How to apply to university in Ontario as a mature student is not significantly a different process from applying as a regular student. Ontario universities welcome mature applicants, regardless of the reason you qualify as a mature student. Maybe you’ve just delayed going to university for a few years, or you’re looking at applying as a non-traditional medical school applicant after a career in another industry. In this blog, we’ll look at what qualifies you as a mature student, how to apply through OUAC as a mature student, and some advice on crafting our application and applying for mature student benefits.
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What does it mean to be a mature student?
Mature student status is granted to university applicants in Ontario only to those who meet specific requirements. If you are applying as a mature student, this means you may have different admissions requirements to meet, depending on the university or program you’re pursuing. It also means you may be granted different benefits or resources to help you in your studies.
Being a mature student doesn’t necessarily mean you need to be older than the typical university years or eligible for a senior discount at retail stores. So if you’re wondering if you’re too old to apply for medical school after discovering a love for medicine later in life, think again.
Mature student status is a way of differentiating typical university applicants from applicants who are applying under different circumstances, whether this is after a gap in education, applicants who didn’t receive their high school diploma or GED for whatever reason, or students applying for postgraduate studies after a longer than 2-year period after graduating with a bachelor’s degree.
In Ontario, you are considered a mature student if you are over 19 and haven’t received your high school diploma or GED. Regardless of the reason you haven’t received this qualification, you can still apply as a mature student and complete the necessary coursework to meet admission requirements. Mature student applications are intended to allow applicants who haven’t completed high school an opportunity to be accepted at a post-secondary institution, based on their skills and experience.
If you are over 23 years old, you can apply to postgraduate studies in Ontario as a mature applicant. So if you’re looking to apply to the best law schools in Canada, many of which are in Ontario, or you’re considering applying to dental schools in Canada as a mature post-graduate, you can. All mature students also need to be either Canadian citizens, Canadian permanent residents or have the sponsorship of a government agency in Canada.
Some universities will have different definitions of mature student status. Ryerson University, for example, considers you a mature student if you are over 21 and haven’t studied at university before as an undergrad. It’s a good idea to double check what the mature student requirements are for the university you want to apply to. You may be qualified to apply as a regular student, and therefore you won’t need to put your application together in accordance with mature student admission requirements. You might consider asking a college advisor for help with your application if you’re not sure what your student status is.
If you’ve attended university before but don’t qualify for mature student status, most institutions will consider you a transfer student. It’s important to check with individual schools what the requirements for transfer students are and to know what your student status is based on your specific situation. That way, you’ll know what criteria you need to meet to be considered for admission, and you’ll know which student benefits you can apply for during your studies.
Interested in seeing an overview of what your application will need to include? Take a look at this infographic:
How to apply through OUAC as a mature student
All university applicants, including mature students, need to apply through the Ontario Universities Application Centre (OUAC) system. Mature students will need to apply using the OUAC 105 application type, which covers all non-regular student types. How to apply for university through OUAC can be a confusing process, but it helps streamline your application if you’re applying to multiple schools.
The 105 application has no common deadline. Deadlines for applications are set by each individual school, but it’s important to ensure OUAC has time to process your application, so aim to submit it at least a couple weeks before the school’s deadline.
All OUAC applications consist of the same components: your academic background, work experience, personal statement, program choices, extracurricular activities and academic transcripts. As a mature student your application may look a bit different, but you’ll need to provide all the information as much as you’re able.
OUAC covers all program types, so if your goal is to get into medical schools in Ontario, for example, you’ll still use this system. You will need to familiarize yourself with the Ontario Medical School Application Service as well, though.
Academic entry requirements for mature students also vary by school, but in general these are not the most important parts of your application. To qualify as a mature student in Ontario means you won’t have achieved your diploma or GED, so there are no specific requirements for GPA or final grades. Typically, though, universities are looking for at minimum a C average, or 60% on your high school coursework.
Minimum academic average most universities require:
Certain schools may also ask you to upgrade specific coursework related to the program you’ve chosen before you can be officially accepted. This can bump up your coursework grades, increasing your chances of acceptance and academic success in your studies. Other universities have specific courses set up for mature students to complete before they begin their degree coursework, to fill the academic gap.
Mature students may think their chances of acceptance at universities are lower than fresh high school graduates, but most universities actually welcome mature students for their contributions to the classroom. A large number of students are actually considered mature students in Ontario, being over 21 years of age at the time of their studies.
For the academic portion of your OUAC application, just focus on providing any coursework, grades, test results or experience you have, with an emphasis on courses related to your chosen program.
Your OUAC application may ask you to include any professional work experience you have, and for mature students this can be an opportunity to strengthen their application if their academic experience is weaker.
In mature students, schools are looking for evidence of personal and professional development, or proof that you’ve applied yourself in the time you’ve been away from school. They want to know that you possess the skills and the gumption to apply yourself in the academic setting, and that you’re serious about attending university, just at a different stage of your life or after taking a gap year or two.
Some items to include in your resume or CV as a mature student can be any personal or professional development courses or formal training you’ve undergone. Whether these are directly related to your chosen field of study or not, they show you have discipline, follow through and a commitment to lifelong learning, which is what universities want to see. You can also include any community service or volunteerism experiences you have, to demonstrate a community-minded spirit, communication skills, leadership and teamwork skills. All of these soft skills are an asset to your application, no matter the type of experience, so add any and all that you have to your OUAC application.
Looking for some quick OUAC application tips? Check these out:
Personal statement advice
The personal statement is another key piece of the puzzle for mature student applicants. This is where you can really shine and tell universities why you’ve chosen to apply as a mature student. Whether you’ve been out of school for the past 2 years or 20, share your “why” story with the admissions board.
Keep your story honest, personal and insightful. Share your reasons and motivations for applying to school, and why you want to study a specific program. If you took a couple years off and are applying as a 20-year-old mature student, talk about your worldly experiences the last few years and any key lessons you learned. Talk about finding your calling in the field you want to study in and how your adventures in the wide world brought you to this calling. If you’ve been a member of the workforce for the last couple decades and you’ve made the decision to go back to school, share the moment you decided to switch careers, or how post-secondary schooling will help you climb the ladder in your industry to a more prominent position.
Aside from your story, some key information to put in your personal statement is why you want to attend university, that you’re able to make the transition back to an academic environment and can make the commitment to learning and studying. The OUAC application will be sent to all programs and universities you apply to, so you only need to write one personal statement for all. So it’s a good idea to provide some evidence of recent academic studies, if you can, or any recent learning experiences that show you can get back into the studying groove.
Note that if you’re applying for a medical school program in the UK and need to write a UCAS personal statement, there are some different requirements you’ll need to know.
Want to learn about one of our top tips for any personal statement? This video can help you ace yours:
How to get recommendation letters as a mature student
Securing a good recommendation letter or reference letter as a mature student can be one of the biggest challenges. Many applicants wonder who to ask for a reference or don’t have access to any academic referees. In general, there are three places you can look at to get a recommendation or reference letter: employers, teachers and personal acquaintances. Whoever you choose to ask, it’s a good idea to have a discussion with them about what you’re choosing to study, why you’ve chosen to apply as a mature student and what your goals are after you graduate. This will give your referees some context and insight into your motivations when they write your recommendation letter.
If you are applying to university in the UK and need a UCAS reference letter as a mature student, note that most of these come from academic sources. If you don’t have access to any of your old teachers, professors or educators, contact the school you want to apply to discuss your options directly. If you’re not sure about recommendation letter requirements or are unsure of your options, contacting the school directly for their advice will be the best move anyways.
Benefits you can claim, funding help as a mature student
Mature students can also apply for a variety of benefits through their university or apply for scholarships in Ontario aimed at mature students. Since mature students are more likely to be independent, working adults or have families to support, there is funding help for those who meet the requirements. If you’re a senior citizen over the age of 60 and applying for your degree, you may also qualify for tuition fee waivers in Ontario.
You can apply for tuition help, student loan assistance and other benefits through your chosen university, since the benefits available will vary by program and institution. You can also receive funding for your studies through the Ontario Student Assistance Program.
Ontario Student Assistance Program
In recent years, Ontario implemented new Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) rules which increase the benefits for mature students. For mature students who are independent, married or common law or are a sole support parent, they can qualify for free tuition if their annual income is below $50,000 per year. This is to aid mature students who have not previously obtained a university degree to improve their skills. Mature students can also benefit from grants and childcare support funding through OSAP. Students can check if they qualify for any benefits through OSAP using an online calculator on the OSAP website.
1. What is considered a mature student in Ontario?
Anyone over the age of 19 who does not have a high school diploma or a GED, is considered a mature student applicant in Ontario. Some universities have slightly different age limits or schooling requirements to be considered a mature applicant.
2. Do all universities in Ontario accept mature students?
Yes. All universities you can apply to through OUAC accept mature students.
3. What are the disadvantages of being a mature student?
Some of the perceived disadvantages of being a mature student are that you may not have the same level of academic preparation as your peers or the same social aptitude and commonality as younger students. However, these are challenges you can overcome as a more mature student and person.
4. What benefits can I claim as a mature student?
Mature students can receive tuition help, student loan assistance and other benefits to suit their situation and support their studies through the university they’ve applied to if they are accepted. They can also apply for student assistance through the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP).
5. How can I prepare myself to study as a mature student?
As a mature student, it’s best to prepare yourself by being organized. With study commitments on top of work, family or other personal commitments, you may have your hands full, so keeping a good schedule and taking advantage of any resources you can is a good idea.
6. What should I write in my mature student personal statement?
Your personal statement should include your story and what you have learned through your experiences. It should explain why you are applying as a mature applicant and why you want to pursue the program. You should also demonstrate that you are ready to transition back into academics.
7. Who should write a recommendation letter for a mature student?
Mature students typically ask employers, past or present, or their former high school teachers for recommendation letters and reference letters. If you’re unsure, you can always contact the school directly to ask their preference.
8. Can I still apply as a mature student if I don’t have my high school diploma or GED?
Yes. Universities in Ontario may still accept you as a student, provided you complete the necessary coursework required for entry before you start your studies.
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