July 25, 2007 1:57 PM   Subscribe

I'm 23, flunked out of every school I've ever attended, but have changed and want a second (or whatever number I'm on now) chance.

I'm 23 years old and an Ontario resident. When I was 18 I went away to Montreal to Concordia University for two years. I ended up flunking out due to a substance abuse problem and a general apathy toward life.

Fast forward to now. I have gotten my life together, paid my debts (financial and otherwise) and have been clean for three years. I have been in management at a major corporation for more than two years and do an abundance of community volunteer work. Most would say that I am very successful for my age.

The only problem is that I have felt for a couple of years now that the only thing I want to do is teach. I lead groups at church, but its not the same. My dream is to be a high school teacher.

Here's the problem. I have no idea how I was accepted into university in the first place, as my grades were just enough to graduate high school. In university it just got worse, I think I have a 1.3 cumulative GPA for my two years.

I know I can't expect to waltz through a few years at university with how I've bungled things up, but I also know I would do fine through any university science or art BA/BSc if I could only get accepted.

Universities in Ontario require 60% or 2.0 at least. For mature students its the same, or they insist that you have never completed any university. Is there any chance to fix this and become a high school teacher before I'm 30? Or should I just accept how things are and forget about teaching.

Sorry that was so long. Any guidance would be great.
posted by kevin_2864212 to Education (19 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I'm not sure how it is in Ontario, but, in BC, I think you need a B+/A- from your undergrad to be accepted to a teaching program.

Contact the admissions department at your preferred universities. Explain the situation. They may admit you under mature student status, if you're willing to walk away from the courses you took at Concordia.

If that doesn't work, enroll in a distance education program (Athabasca?) or a community college and apply to transfer once you've had a solid semester. But do check with the admissions department of your preferred schools, so that you make sure the courses will transfer.
posted by acoutu at 2:06 PM on July 25, 2007

Bah, don't accept things how they are. Rules are made to be broken by people like you. Your grades are a record of who you were when you did not have things together. Two years of management experience and lots of community service is clear evidence that you are no longer the same person.

Talk to an admissions officer at a local school and state your case. See what they have to say.
posted by PercussivePaul at 2:08 PM on July 25, 2007

Do you have something that's the equivalent of the US's Community College system? It's basically high school with ashtrays -- they offer a lot of night classes for adults without degrees, and a lot of lower-level classes. Usually they're affiliated with a local university so that you can transfer easily to a 4-year school and your credits transfer straight across.

I'd walk away from your earlier credit and start at a school that will allow you a 'fresh start'.
posted by SpecialK at 2:12 PM on July 25, 2007

Do a bit of research, first select a university (or two). Next, find the department chair of your selected academic department. Send the chair an email explaining your situation and ask his advice. If he'll agree to meet with you that's even better. If you don't get a response, try the Assistant Chair or call the department secretary and ask which professor she thinks would give you good advice.

The admissions department tends to follow the rules fairly equally across applicants. You need to have an ally in the department.

Worst case, the chair simply tells you that you're not likely to be accepted - no problem, move along to another university. He may be able to suggest one that would fit your needs.
posted by 26.2 at 2:40 PM on July 25, 2007 [1 favorite]

I would go the community college route with an eye towards university transfer. If your application shows two years of good grades at a previous school done recently it'll outweigh your previous attempt at university.

Other universities won't have access to Concordia's records, so you'll be fine applying with them. Talk to admissions at the local colleges, part of what they're there for is to help students who don't have the GPA to go straight into a university.

Plus, it's cheaper and will likely have a more flexible schedule that might let you keep working.
posted by Salmonberry at 2:41 PM on July 25, 2007

At Concordia, anybody in the community can register and take classes on a part time basis. There must be unis like that in ON too? I bet if you do well in a couple of courses and can show that on a transcript, you'll be able to get somewhere with admissions.
posted by Salamandrous at 2:46 PM on July 25, 2007

Do what all the other Ontarians who can't get into teacher's college in Ontario do: go to school in Buffalo. D'Youville and Buff State both have very well-respected teaching programs, and they're used to having Canadians in their classes so they'll be able to help you out in figuring out financial aid and scheduling around your commute. I don't know what their admission requirements are, but having attended schools on both sides of the border I'd say the schools in the States are more likely to give your "real world" experience weight when examining your application.

Friends of mine in teaching programs at both schools said the Canadians in their programs indicated their degrees would be accepted in Ontario - you may want to verify that though.

P.S. - The equivalent to community college in Canada is just "college." Four year schools are all called "university." I'm not sure how universities are at accepting credits from colleges though - colleges seem to be more strictly vocational in Canada than their U.S. equivalents.
posted by AV at 2:57 PM on July 25, 2007

I'd check with the admissions department before enlisting the department chairs. I mean, if you applied to Carleton, there's a pretty open admissions policy there (or there was), so you might not even have trouble getting in.

AV: The equivalent to community college in Canada is sometimes "community college". There are many community colleges in Canada, especially in BC where there is an established transfer system. Some of the community colleges have four-year degrees, especially those that also have university-college status. Community colleges in BC have both vocational and university-level courses
posted by acoutu at 3:15 PM on July 25, 2007

In the US, colleges are unlikely to search for past college attendance. Usually, people choose to put down past colleges attended because they want to get transfer credit for courses. If you are willing to forgo this (you probably would not be able to transfer many courses with that GPA), you could just leave that section blank. Not sure if this would work in Canada.
posted by yohko at 3:41 PM on July 25, 2007

Congratulations on figuring out what you want to do. That's huge. Don't give up. First of all, there's nothing magical about 30 -- you don't turn into a pumpkin. Second, seven years is likely plenty of time to get all this in line.

You can always, always rectify crap grades into respectibility. It just takes work and kind of eating crow for a little while.

Your first obstacle is getting into school. First of all, I really think that you meet criteria to apply as a mature applicant, which I believe means that you can't have graduated from another university, not that you can't ever have attended.

The 60% rule does NOT apply to previous credits for mature applicants, as I understand it. The rule is that, as a mature applicant, you have to be a part-time student for your first two credits at the new university before you become a full-time student.

Your second challenge is going to be getting into an education department. I would get in touch with a couple of teaching programs, preferrably in person, as soon as you have a good solid semester or two to show. Keep in touch with them periodically.

You don't say what age or subject you would like to teach, but if teaching itself is the main point, you might consider concentrating on an in-demand subject.

Good luck!
posted by LittleMissCranky at 3:49 PM on July 25, 2007

I second (third?) Salmonberry and acoutu's suggestions of going the community college/university transfer route. I have taught many mature students with spotty educational pasts who pulled their lives together and then excelled in school. I truly feel that community colleges are generally very welcoming, supportive places for students like you who have been out of the educational loop for a while and want to make a fresh start. They tend to have smaller classes, more opportunities for interaction with instructors, and less expensive tuition.

Good luck!
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 4:08 PM on July 25, 2007

And don't let anyone tell you that the community colleges are easy. I went to a community college for my first two years. When I transferred to university, my GPA rose 0.5 on the 4-point scale, making me a straight-A student. I actually had to work harder at the college!
posted by acoutu at 7:01 PM on July 25, 2007

I went back to university in Ontario after being a spectacular screw-up during my first attempt and it was pretty easy to get in as a mature student. Check university websites to see what their rules concerning mature students are (how long you have to have been out of school, age, etc.) and then email them. I went to Waterloo and they have a whole team of people dedicated to helping non-traditional students both before and after they start their degree. Honestly, the worst part was having to order my transcripts from my first university. (You will have to provide those. Omitting that kind of info is usually grounds for having your admission revoked if you get caught.)
posted by atropos at 8:00 PM on July 25, 2007

Re. Carleton, see especially special studies.
posted by kmennie at 10:40 PM on July 25, 2007

"In the US, colleges are unlikely to search for past college attendance. Usually, people choose to put down past colleges attended because they want to get transfer credit for courses. If you are willing to forgo this (you probably would not be able to transfer many courses with that GPA), you could just leave that section blank. Not sure if this would work in Canada."

Be careful with this -- it could get you kicked out after you get in if it does come out somehow. This is definitely the case at American law schools, and some education programs have similar moral fitness criteria.
posted by Jahaza at 12:54 AM on July 26, 2007

Talk to admissions at the schools you're interested in, be honest, they can probably give you good advice. I am in a very similar boat, same age, went to York for 2 years and they told me to take a hike, and I would love to go back now. I am pretty sure it is possible, you just need to lay it out for people. The one university I've looked into so far was pretty understanding -- but yes, if your grades were already low pre-Concordia, you'll need to probably go to a college for a bit first.

But talk to admissions first!
posted by blacklite at 3:25 AM on July 26, 2007

Thanks for all the advice everyone. I think I will talk to a few admissions offices at universities first to see what flexibility there may be for someone like myself.

Just a note on the mature student thing; it is not an across the board standard. Different schools have different policies to decide whether you qualify as a mature student. On their websites they list the criteria. Everyone I checked, you either needed to show grades at a certain level (60% or GPA of 2.0) or you needed to have never attended post-secondary.

I haven't checked Waterloo yet though (thanks for the tip atropos).

Thanks again MeFites
posted by kevin_2864212 at 5:01 AM on July 26, 2007

(This is coming from the U.S, so I am not exactly sure how it is there, just an FYI) Seriously consider a community college if you can. Not only is it usually cheaper than a university, but it helps you transition a bit easier into the college atmosphere without just shoving you back in. Not to mention they have more flexible hours for those who need to have jobs, which I have just lately found out first hand.

In high school I had a 1.9 GPA and had realized pretty quickly that it would be difficult for me to go to a university. I knew it would be very difficult for me to just go to the school of my choice and explain that at that time I was lazy, but that would change. Now I am about to graduate with a second Associates degree with a 3.5 GPA (after a change of major just a little too late) and found it much easier to transfer into the school of my choice. I know at my community college they have a special program for those who wish to teach/ move from one career to teaching. You would have to still go to a university, but it gives you more outside work related experience than just going into a university. They may have something like it there.

However, it sounds like you really pulled yourself together. Most universities have college essays for that reason alone. So if you feel strongly about going to a university, try writing your essay about how much you have changed. But don't just wait for them to give you an answer, call them and see if you can set an interview with the dean, or someone who may have some influence. Be honest about your challenges, and back that up with your success. It is people like you who deserve to go to college. It sounds like you have so much potential, and show them how much they NEED you at their school.

Good luck!
posted by slc228 at 6:47 AM on July 26, 2007

Do talk to the admissions department. Most Canadian universities do not use essays for admissions.
posted by acoutu at 5:21 PM on July 27, 2007

« Older I should be working right now   |   Betel Nut in NYC? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.