In my first year of university, I met the love of my life we bought a house and lived together for 6 wonderful years. Unfortunately, things just weren’t meant to be. The life I’d planned with him doesn’t exist anymore. Now our house is for sale, and I need to find a new place to live for myself and my 17-year-old sister, of whom I am legal guardian.
Some days I found that the simplest tasks are the hardest to accomplish. I had no desire to cook, clean or go grocery shopping. When I got behind in my homework, I was left scrambling just to catch up.
When I moved away for post-secondary and was separated from my trusted support network. I had trouble picking myself up. I had to learned a lot about myself when I had to put myself back together on my own. It was a challenge, but I celebrated every small success and soon I had more good days than bad days. Life has a way of knocking us down sometimes, but I believe we’re only given what we can handle.
Alberta ran this peer-developed program from 2007 until 2019. Ambassadors blogged and visited classrooms to inspire students to plan their post-secondary journey. These ambassadors are now in the workforce but their stories can still inspire continuous education.
There are so many ways to complete a degree today: classroom study, night classes, online coursework, distance education or a hybrid option. While traditional classroom study is still by far the most popular method, we live in a world where flexibility is crucial. If you don’t like learning in a traditional classroom setting, or you want or need to work while in school there are options. You can also take distance courses over the summer as an ‘open-student’ and transfer them to your ‘home’ university when you’re done. There are many reasons why students choose distance learning. Before you chose this option, ensure you can manage. Most distance/online courses don’t have specific deadlines for assignments, you’ll need to set your own deadlines. Ensure you have enough time for your coursework with your other commitments and a plan to stay motivated. Also consider how you learn, most distance courses provide a tutor by email or phone, but you may need to seek additional help.
While I was studying at the University of Lethbridge, I took 4 courses a semester (a full course load is 5). This helped me to easily transition into university but because I didn’t want to take longer to complete my degree, I took the advice of an academic advisor and took 2 Athabasca University distance courses over the summer. Eventually I chose to transfer my entire degree to Athabasca University so that I could work full-time and study via distance learning. I had a good paying job that I really enjoyed but it was still important for me to finish my degree, so for a few years I juggled full-time work and full-time school. It wasn’t always easy, but it was the right choice for me. When I looked for my next job, I had a degree to help me find it.
Benefits of distance learning
- Flexibility: you can study whenever and wherever you want. Since you don’t have to be in a classroom for a lecture you can maintain other commitments (like working) while completing your coursework.
- Time commitment: to be considered a full-time student with Athabasca University you need to take a minimum of 4 courses over 6 months. This gives you a little more time to work through the content and you can start your next term as soon as you’re finished the previous one. So, if you’re super-efficient you could complete your courses quickly!
- Learning style: If you aren’t a fan of sitting through lectures and prefer to learn by doing your own research and taking your own notes, then distance learning might be a better fit for you. I personally prefer to do my assignments on my own. I only occasionally ask my instructor for guidance. Distance learning allows me to focus more on learning the content in a way that makes sense for me.
If the cost of post-secondary is preventing you from applying to your dream school, consider scholarships. There are scholarships available for everyone, you just need to find them and apply! Here are some tips to build your ‘scholarship resume’ so you’re a star candidate to win free money.
Before you begin your search know that every institution and program will vary slightly, but you can find information about the cost of attending post-secondary by visiting the website of the school you want to attend. Keep in mind, most estimates only include tuition, fees and books. If you factor in living costs, that number can double. A scholarship is a grant or payment made to support a student’s education, usually awarded based on academic or other achievements. You don’t have to pay back a scholarship, but it is considered income on your taxes, do your research.
Some scholarships are awarded based on your grades, like the Rutherford Scholarship that awards up to $2500 depending on your high school grades. All you need to do is keep your grades, enroll in post-secondary, and apply online. Some universities offer merit awards to students in high school, do the research.
Many scholarships require some aspect of community service, participation in community groups, mentoring through groups like Big Brothers Big Sisters, or even work experience through school (if you’re on student council, you may get a post-secondary discount, ask).
For instance, I received a scholarship for community service work with individuals with disabilities. Other scholarships like the TD Scholarship for Community Leadership look for candidates that demonstrate innovation and entrepreneurial involvement. Scholarships have unique requirements, so be sure to read the application carefully.
Participating in sports can be a great way to round out your scholarship resume and demonstrate your extracurricular activities. Students who play on college and university sports teams are typically scouted ahead of time. They may get scholarships or a discount on their university courses.
You can target your search for scholarships by considering any special opportunities afforded by memberships. Certain groups dedicate money for scholarships for their volunteers and employees. For example, 4-H has scholarships for its members and Tim Hortons and McDonald’s have scholarships for their employees. Also, if your parents are associated with a union or have a membership with an organization like the Alberta Teacher’s Association, you might qualify for scholarships through them as well.
Funding exists all you need to do is research and apply. Below is a list of websites that will help you narrow down your search for free money. Check out Canada’s Luckiest Student, you only need to be 16 to enter this lottery-style $20,000 scholarship, no requirements. We’ve given you some tools to get started, now the rest is up to you, every year scholarships are not awarded because no one applied.
Learn from other ambassadors or watch these videos:
Alberta Learning Information System (ALIS) resources:
Also visit your learning path to post-secondary.
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