Getting ready for “The Big Step” from high school to CEGEP can require a lot of preparation for students, parents and teachers. Though many students are prepared, it is certainly a transition period. Some students are more prepared than others and the same can apply to parents. Students are often much less prepared for the environmental changes and study methods.

Leaving home can be scary for some students and for their parents. There is no residence for students at the CEGEP level, but Student Services can assist in finding a safe place for students to live.

At 17 years old, CEGEP students are considered to be adults and are treated as such. They must understand they are responsible for their own homework and assignments. If they do not hand in their assignments, there are consequences. This is contrary to high school where teachers provide reminders about homework and assignment dates. The autonomy in CEGEP can be a “rude awakening” for some students.

Another big adjustment in CEGEP is that students are exposed to other students from many diverse cultures including a wide range of religious beliefs, languages, backgrounds and cuisine so it may take some time for students to adjust.

Students must also learn about time management and how to use their time more carefully. In high school students have the entire year (September to June) to learn or catch on to a subject, but in CEGEP a semester consists of only 15 weeks. Students commence CEGEP in August and mid-term exams take place in October, so they must “hit the ground running”. According to some teachers, CEGEP is not a marathon, but a sprint. Teachers suggest it is best for students to seek out resources such as counsellors or tutors early on if they encounter study problems or have difficulty learning a subject, rather than waiting until mid-term assessments.

Another difference between high school and CEGEP is that class attendance isn’t necessarily taken. Therefore, it is integral that students develop the maturity to attend class. During the initial weeks of CEGEP, students may feel alone. A remedy may be to attend welcome activities or join an association or club to meet new friends.

Parents may be surprised to learn that once a student turns 18, by law, a teacher or school officiant can no longer discuss their child’s school activities or marks. It is considered to be confidential information for the student only. Parents will need to take a step back and let students solve their own problems.

Parents can help their child become comfortable with their new CEGEP environment by reviewing the student syllabus, course descriptions and due dates for exams and papers together. Students usually attend CEGEP for two years for pre-university programs, three years for technical or career-oriented programs and may stay as long as five years depending on the program. There is no tuition for CEGEP as they are open to the public, but there are auxiliary fees of approximately $175.00 to $200.00 per semester, plus extra fees for student associations, the sports complex, registration fees, health insurance, etc.

The best way to choose the right CEGEP is for students and parents to attend open houses at a few different CEGEPs, and the best time to do so is while the student is in grade 10. This way both students and parents will be well-prepared for “The Big Step”.