of Canadian Armed Forces members. In 2008, BCIT did a comprehensive analysis of Canadian Armed Forces training, and determined that service members are already equipped with many of the skills organizations are hiring for. Not to mention, depending on where they are in their career, the education they’ve received on the job may be comparable to a non-business technical diploma.
It’s a big reason why BCIT launched the Legion Military Skills Conversion program, connecting Canadian Armed Forces members with educational assessments and student support that help streamline their career paths.
2. By demonstrating your knowledge, you can shorten your studies
One of the biggest barriers mature students face is a lack of recognition of prior learning at post-secondary schools. By some estimates, this deters approximately 300,000 Canadians from pursuing their post-secondary education.
Thanks to the APPL assessment mentioned above, you may not have to start from scratch. Some students who have pursued the APPL assessment have achieved their diploma in a single year, or graduated with a bachelor’s degree in two years. In fact, APPL has been so successful that it’s since been adopted at 21 other post-secondary schools across Canada.
Of course, there are other ways that BCIT recognizes and validates prior learning. For example, you can demonstrate existing proficiencies for course recognition through Prior Learning Assessment Recognition. By considering your cumulative knowledge, training, and experience, it’s possible to gain advanced standing in your program.
3. There are flexible program options to accommodate your schedule
A common concern for mature students is balancing school with a host of other commitments, such as maintaining a full-time or part-time job, caring for family or dependents, and numerous other pressures of day-to-day life.
BCIT has measures in place to help you continue learning while making a living and managing the many demands on your time. For instance, multiple programs offer full-time or part-time options, allowing you to choose a more flexible schedule from the outset to best suit your needs.
Part-time Studies programs include classes that can be taken on weekends, evenings, or online. There are even courses that can be taken asynchronously, meaning you work with an instructor to complete the material, but you do it on your own time with no set start date.
BCIT also offers microcredentials, which are truncated programs that let you add specific certifications to your resumé. It’s almost like building your own modular diploma, customized and personalized for your ambitions. Some microcredentials can even be stacked and counted toward a formal diploma or degree.
4. You can make the most of new contacts and opportunities
Another major advantage of being a mature student is being able to recognize your instructors and industry sponsors’ roles beyond the classroom. They’re not only teachers and supervisors, but also peers in a professional network that you’ve been building for years.
This perspective is largely gained due to the fact that all programs at BCIT are created with direct input from industry leaders. In addition, many of the faculty at the school are past and present practitioners in their various disciplines. As a mature student, you can appreciate and leverage the value this adds. You also have the ability to make connections and plan for your future career in a way many of your classmates are still learning to hone.
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5. There are plenty of ways to refresh your academic skills
If you haven’t written an essay since high school or never learned the ins and outs of academic research, the Learning Commons is the resource for you. This service lets mature students access resources to sharpen skills that may be rusty after years outside the classroom. The Learning Hub—which is the BCIT student portal—also hosts a range of online tips, toolkits, and webinars, along with the Writing Centre. Tutoring is also available, either in groups for free, or one-on-one for a fee.
BCIT is also prepared to help mature students with disabilities overcome barriers to education. If requested, Accessibility Services will work with you to determine what supports and accommodations may be suited for your particular learning needs and how to implement them.
Being a mature student at BCIT isn’t just feasible—it’s actually beneficial. As you plan your path forward through post-secondary, don’t hesitate to connect with our academic advisors. We’re here to answer any questions.