Concordia's Thursday Report

Vol. 29, No.6

November 18, 2004


Mature students prove you can return to school

Keith Randall

More than 3,000 students without a CEGEP diploma are attending Concordia this year. They’re all over the age of 20, and many are well beyond that. They’ve been out of school for years, and they’re hitting the books again with varying degrees of trepidation.

Nikki Ratto, mother of two, returned when she was 35.

“There was fear and apprehension. It seems like your whole family, your whole community, have their eyes on you. Why is she going back so late? Is she going to succeed? Your kids expect you to do better. So you have a lot of pressure. That was the hardest part.”

Jean Sebastian Scott dropped out of CEGEP to work for three years. He knew he could improve his career track by going to university as a mature student.

“It’s scary when you’ve tasted autonomy. I was about 22 and it wasn’t a drastic difference, but you look at kids who have essentially been held by the hand and walked through the education system. You come back into it and it’s scary.”

Since 1978, the Centre for Mature Students has provided a nest for birds returning to the groves of academia. On the Centre’s website, director Robert Oppenheimer, a professor in the John Molson School of Business, advises students to make use of its support and guidance. “We’re here to help you!”

After humiliating rejections from other universities, Sebastian Scott learned that Concordia walks its talk.

“When I think of Concordia, I think of Brigeen Badour. She’s the first person on behalf of Concordia who told me to come right in. I sat down with Brigeen and we drew up a plan d’action.”

Badour, who has been with the Centre since 1987, is a mature student advisor at Loyola. Her role is to help potential, current and returning mature students reach their academic goals by stick-handling around the difficulties.

“One is juggling work, school and families. Another is re-learning their old study skills; maybe they’re rusty. The third is the transition stage, which can be a big adjustment for many.”

Scott’s plan led him through a full year of math and science catch-up, then to Exercise Science, and finally to 78 credits in Honours Biochemistry with a cumulative GPA of 4.18. He is still undecided about his future, whether it will lie in biochem research or sales, law or medicine.

Nikki Ratto said, “I started reading psychology books when I was pregnant about how to stimulate your kids, how to make them smart. You know, the mommy stuff.”

“One book led to another and it became a passion of mine. I’m preparing an application for graduate school next year. It’s all the way or nothing.”

Now finishing a degree in Honours Psychology, she benefited from the help of student advisor Steve Clark. She thinks psych theory has focused her involvement with her church and her work as a teaching assistant and mature student mentor.

Scott works with the intellectually handicapped at West Montreal Readaptation Centre and picks up pocket money tutoring kids in science at his old high school, West Island College. He says older mature students in the Centre inspire him.

“If anything, I admire them more than what I’ve done. If you’ve gone ahead and built a family, built a home, there’s a lot more hanging over your head. I really admire those people and it speaks so much in terms of what Concordia’s doing.”

The Centre’s website is at