BRIDGING PROGRAM OPENS DOOR TO UNIVERSITY                by Thomas Socknat

originally published in the 2014 Summer Issue

It’s never too late to embark on a university education, even if you don’t think you have the required background. Just ask Matthew Hitch. By his mid-30s he felt like his life was in a rut and, although wanting to further his education, he felt he had squandered his opportunity for university studies when in high school. Then, through a friend, he discovered the Millie Rotman Shime Academic Bridging Program which provides access to the University of Toronto for those aged 19 and up who have been away from formal education for some time and don’t meet the usual university entrance requirements.


Thomas Socknat, Academic Director of the Program, says ”a lot of people just don’t think they could ever qualify for university studies, especially at the U of T, but that is exactly what the Academic Bridging Program is designed to do—provide the opportunity for “non-traditional” students to explore and pursue post-secondary education.”


Students can enroll as either full-time or part-time students. While full-time students take a total of three courses, both the full-time and parttime students take one of three Bridging courses (Contemporary Canada, a Canadian Studies course; Canadian History; or Introduction to Literature) which are specifically designed to help students brush up a variety of academic skills and prepare them to succeed in post-secondary studies. Those who successfully complete the program are admitted to the faculty of arts and science with at least one full credit towards their U of T degree.


And that’s what Matt did. With the encouragement of his wife, he enrolled in the Program and, having a passion for history, he chose the Canadian history course. Still, he was somewhat anxious about his ability to do university level work after being away from formal education for so many years. “However, my anxieties were quickly subdued,” he says, “as I engaged in the network of help offered at U of T”s Woodsworth College.” These include a series of study skills seminars (which cover tips on learning strategies, study methods and essay writing), assistance with writing at the Academic Writing Centre, and personal attention from instructors since all classes are relatively small.


Although a good number of students don’t enter university directly from high school for a variety of reasons, a lot of people are still surprised that an access program like the Academic Bridging Program exists, even though it first began in 1967 (originally known as the Pre-University Program) and has been helping thousands of mature students access the University of Toronto ever since. Most students who complete the program hail it, in Matt’s words, as a “life-changing experience”. “As soon as I entered the program,” he says, “I began to take advantage of all the amenities offered to U of T students. I started going to the Athletic Centre to swim every day, I made regular appointments at the Writing Centre to get help with my essays and develop my writing skills, I visited all the beautiful campus libraries, I made appointments at the Career Centre to develop my resume, and became active in some of the numerous events happening all over campus.” Life-changing indeed! Matt is currently in his third year pursuing a degree in History and American Studies.


Prospective full-time students must registrar for the fall term but part-time students have the choice of three sessions: the Fall Session (September to April), the accelerated Winter Session (January to June), and an even more intensive Summer Session.


Now is the time to register for the fall 2014 academic term. For more information check out the website: www.wdw.utoronto.ca/bridging.


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Toronto, Canada