Are CEGEP students being left in the dark?
By Jilian Ward
The new academic year presents second-year Dawson students with many opportunities and decisions; the primary concern of many is the pursuit of their higher eduction. However, with university application deadlines fast approaching (the latest being that of Canadian schools on March 1), the pressure is on. Does the CEGEP system make this transition to university easier?
Fourteen out of 15 CEGEP students interviewed plan to attend university directly after completing their DEC. Quebec’s pre-university education seems to comfort both first and second-years for several reasons. Initially, many are grateful for CEGEP simply because it allows them to leave their high school at an earlier age to enter a more mature environment.
One first year student blatantly stated that she “would not have wanted to go back for another year with some of the students in [her] grade.” Others like the idea of gaining independence at a young age. A second-year International Business student pointed out that, in CEGEP, “you have the freedom to do whatever you want, but if you don’t act responsibly and take care of your studies, it will cause you problems. You learn to become independent and mature a lot faster. By allowing yourself to adapt to these changes through two years of CEGEP, there will be less of a shock than if you had gone straight to university from high school.” Another student agreed, saying that “you have only yourself to rely on.”
In addition to social progress, CEGEP offers students self-discovery at a low price. Those in second year tend to notice this advantage when researching the cost of university. As one student puts it, “the CEGEP system helps in the transition to university because it allows students to explore various fields of interest which helps them better discover themselves prior to university.”
Another adds that she appreciates the “way it’s so simple to switch from one program to another in CEGEP and the casualness of it all. It seems to be the place to experiment and I don’t think that I would have this clear of an idea of where my future is heading if I had stayed in high school one more year.” The CEGEP system psychologically prepares students for university, guaranteeing them a sense of independence and introspection at a much lower cost than university.
The CEGEP system’s fostering of self-exploration does not necessarily translate to providing help with applying to university. Most are concerned with what credits they need to get in to their chosen program as well as the cost. According to one of Dawson’s academic advisors, credits from CEGEP classes cannot be transfered to American or European universities, which many hard-working students consider downright unfair. Others do not consider themselves prepared for the workload: one student went so far as to claim that her Social Science classes are “not up to par with the university level, because passing a course in CEGEP does not mean you have learned anything.”
When it comes to the officialdom of different application processes, students are often unaware of the rules and regulations they face. Some don’t even know that these bureaucratic and educational issues exist, which sheds light on another question. Are Dawson students sufficiently informed about how to get into their university of choice?
Many students simply delay the decision-making process. They find it difficult to fathom making such a weighty decision when they are “still adjusting to CEGEP,” one first year student said. There is hardly a thought to spare about university when students’ minds are racing with thoughts of their new freedoms, assignments, and friends. Is it therefore Dawson’s responsibility to remind students of their educational futures and provide appropriate information?
Most would answer with a resounding yes. However, not all students feel as though Dawson is there to help. A second-year Law, Society and Justice student unabashedly stated, “No, I do not feel that we are properly coached. The application process is a lot more demanding than that to get into CEGEP, and we’re not prepared.” Several students even claim to wish they had done grade 12 instead of CEGEP, because it would be “easier to apply to a university outside of Quebec” and because “it is a relatively universal system, while most places outside of Quebec have no idea what CEGEP is.”
The truth is, Dawson does offer the necessary information concerning university through events and guidance. However, among the other useful services Dawson offers, academic advising appointments must be sought out on an individual basis. As a second-year student mentioned, it is common knowledge among students that “you just have to ask the right people. The information won’t magically appear in front of you.” The path to university lies very much in the spirit of the CEGEP experience: students need to create it independently.