Continuing Education + Job Training // Publishing since 1999
Career Focus

Afraid To Go Back To School?

By WENDY TERRY - January 17 2019

Academic Upgrading Programs Will Help You 

Often we put off calling a university or college as we didn’t finish high school or did poorly or did it in a different country in a different language. We are not sure where to start and what to ask for. Searching websites of large institutions more often than not leaves us overwhelmed with lots of information We are not sure what piece of information fits our situation or plans. 

Our first advice is just call any number, tell the person who answers what you want to do and what you are worried about. Ask who you should talk to. Front line people, ones who answer the phone, know their institutions, they can often put you in touch with the right person and give you some advice in the process. Front line people are some of the most helpful ones at large institutions. They spend their days helping confused people. 

This article will try to sort out some of your confusion and give you numbers for academic upgrading programs that are not easily found doing best guess key word searches on websites. 

First you need to understand that you are applying as a mature student, over 19 for college, over 21 for university and out of school one year. There is no need to go back and start where you left off school. Work from your goal back, what do you need to get into the program you now want. Most have academic upgrading programs that help you get what you now need to succeed. 

At one time most mature students went part time to evening classes and young people just out of school went full time to day classes. Now it is more mixed with our gig labour market, and high tuition fees, young people pick up extra credits at night school as they have part time jobs or are coming back to school after a contract and mature adults are more often going back full time during the day to pick up skills faster to get back into the labour market. Going part-time for a decade or more doesn’t make use of your learning investment as much as going back full time for a year or two then back into the labour market. 

So you need to understand there are two silos at universities and colleges. Actually three at universities. One is for full time students in a certified program like a Degree. The classes for these programs are usually offered during the day, but some credits towards your program can be picked up at night. The second silo at universities are degrees offered part-time at night. You you can earn a Degree this way but this is a different registration process than for the one going full time during the day right after high school. Then there is a third silo. The Continuing Education shcool where many courses are not a credit towards a Degree. You may earn a Certificate or a Diploma or recognition from a professional association 

By searching websites using Continuing Education you will find this third silo but at universities you will not find the part-time degree night school one. Try mature students part-time undergrad. 

There are different entry points depending on what you want to do at universities. See for the Fall 2016 issue of Learning Curves page 7. We tabled six for each of the three universities in Toronto. 

At the colleges there are two silos. One is full time day, though you can go part time during the day but you must be admitted to a program before you start earning credits. 

Then there is the other silo Continuing Education sometimes called Part-time usually offered at night or on the weekends – quite often by distance education. They have open admissions. You do the courses and when you have all the courses needed for your certification, usually a Certificate, you apply for your Certificate. Whereas in the other full time day silo you apply to be in the program first , then earn your credits. 

Both universities and colleges offer academic upgrading programs for those who would not otherwise qualify to be admitted.

So lets look at academic upgrading programs. 

Academic Upgrading programs at University 

One of the best places to start are academic upgrading programs. In general, you take a university level course in a small group and if you earn a grade that shows you can do university level work you are admitted and that upgrading course counts as a credit towards your program. We have listed the numbers for these programs at Ryerson, University of Toronto and York and give more details about each program. 


If you click on Access to Post-Secondary Education on the Courses and Programs page for the Chang School for Continuing Education it will lead you to Spanning the Gaps. Under Programs and Workshops here you will see Transition Foundation Programs. However if you had put these two titles in the Search Engine, you would get a blank 

You can reach Transition Foundation Programs by phoning 416-979-6000 Ext 2291. They have regular open houses and they have one on December 11. Call this number to book yourself in. 

The Transition Foundation, Program Structure includes three courses: Academic Writing and Research; Literature Across Borders, Critical Thinking. Getting a C+ in these course earns you a university credit which you can transfer into other programs.

Under Information and Academic Advising you will note that you can get help with Admission Requirements, Upgrading Options, Program and Course Selection, and most importantly Financial Aid. Often adults going part-time think they do not qualify for financial aid which is not true. 

University of Toronto 

If you put academic upgrading in the U of T web page search engine, you get to the Academic Bridging program at Woodsworth College. 

You can reach this program by calling 416-978-4444. Applications open in January for the April to June term. 

Three courses are offered in this spring term which if you go part-time you chose one. They are 

Contemporary Canada, Introduction to the Study of Literature, Topics in Indigenous Cultures and Societies. Other ones offered in different terms are Introduction to Academic Studies, Canadian History, and Introduction to Environmental Studies. 

When you successfully complete at least one course in the Academic Bridging Program, you gain admission to the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, at U of T. That course credit in the bridging program earned is applied to your degree. 

Don’t forget to ask about Financial Aid. Aid programs specific to the Academic Bridging Program, on their site are the Noah Meltz program, grants specific to the Academic Bridging Program and Woodsworth College grants. If you go to the Academic Bridging Program full time you can apply to OSAP, the Ontario Student Assistance Plan. 

Woodsworth College is where you apply to be a Part-time Undergraduate Degree Student, in the Faculty of Arts and Science, night school courses. 

The Association of Part-time Undergraduate Students APUS works to make sure that part time students, often night school students, have access to a full range of programs. Call 416-978-3993 

York University 

If you put academic upgrading in the York University Search engine you are brought to Academic Bridging in the School of Continuing Studies. 

You can reach the School of Continuing Studies by calling 416-736-5616. 

They list three Academic Preparation Courses: Academic Bridging- Humanities, Academic Bridging- Social Sciences, and Academic Preparation- Math. If you pass one of these academic Bridging programs with a B grade, “you will strengthen your application for admission to select faculties” with three credits towards your degree. 

Academic Upgrading Programs at Colleges

One of the most important things to note upgrading programs at the colleges are tuition free. 

Also note, when you are looking at websites each has different information but these programs are much the same in each college. So if you find one thing noted like career counseling on one site and not on another college’s site, just ask if they offer that. 

It is a good idea to look at all or a few of the college AU sites as given each site has different information, you get a better overview of the Academic Upgrading programs. You will know better what to ask about. 


Choose Part-time Studies, then at the bottom of the Screen choose General Education, Teaching and Languages then choose School of Advancement then Academic Upgrading. Or just put Academic Upgrading in the search engine for Centennial College’s home page. You reach the Academic and Career Entrance Program, commonly known as ACE . 

You can reach this program by calling 416-289-5272

They offer programs in Chemistry, Biology, Math, Technical Mathematics and English. 

By doing four ACE courses you can earn a ACE Certificate which is equivalent to a High School Diploma. This will meet the requirements for acceptance into an apprenticeship programs and college programs at all colleges. 

There is also a Career College Transition program for those who have a High School Diploma but who want to go back to school. You can upgrade essential skills in math, English, biology, chemistry required for admission to college or university programs. 

Seneca College 

On Seneca College’s home page in the search engine put academic upgrading and you will get to the AUC page Academic Upgrading program. They have part-time evening programs as well as full time day ones. You can take a self-paced program or an accelerated one. 

You can reach them by calling 416-491- 5050 ext. 44772. 

They detail their courses on their site. Intro Level: Mathematics. Intermediate Level: Computers, English and Communications, ACE Core Mathematics, Principles of Biology, Principles of Chemistry. Advanced Level: Principles of Human Biology, Applied Chemistry;

ACE Communications II, Computer Fundamentals, Communications and Self Management, and one of the following: Business Mathematics, ACE Technical Math2 or Apprenticeship Math. 

Once you have completed 4 advanced level subjects including English & Communications, and an advanced level Math you willl have earned an ACE certificate. This is accepted for admission to Ontario colleges and apprenticeship programs. 

The AUC site notes that you will receive career counseling and assistance with college applications. Getting help here is invaluable as application forms can be a challenge as can deciding what career to pursue in today’s volatile labour market.

See ad on page 10 for Seneca College Tuition Free Upgrading. Mind don’t let the address for their web site at the bottom of the page throw you off. The program is administered by the full time day silo of the college but they offer part time evening courses just like the CE silo. Don’t feel bad if you find large educational institutes confusing. They are, remember just ask any front line person. They know their institutes. 

Humber College 

When you put Academic Upgrading in the Humber College search engine, it leads you to an AU page with a header School of Liberal Arts and Sciences. 

These Liberal Arts schools are associated with going full-time during the day, in fact most of the academic upgrading programs are offered through Liberal Arts. So adult students who keep searching in Continuing Education will be frustrated. 

This AU website indicates only day hours for classes so you need to phone and ask if they have evening classes. Note that ACE courses are offered through distance education and they have monthly intakes. So this gives you more scheduling options but phone and ask.

Call 416-7675-6622 Ext 74842. 

Students who earn 70% or higher in each of the following four courses earn an ACE Certificate in addition to their Humber Certificate of Completion. The courses are ACE Business Math, ACE Communications, ACE Computers, and Skills for Success By clicking on how to apply then clicking on Register for Informal and Assessment Sessions you get to a page where you can click on Courses, ones where you can get more basic help or help with other areas of study. They are in addition to the ones above Pre-ACE Computers, Pre-ACE Communications, Pre-ACE Math, Math Bridge, Pre-Ace Chemistry, ACE Chemistry, Pre ACE Biology and ACE Biology.

Finding the drill down path on the website described above which leads you to these more basic courses reinforces the challenge of getting to information on websites. So remember phone and ask. 

On this same page where you clicked on Courses, you can click on Services. Here they note you can register for Peer Tutoring, Career Counselling in the ACE program, and the Humber Counselling and Disability Services Office. Note you can also apply for Transit Support Allowance. 

Clicking back to the original AU page, then clicking on Fees. Leads you to other Financial Aid options at Humber. The Fees page lists Scholarships which may put you off having not got high grades but remember Bursaries are also always available for those in financial need Ask is the first and best rule for getting help. 

George Brown College 

On the home page for George Brown put Academc Upgrading. This leads you to two options. Chose the second one Program A 751 

Here you can get more detailed information. Click on courses to get a full listing of what is available. They include ACE Biology, ACE Chemistry, ACE Physics, ACE Computer Studies, Foundation Communications, Pre ACE Communications, ACE Communications, ACE Math for Technology, ACE Math for Apprenticeship, ACE Math for Business, ACE Workplace Math, Core Skills, Ace Personal and Professional Exploration. 

If you click on the full description option you will find that one classes are offered on a continuous intake basis. Other colleges seemed to have a term based schedule. Ask. They indicate that classes are offered during the day but distance education offers your more flexibility.

They note that students begin with a three-week orientation to determine their appropriate upgrading class level, and create a learning goal plan. They note that if applicants are not fluent in English they may be referred to and English as a Second Language program. 

Heads up although another webpage indicates that orientations are every Wednesday if you click on the listing for them they are scheduled for Tuesdays. So ask. And think about this, one of the reasons institutes moved to websites rather than print calendars is it was easier to update websites. But often they are not updated. And as Learning Curves notes the advantages of a print calendar is you can scan, a web site you must drill down hopefully using the right keywords, then come back up and drill down with another set of key words. So our advice is always, phone ask,

Phone 416-415-5000 ext. 3560 

Durham College 

First when I put Academic Upgrading in the Search engine of Durham’s home page it gave me over 2000 listings. TMI I clicked on the first one and got to the home page for Academic Upgrading –College Preparation. What I liked about this page is you could scroll down and get the information you did not need to drill down from page to page. 

First I spotted the phone number 905-721-3131. 

Then under Here’s How To Get Started there was a reassuring description of the assessment. 

“The assessment is a great opportunity to reflect on all types of learning from life experiences, work experiences as well as formal education.” 

It was the only college website where they referred you to websites that would help you with the Math and English assessments found under How Can I Prepare for the Assessment 

I was fascinated with the list of math skills which included: decimals, fractions, metric, order of operations, ratio and proportion, percents, geometry, algebra and trigonometry. Of course depending on your career goals you would not need all of these. 

This same page gives you a link to the On-line ACE courses and a list of orientation dates, there is one on December 10th. Call and sign up. 

This website however did not list the ACE courses but you have the idea from looking at other college websites.

Sheridan College

When I clicked on the search englne on Sheridan’s home page. I was led to the Academic Upgrading page but I could not easily see a phone number. As we advocate phoning and asking, I was a little frustrated. But like Durham College they have a scroll down page instead of key word page to page search so I scrolled At the bottom of the page under Interested in Applying I clicked on “here” for each campus and got the phone numbers.

The Brampton Davis Campus is
905-450-7533 Ext 5440 and the Oakville STC Campus is 905 -845-9430 ext. 5052. 

They listed their courses differently than other colleges, not referring them to ACE but to high school levels. They are Communication (up to Grade 12), Mathematics (up to Grade 12), Biology (up to Grade 11), Computer Applications and Strategies for Success. 

Sheridan was the first college to list assistance with day care costs. Like other colleges, they listed assistance with transportation. 

They did list evenings as well as day time hours for classes. 

For those learning English they noted that one needed a Canadian Language Benchmark of 6 under admission requirement. This is the first time I saw this specific information. 

Going Back to School in the New Year. 

Don’t wait till the New Year to apply to an Academic Upgrading program, phone in December so you could get started in January. If you wait to call till January you may not be able to get in until the Spring. 

Academic Upgrading at Schools and Community Groups

Academic upgrading in schools and community groups is not referred to as ACE programs as they are in Colleges but as LBS programs and sometimes Essential Skills.                                                                     

In previous issues we have done articles on Academic Upgrading in Schools and Community Groups. Here are links to some of these:  Summer Issue 2017 page 10–11, Going Back to School as an Adult with or without a high school Diploma.  Left column. Click on Where to Study then click on Learning in Schools then click on Adult Learning in the GTA. Then go back to Where to Study and click on Adult Day Schools in Toronto

Left column. Click on What to Study then GED & Preparation for High School Diploma and/or What is the Toronto District School Board LBS 

In this Winter 2019 issue of Learning Curves, PTP student Frehiwet has written a story about her experience in the Literacy Basic Skills program. See page 2

As well Durham Catholic School Board – Literacy Basic skills program supports Learning Curves. See page 7.

Other sources of Information 

Call 211 The Community Information hotline for Toronto and York Region. Ask for academic upgrading programs offered by community programs. 

Other sources of programs

Call the Independent Learning Centre which offers on-line credits for high school and the GED- an equivalent to high school 416-484-2704. 

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