by John Austen
How does a high school dropout end up excelling at Concordia University?
In the case of Paul Braganza, it was a matter of testing the waters
as an independent student in 1993. After a lot of hard work and much support
from his professors, he eventually got into a history program in 1999
and graduated with honours in 2000.
I needed to learn something about myself, said Braganza, 28.
Obviously, I couldnt enroll as a full-time student because
I never finished high school. I was very nervous enrolling as an independent
student. I had really bad work habits and couldnt write very well.
Im a late learner, I guess.
There was one professor who really took me under her wing and helped
me realize I could learn and flourish at university. Im eternally
grateful for that.
The classification of independent students has existed since the beginnings
of Concordia University more than 25 years ago. Before that, Loyola College
referred to this group as special students while Sir
George Williams University at one time called them partial course
Defined as those not proceeding to a degree or certificate, independent
students register for individual courses, normally on a part-time basis.
Typical students may be interested in taking courses to test things out
prior to becoming an undergraduate.
The maximum allowable course load for independent students is 12 credits
during the summer session and 18 credits in the fall/winter sessions,
equally divided between the two terms. For students registered for only
one term, the maximum is nine credits.
There has been a steady increase in the number of independent students
registered at Concordia since 1997. There were 917 students enrolled last
summer, compared to 587 in the summer of 1997, an increase of 56 per cent.
This past fall session had 2,308 students registered compared to 1,498
four years ago, a 54-per-cent increase.
There are numerous reasons given for becoming an independent student,
said Teresa Zuccaro, enrolment officer, Office of the Registrar. Some
may have done poorly at other schools and want to prove themselves. Concordia
would like nothing more than to see these students eventually walk across
the stage on graduation day.
Introduction to Concordia basics
About 300 new independent students came to either of two orientation sessions
held Dec. 12 in Concordias J.A. DeSève Cinema, where they
were introduced to the basics of Concordia life where to get academic
advising and where to get general help.
We understand that this can be a bit bewildering and confusing at
first, but were here to make things as smooth as possible for you,
Anne-Marie Ferrari, from the Centre for Mature Students, told the audience
at the evening session.
Its important that our new independent students work hard
and take responsibility. Get to know your professors and dont blame
others when things dont go quite your way. Remember that being a
student is a full-time job even if youre part time.
Other staff who participated in the sessions included Nelly Trakas, Ferraris
colleague from the Centre for Mature Students, who addressed the afternoon
session; Huguette Albert (administrative assistant, Office of the Registrar),
who greeted students; Sandra Robinson (admissions interviewer, Office
of the Registrar), who instructed students on how to register through
CARL and the Web; and Heidi Weidemann (admissions counsellor, Office of
the Registrar), who discussed how to qualify for various programs at Concordia.
This [orientation session] really helps, said Isabel, 24,
from Longueuil. I didnt finish CEGEP, which was dumb, but
now Im ready to take some courses at Concordia and maybe eventually
get a degree. I want to take some psychology courses, but I have to find
out if there are prerequisites.
Many of the courses offered to independent students require prerequisites
I know I can do more with my life, and I think I can study in English,
even though its my second language, Suzanne said. Concordia
has a very good reputation among both English and French people. I plan
to be a better more educated person when I leave Concordia than I am now.