Fanshawe's alternative pathways to academic success

Header image for Interrobang article CREDIT: ADAM MANTHA
Education isn't always a straight line. There are many alternative pathways to academic success.

There is an expectation of teenagers to complete high school within four years. For some people, events in their lives preclude progression within this four-year timeline and/or the secondary school pathway in general. Fanshawe College offers alternative pathways to academic success for those who have not been able to take the typical path forward. Some of these pathways have some restrictions based on age and amount of time outside the secondary school system, but all are meant for any Ontarian without an Ontario Secondary School Diploma (OSSD).

Persons without an OSSD who would like to complete an equivalent credential may opt to enroll in Fanshawe’s free GED preparation course. Completing the preparation course does not grant the GED, nor does Fanshawe administer the GED exam, but the GED preparation course helps prepare students for the exam that awards the provincially recognized high school equivalency. For more information on the GED exam visit ged.ilc.org.

Another alternative for those who have not completed secondary school is the Academic and Career Entrance (ACE) program. The ACE program is geared toward those who would like to take a college program but do not meet its entrance requirements because of missing high school credits. The ACE certificate is considered a grade 12 equivalency by Ontario colleges for the purpose of meeting academic prerequisites, and successful completion of the ACE program can be used as the basis for admission into any number of college programs regardless of previous academic background.

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To receive the ACE certificate, students must complete four ACE credits. Two of these credits (English/Communications and Math Foundations) are mandatory while the remaining two credits are selected by the student from the following to suit their desired program: Self Management/Self Direction; Computers; Biology; Chemistry; Physics; Apprenticeship Math.

Enrollment in the ACE program is open to Ontario residents who have been out of school for more than one year, are 19 years of age or older, and are proficient in English. In some circumstances those between 16 and 18 can be granted admission. Individual preparation courses (Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Math Fundamentals) are also available for specific academic upgrading.

There is another option for admittance to college for persons 19 years of age or older who do not have their OSSD and have been out of the secondary education system for four or more years. An applicant that meets these conditions may apply to any college program as a mature student. Mature student status is not dependent on the age of the student but instead depends on the amount of time between leaving school and the start of a program. While you can apply to any college program as a mature student, you still need to meet the entrance requirements for the program you apply to. The college offers placement testing to demonstrate ability equivalent to that required for entry and if necessary academic upgrading.

Mature students have a unique option to further their academic progress with Fanshawe’s General Arts and Science-One Year program (GAP). One admittance pathway to the GAP is as a mature student with sufficient preparation for college-level course work. This admittance criteria means a person who over the course of their life has developed the skills required to succeed in general college-level courses can bypass academic upgrading entirely.

The program can be completed in as little as two terms and depending on the student’s performance can be used as a basis for admittance to any college program or even an Ontario university.  Within one calendar year of starting the GAP, a person can go from having no OSSD right into academia.

This pathway is the one I took after dropping out of secondary school following grade nine. Four years after being out of the Ontario secondary school system, I applied to the College Access Program (now the ACE program). The program was offered over the summer term. Although I was motivated to finish the program, I learned that I qualified for mature student status. Because I met the requirements for mature student, I applied for the GAP with the plan of using it as a stepping stone to entering university. When I was accepted to the GAP program and discovered I could proceed to my college studies sooner, I left the ACE program.

This was a hard decision, because I wasn’t sure I was ready for college. Nevertheless, I felt the timing of the opportunity was too good to pass up, so in Sept. 2004, I began my first college-level classes.

As one might imagine, going back to school after four years was an overwhelming prospect. As a result, I took an 80 per cent course load (four of five courses) in the fall 2004 term to ease into the experience. After a successful first term, I felt comfortable taking a full course load in the subsequent winter term.

Midway through the program, I applied to Western’s Media Information and Technoculture program, to which I was given a conditional admission offer—if I continued to have the same academic success at Fanshawe, then I would be accepted into Western. I took the last college credit I needed to round off the GAP in the spring of 2005, and weeks later, I received my official acceptance letter from Western, where I began university in the 2005 fall term. Fanshawe College allowed me to achieve something I thought would never be possible.

Everyone faces adversity at some point in their lives. For some, this adversity happens early in life and makes following the usual pathway to academic achievement untenable. While the necessity to take alternative routes from the norm can be a setback and make you feel like you’ve fallen through the cracks, it is important to be understanding and patient with yourself. For more information on Fanshawe’s alternative pathways, visit fanshawec.ca/programs-and-courses

Editorial opinions or comments expressed in this online edition of Interrobang newspaper reflect the views of the writer and are not those of the Interrobang or the Fanshawe Student Union. The Interrobang is published weekly by the Fanshawe Student Union at 1001 Fanshawe College Blvd., P.O. Box 7005, London, Ontario, N5Y 5R6 and distributed through the Fanshawe College community. Letters to the editor are welcome. All letters are subject to editing and should be emailed. All letters must be accompanied by contact information. Letters can also be submitted online by clicking here.