Going Back to School as an Adult with or without a High School Diploma



Often adult students had dropped out of high school, though they do this less than they used to, and later they often decide to go back to school. But there has been few community accessible learning information services to help adults go back.  So often they start back based on what a friend advises or at an educational program they know in their area or at a program they have seen an ad for.


Recently when dropping Learning Curves in Oshawa, I saw the Ontario’s Pathways to Post Secondary Education for Adult Learners chart, see opposite page, posted on a bulletin board at a Durham Catholic School for adults. It was put together by the Literacy Network of Durham Region. It gives adults a good picture of their options. 

The bottom boxes tell you how to go back through Adult Day programs at schools, ACE (Academic and Career Entrance Program) programs at the Colleges or by getting a GED, a high school equivalency certificate, or through being admitted to college or university (full time credit programs) as a mature student. Mature does not mean someone your parents’ age, it means 19 or older and out of school one year for Colleges, 21 or older and out of school for two years for universities. Sometime ACE programs at schools are called Literacy Basic Skills and now often Essential Skills. 

But this Ontario’s Pathways chart does not give you phone numbers. So we have scanned previous Learning Curves articles on going back to school and compiled the updated contact list below. See back issues www.learning-curves.ca or back articles. www.learning-curves.org. 


We are giving phone numbers not websites so front line contacts can use their inside the institute and community wide knowledge to help you find a pathway that best suits what you want and need. Sometimes websites have TMI- Too Much Information. So you need someone to filter this information overload, to get to what fits your goals and needs. Remember to tell the person who answers the phone, what you want to do, (be a PSW) and background (no high school diploma or science credits) rather than what program you want (GED) as that front line person may know of a program that would better help you get to where you want to go given your situation, work and family commitments.  And if you feel uncertain they can put you in touch with their counseling services or program coordinators. 


Don’t wait until after Labour Day to follow up on these contacts. Adult Day Schools open about the third week in August, Colleges and Universities open for fall registration in early July, community groups that run GED prep programs have continuous intake as do the ACE programs at colleges that prep you for college. 


As well these providers often offer courses during the summer months, June, July and even August. They are often listed under the Spring Term. (April May)  So you can start right now, this summer. Call and ask. 


ACE programs, and high school credits can be earned online. The Independent Learning Centre at TVOntario offers high school credits, and is on the only GED authorized test site, though GED prep programs offered by community groups and schools are listed on the Independent Learning Centre site.


Full time or Part time , Day or Evening. 

The Ontario’s Pathways to Post Secondary Education for Adult Learners chart shows you a full time day path for post secondary. But it is important to understand that adult education is basically divided into full time (day) and part-time (night) . At colleges if you want to go full time during the day you must be admitted to a program which is where needing a high school diploma may come into play. For universities if you want to get a degree (credit program) whether you go full time day or part time night you need to be admitted to that program hence the need for high school diploma or equivalent. The term “equivalent” encompasses mature student entry for both colleges and universities.  For newcomers equivalent can include education including high school that they brought with them to Canada. Don’t by shy, say what you have already earned in education. 


You may need an upgrading program. ACE at the colleges or Academic Upgrading at the universities given your skill levels and program goals. The colleges will usually test you to determine your skills- especially if you are applying to go to a day program that requires you to be admitted. See contact numbers on following list.

However some adults prefer to go to Adult Day schools to earn high school credits (the one needed for a full time program at college, university ie a biology credit for RPN program) or a full high school diploma . Schools are smaller institutional settings and adults may want to brush up on long forgotten skills at a step by step pace or newcomers may prefer to take it one step at a time given second language challenges. As well, adult day schools have career counseling services which help you choose a post-secondary pathway amongst all those colleges and university programs and they help you with the application process. These adult day schools grant you mature student credits so getting a high school diploma does not take four years as when you were a teenager but a number of quads ( 12 week terms). They divide the school year into four quads.


Note, it is important to remember there are open admission programs at the colleges and universities, offered part-time in the evenings, on weekends and on-line which are listed under Continuing Education or Part-time studies.. Some of these CE courses are equivalent to full time day courses and if you prove you can do post-secondary courses at night school, you will have demonstrated you can do full time-day studies. Then when accepted to the full time day program you could transfer your equivalent course credits. So you could start part- time evening, then apply to be admitted to a full time day program when you get laid off, your contract ends and so on.


Mind there are more options in that you can do a day program part-time but still if it is a day program you have to be admitted. And are you ready? You can do several courses at night- open admission ones, and be considered full time for student tax credits etc. Also, you can go part time to an adult day school. 


Enough, call a contact person, explain your situation then let them help you find a good program fit. 


Adult Day Schools (earn credits towards a high school diploma) Contacts

School boards offer a variety of programs see www.learning-cuves.ca Spring 2016 page10, 13,15 for the following article. 

“Schools take in Adult Learners in the Spring and Summer months and Most Programs are Free!” for a comprehensive listing beyond Adult Day programs. 


Other programs 

ESL/LINC ELT (Ehanced Language Training) at most school boards, at some schools, Personal Support Worker programs are the most common but other programs at different schools. include Building Maintenance, Hospitality (food industry) Office Assistant, Hairstyling apprenticeship pathway, Police Foundations, Child Care Assistant –ask/ 


Toronto District School Board 

Burhamthorpe Learning Centre 416-394-7130

City Adult Learning Centre 416-393-9740

Emery Adult Learning Centre 416-395-3225

Scarborough Centre for Alternative Studies 416-396-6921

Yorkdale Adult Learning 416-395-6505

Note: Ed Vance programs are for adults 18-20 years old. 


Toronto Catholic District School Board

Monsignor Fraser College 

Isabella Campus 416-393-5533

Midland Campus 416-5532 


Durham District School Board (Pickering, Ajax, Whitby, Oshawa)

E.A. Lowell Continuing Education Centre 905-436-3211

Durham Catholic District School Board. 

Oshawa Campust 905-438-9579

Ajax Campus 905-683-7713


York District School Board (Markham, Richmond Hill, Vaughan)

Dr. Betty Stephenson Centre for Learning 905-884-2046


York Catholic District School Board 

only 21 and under offered 905-713-1211 


Peel District School Board ( Mississauga, Brampton)

Mississauga Campus-Elm Street

905-270-6000 Ext 1


Brampton Campus Hurontario 

905-270-6000 Ext 1


Dufferin- Peel Catholic District School Board 

St. Gabriel Adult Learning Centre Malton 



Brian J. Fleming Adult Learning Centre



Halton School Board ( Oakville)

The Gary Allan High School 



Halton Catholic District School Board

Thomas A. Merton Adult Learning Centre 


Academic and Career Entrance (ACE) programs. ACE Programs can be completed on-line at



These programs are tuition free. Usually the college will test you to make sure you have the required skills to do the full time day program. If not they will refer you to an ACE program. 




George Brown College School of Work and College Preparation,

416-415-5000 Ext 2427


Seneca College Academic Adult Upgrading 

416-491-5050 Ext 26620


Centennial College Career and College Transition

416-289-5000 Ext 7022 


Humber college Academic Upgrading 

416-675 5000 Ext 74842


Sheridan College Workforce Development Program



Durham College Academic Upgrading 

905-721-2000 Ext. 3131




Independent Learning Centre



High school Credits on line or by correspondence

GED prep programs in the community listed on www.ilc.org



These courses are a way to prove you can do degree level course work


Ryerson University Spanning The Gap 

416-979-5000 Ext 2291


University ot Toronto the Millie Rotman Shine Academic Bridging Program,

Woodsworth College 



York University School of Continuing Studies Transition Year Program



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Toronto, Canada