Is March Break the best time to visit prospective universities?

It’s March Break for high schools in Ontario and all the Ontario universities know it!

There are several tours and activities planned for secondary students taking advantage of the time off to visit their university choices.   During March Break you can be sure there will be plenty of representation from academic departments, the student union, clubs and services to answer your questions and sell their school.

But the March Break experience isn’t always the most accurate representation of daily life at university.

The circus of March Break activities may give you the impression that the campus is busier and more crowded than it really is. This misrepresentation is just as much a problem if you want to chill out on a mellow campus as it is if you’re hoping to find party central.

Professors, staff and students who might normally be available for a private chat find themselves swamped with hundreds of students being shuttled around from building to building for prepared presentations.

Some of the current university students may enjoy the distraction and be friendly to the throngs of high school students, but remember that the university year is shorter than the high school year.  That means these students are that much closer to their final exams than you are. You may be invading their personal space just when they are trying to buckle down, catch up after their reading week vacation, and finish off their coursework.

When you visit a university campus during your March Break, you’ll know that the university is ready for you.  There should be lots of information to take home and most buildings and facilities will be open for touring.  It’s a great time to see as much of the university as you can.

But if you really want to get a feel for what your experience there will be like, consider booking a campus tour when you can really see the university as it is most of the year.

October is often a great time to see the campus after frosh have settled down and most students are well into their classes but not scrambling to finish a semester. If you’re considering a school in a city that can be cold and snowy in the winter, early February will often allow you to see the campus in its harshest conditions.  That’s the time when you want to evaluate the distance between your residence building and your classes!

It’s not too late to get a campus tour at many Ontario universities this week, so if you don’t have any plans, consider getting in on the excitement! But remember that it is just that – excitement. For a calmer view of the university, consider also trying to get a tour later this month. Then you can follow up on your interests from the March Break tour and get a little more quality time at the university.

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Ontario University Programs not requiring ENG4U for Admission

The vast majority of Ontario universities require ENG4U to be included in your Top Six admissions average if English is your first language.  But, there are 3 general exceptions to this rule:

  1. The program is general enough that it has no stated prerequisites: any six 12U credits will do.  There are [Editor’s note: at the time this post was written] only four programs like this in Ontario, all at Carleton: Music, Humanities, Social Work and Public Affairs and Policy Management.
  2. A 12U English course is required, but it need not be specifically ENG4U. There are [Editor’s note: at the time this post was written] two Ontario Universities that are flexible as to which course can fulfill the 4U English requirement: Wilfred Laurier will accept ENG4U, ETS4U or EWC4 and Ryerson will accept any 12U English course for many (but not all) of its programs.
  3. A handful of mathematics/science/engineering based programs have so many other pre-requisites because of the demands of these programs that ENG4U is not required, although it may be strongly recommended.  These programs are listed below.  Brock, Carleton, Lakehead and Waterloo all have programs like this. [Editor’s note: at the time this post was written]

If a school or program is not listed below, then ENG4U is a requirement, even for its most general humanities program and its most demanding science program. Your best strategy is to take ENG4U to give you access to all other programs.

But, if you don’t have ENG4U, you can still apply to a select few Ontario university programs. You may wish to consider applying to an Open University instead to have a wider selection of programs to choose from.  Then, after a year of study, you can decide whether to stay at the Open University or whether to request to transfer into a bricks-and-mortar Ontario university.

Note: the following information was taken from an Admissions Guidelines and Programs of Study PDF provided by OUInfo for the 2011-2012 academic year. Programs and prerequisites may have changed in subsequent years.  Please consult Ontario Universities Info each year for the current academic information.

Brock University

Biomedical Sciences: MHF4U or MCV4U; SCH4U; two from: SBI4U, SPH4U, SES4U, a second 4U math or ENG4U. Strongly recommended subjects: ENG4U.

Biophysics: MHF4U or MCV4U; SCH4U; two from: SBI4U, SPH4U, SES4U, a second 4U math or ENG4U. Strongly recommended subjects: ENG4U, SPH4U.

Biotechnology: MHF4U or MCV4U; SCH4U; two from: SBI4U, SPH4U, SES4U, a second 4U math or ENG4U. Strongly recommended subjects: ENG4U.

Chemistry: MHF4U or MCV4U; SCH4U; two from: SBI4U, SPH4U, SES4U, a second 4U math or ENG4U. Strongly recommended subjects: ENG4U and a second 4U math.

Earth Sciences: MHF4U or MCV4U; SCH4U; two from: SBI4U, SPH4U, SES4U, a second 4U math or ENG4U. Strongly recommended subjects: ENG4U.

Environmental Geosciences: MHF4U or MCV4U; SCH4U; two from: SBI4U, SPH4U, SES4U, a second 4U math or ENG4U. Strongly recommended subject: ENG4U.

Mathematics: MHF4U and MCV4U. Strongly recommended subject: ENG4U

Neuroscience: MHF4U or MCV4U; SCH4U; two from: SBI4U, SPH4U, SES4U, a second 4U math or ENG4U. Strongly recommended subject: ENG4U

Physical Geography: MHF4U or MCV4U; one from SBI4U, SPH4U,SCH4U, or SES4U. Strongly recommended subject: ENG4U

Physics: MHF4U or MCV4U; SCH4U; two from: SBI4U, SPH4U, SES4U, a second 4U math or ENG4U. Strongly recommended subject: ENG4U.

General Science: SCH4U; MHF4U or MCV4U. Strongly recommended subject: ENG4U

Carleton University

Computer Science: all programs: MHF4U or MCV4U, plus five best 4U/M courses

Engineering: all programs: MHF4U, SCH4U, SPH4U; one of MCV4U, SBI4U or SES4U; plus two best 4U/M courses. MCV4U strongly recommended. ENG4U recommended

Humanities: Best six 4U/M courses (with Biology option: SCH4U, plus best five 4U/M courses)

Industrial Design: MHF4U, SPH4U, plus four best 4U/M courses. MCV4U is strongly recommended

Mathematics: MHF4U and MCV4U, plus four best 4U/M courses.

Biostatistics: MHF4U, MCV4U, SBI4U and SCH4U, plus two best 4U/M courses

Music: Six best 4U/M courses. ENG4U recommended

Public Affairs and Policy Management: Six best 4U/M courses. ENG4U recommended

Science: MHF4U; two of MCV4U, SBI4U, SCH4U, SES4U, or SPH4U; plus three best 4U or 4M courses. MCV4U strongly recommended. For Physics, SPH4U is strongly recommended

Honours in Biochemistry, Bioinformatics, Biology, Biotechnology, Chemistry, Computational Biochemistry, Computational Biology, Food Science and Nutrition, Nanoscience, Neuroscience and Psychology: MHF4U and two of SBI4U, SCH4U, SES4U or SPH4U, plus three best 4U/M courses. MCV4U strongly recommended. (For Combined Honours programs in Chemistry and Computer Science: SCH4U andMCV4U are strongly recommended. For Honours Psychology, ENG4U is recommended.)

Honours in Earth Science, Environmental Science, Geography, Integrated Science and Combined Honours in Biology and Physics,and Chemistry and Physics: MHF4U or MCV4U; two of SBI4U, SCH4U, SES4U, or SPH4U; plus three best 4U/M courses. (For Honours Environmental Science, SBI4U and SCH4U are recommended.)

Honours in Physics, Applied Physics and Combined Honours in Mathematics and Physics: MHF4U and MCV4U; one of SPH4U, SBI4U,SCH4U or SES4U; plus three best 4U/M courses. For all programs in Physics, SPH4U is strongly recommended.

Social Work: Best six 4U/M courses. ENG4U strongly recommended

Lakehead University

Applied Science Common Year (one year upgrading for Faculty of Engineering): Six 4U/M credits; 3U/M math required, Grade 10 Academic or Applied Science is required

Engineering: MHF4U, SPH4U, SCH4U, ENG3U

Ryerson University

All Ryerson programs require a 4U English course, but many programs do not require ENG4U specifically; other English courses may be used instead.

University of Waterloo

Health Studies: SBI4U, SCH4U, plus four additional 4U/M courses. Recommended: MHF4U, ENG4U

Kinesiology: MHF4U, SCH4U, one of SBI4U or SPH4U, plus a minimum of three additional 4U/M courses.

Wilfred Laurier University

Note: all programs require one Grade 12 English course: ENG4U, ETS4U or EWC4

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Ontario Universities’ Alternative Admissions Policies

There are several ways to apply to university: as a traditional high school graduate, as a mature student and as a “homeschooler.”


According to Ontario universities, a homeschooler is a student who has not earned a high school diploma because they have undertaken a program of self-study or enrolled in a program that does not lead to a provincial high school diploma.

Not everyone who follows an alternative high school experience will identify with the label “homeschooler,” just as many self-described homeschoolers are actually following accredited curriculum studies and may even earn a high school diploma.

But if you have been doing self-study at home, enrolled at a non-accredited private school or program, following a well-known curriculum program that does not lead to a government diploma, or learning through travel and experiences, you can apply to university under the category of homeschooler. This includes students who have attended schools in younger grades but decided to leave at the high school level for a non-traditional high school experience.


A homeschooler (any student who choses a high school education path that does not lead to a provincial high school diploma) will apply to Ontario universities through the OUAC website, just like every other applicant.  But the admissions criteria will vary from university to university.

Many universities will have two different admission paths so you can choose the admission criteria that is most appropriate for your situation.  Others admit strictly on a case-by-case basis, so contacting the university a year or two before you plan to apply is key to ensure you can take any tests prepare any documentation they will require.


  1. Your application may be judged on more than just marks alone – Homeschoolers often have the opportunity to showcase other strengths, skills and experiences.
  2. Get to know an admissions counselor – Regular applicants might never make personal contact with the school through the entire admissions process. Homeschoolers often have to clarify admission details and discuss their personal situation, making a personal connection in the process. This often gives you a better insight into the schools you’re considering and seeing how they handle your application can give you a preview of how you would be treated as a student there.
  3. You can choose your own high school experience – If your local high school doesn’t offer the kind of education you want, you can create your own experience:
  • take online classes (formal or informal)
  • study from books, mentors and other resource material
  • travel or participate in unique programs
  • fit your high school academics around your schedule while pursuing competitive or professional activities such as acting, athletic training or music performance


Yes, homeschooling is legal in all Canadian provinces, but each province has its own requirement for notifying the government of your intention and its own set educational requirements that homeschoolers must respect while pursuing a high school education outside of an accredited school.


Remember, homeschoolers do not earn a high school diploma. So it is important to decide whether you need a high school diploma before deciding to homeschool for high school.

Many Canadian universities accept homeschoolers, but some do not. Of the universities that do accept homeschoolers, some universities may restrict the programs or scholarships you can apply to if they have trouble evaluating your prerequisites.

Community colleges may require a high school diploma, depending on the province.  (Ontario colleges, for example, do require a high school diploma unless the student waits until he or she is old enough to apply as a mature student.)

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Canadian University Advanced Placement (AP) Policies

The Advanced Placement (AP) exams can be used both in university admissions and often for earning university credits before you even arrive on campus. Many Canadian universities give credit for high scores on these exams. Some institutions will use AP exam results in lieu of senior high school courses for determining university admission.

Visit the College Board website’s AP page or my list of Ontario universities to see AP credit policies by university.

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University Without High School

Maclean’s article University Without High School gives a highly positive and interesting review of the ideas in the book College Without High School by Blake Boles.

If you are high school age and want to attend university but don’t feel like a traditional high school education is what you want, Continue reading “University Without High School”

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Accredited by whom?

Go to any homeschooling conference and you’ll see vendor booths selling high school programs. They could be correspondence courses, online courses or credit services. Most homeschooling parents and students know to ask about accreditation, but unfortunately, they usually ask the wrong question.

I have overheard sales people at these booths using potentially misleading phrases such as “equivalent to a high school diploma” (hint: if it’s equivalent to something, it’s not actually that thing). But perhaps the most confusing word for parents out in the alternative high school diploma industry is accredited.


Don’t get me wrong, I don’t believe everyone needs an accredited program to get them through their high school years. I don’t believe that an accredited program is, based on that fact alone, automatically superior to one that is not accredited. If I were homeschooling high school aged children right now, I personally wouldn’t choose to use an accredited program unless I was educating under constraints that made its use necessary. (Stay tuned for a later post on that!) Remember that you might not even need a high school diploma at all, even if you want to go to university.

But, if you’re asking whether or not a program is accredited, that probably means you have come to the conclusion that your child needs or wants the benefits of accreditation. And if so, then you need to ask, “Accredited by whom?” or you may as well not ask at all.


I’m bringing up this topic again because of an article I read this morning in the Boston Herald regarding U.S. Senate candidate Rand Paul’s claim to be a board certified doctor. It turns out that Paul is indeed certified . . . by a medical organization that he himself founded and currently heads. The Boston Herald article explains:

Paul, a Republican from Bowling Green and an ophthalmologist, says he’s certified by the National Board of Ophthalmology. But, Lori Boukas, a spokeswoman for the American Board of Medical Specialties, said the organization considers certifications valid only if they are done by the two dozen groups that have its approval and that of the AMA. The American Board of Ophthalmology said Paul hasn’t been certified since Dec. 31, 2005.

From what I gather from this article, the American Medical Association considers certifications issued by the American Board of Ophthalmology to be valid, but not those issued by the National Board of Ophthalmology, the latter being an organization that Paul created himself because he took issue with the certification practices of the former.

I’m not implying that there’s necessarily anything shady about forming your own accrediting body, but you can see how it creates confusion. If you were a budding ophthalmologist, then you would really need to know that the American and National Boards are two different entities, viewed differently by the American Medical Association and probably, therefore, by future employers. While both boards can offer you certification, those certifications are not equally accepted in the medical profession. Presumably there’s a professional organization to advise doctors and medical students. But surely the average patient would be clueless about these certification issues. (“Oh, you are certified by the National Board of Ophthalmology? Sorry, my insurance only covers visits to an American Board of Ophthalmology certified doctor.”)


We see shades of this outside the world of certification. “Super Objective Scientific Plastics Research Organization” (whose website you may visit while researching toxins in plastics) is nothing more than “Petroleum Giant Inc.”‘s PR department with carefully selected pro-plastic information. The “Stop Bill C-crackdown-on-natural-medicine” website is funded by “The Acai Berry Scammers of Canada” … who may in turn be simply a crafty department of “Big Pharma Monopoly Inc.” who have the resources to pull off the best double scam in history: reap the profits from selling supplements advertised as natural (but that don’t actually work) and then expose said natural medicine scams to create laws that make it impossible to sell herbal remedies, leaving pharmaceuticals as the only option.

(As you can see, my years of asking, “Who is really behind this?” have sharpened my creative skills!)


Most of us are aware of the need to question who is behind the sites we visit online and how objective or reliable its contents are. But, when it comes to certification and accreditation, we can really be fooled by authoritative sounding organizations and institutions. We still tend to think that it means something if a person or program is certified or accredited. It may, or it may not.


Fortunately (for simplicity’s sake), in Canada there really is only one accrediting body for high school credits: the provincial Ministry of Education. If you are inquiring about earning Canadian high school credits and want to ensure they are the official credits that count towards an official high school diploma, the answer you want to hear is that the program is accredited by the Ministry of Education. You want to hear that the program offers a ministry- or government-accredited high school diploma, not an equivalent diploma. There is only one “high school diploma” in each province, whether earned through correspondence, through a private school, at an alternative education centre, through a combination of night and/or summer school classes or at a regular public school – it’s the government-sanctioned, provincial diploma issued by the Ministry of Education.


In the US, however, there are a handful of organizations with super-serious, boring names that do accredit US high schools on behalf of the US government. Not surprisingly, there are also a few organizations with super-serious, boring names that offer accreditation to schools and programs who wouldn’t otherwise qualify for accreditation through the government-recognized organizations. So, if you’re considering a US-based program that claims to be certified, you have a little more work to do to figure out which body certifies the program and then whether that body is one of the government-recognized ones.


Canadian universities only recognize high school diplomas from the US that the US government would have recognized themselves. Students with a differently-accredited US diploma can not apply as regular high school students. They can, of course, apply for alternative admission (for example, as homeschoolers) and their diplomas can be considered in the admission process. But, Canadian universities can only accept a US government-recognized high school diploma to satisfy the “has a high school diploma” requirement. If you have one of the “other” diplomas, you do not, in the Canadian university’s eyes, have a “high school diploma” and you can’t apply as if you do. So, that accredited diploma you earn may not come with the door-opening credentials you expect because of the organization offering the accreditation.


Not everyone needs accreditation for their high school level studies. But if you do in fact need a government high school diploma, then you need to find out who is accrediting the program and confirm that the diploma is government-recognized.

Related Posts:
High School Credit Courses
Do I Need a High School Diploma?
7 Ways To Get Into University Without A High School Diploma
Homeschool Diplomas – Fact vs. Fiction

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Do I need a high school diploma?

You may find yourself at a disadvantage without any educational credentials, so it’s a good idea to plan to achieve some level of formal, recognized education. Most homeschoolers do in fact have their sights set on some form of post-secondary education such as college, university, internship or professional programs.

But, homeschoolers pose an interesting problem to post-secondary program admissions because they often want to attend these formal, accredited programs after an informal or unrecognized course of study in the high school years. Certainly, most people use a high school diploma to gain entrance to these programs. But just because most people do it, does that mean it’s required?

So, before I answer the common question, “How do I get a high school diploma as a homeschooler?” I thought it would be a good idea to make it clear that, depending on your situation, you might not need a diploma at all.


People often write me asking how best to go about earning a high school diploma in their particular situation. But, for most people, the high school diploma isn’t really what they want.

What they really want is to open the doors that a high school diploma typically opens. Do you want a high school diploma for its own sake, or do you want to get into university? Do you want to qualify for a particular college program or internship?

Furthermore, if you could achieve that larger goal without a high school diploma, would you still want to focus on the high school diploma?


If you plan to earn a university degree, no one will care about your high school credentials. If you plan to earn a professional degree (law, medicine, teaching) or a graduate (Master’s, PhD) degree, few will even care about your undergraduate (first) university degree.

If you are not planning on attending college or university, then you will likely want a high school diploma (or GED, an equivalent exam-based credential). Most jobs require at least a high school diploma or GED, and without credentials of higher education, the high school diploma becomes more important.

But, if your goal is a university degree, then the question you should be asking yourself is, “What do I need in order to be accepted into university?” Fortunately, we already know that most Ontario universities will admit you without a high school diploma as long as you have fulfilled their other admission requirements. (And, an “open university” such as Athabasca University will admit you without any prerequisites.)

But what about advanced degrees and professional programs? The same reasoning applies: if your goal is law school, start your educational planning by asking yourself, “What do I need in order to be accepted into law school?”


The typical educational path to law school looks something like this:

high school diploma -> university degree -> law school

But, did you know that a university degree is not a pre-requisite for law school? And, since a high school diploma is not required for university entrance, neither credential is actually required for admission to law school. (There are educational requirements that you must satisfy, but neither a diploma nor a degree is one of them.)

This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t consider a high school diploma or a university degree if you want to go to law school (or medical school, which has a similar entrance process). But it means that you have options, and you may wish to explore them to find the path of minimum formal schooling that will allow you to focus on your education instead.


We do know that there are several ways to get into university without a high school diploma, but some college or technical programs may not support these methods. In short, though, if your educational path relies on a university education, then you can feel confident that you can avoid a high school diploma if you so desire.


High School Education, but nothing further:

While you may never need formal proof of your high school level studies, there is a good chance that at some point you will want to present formal educational credentials to an employer, an investor (if you start your own business) or to an organization (if you must meet certain criteria* to join or volunteer). Of course, you can still be admitted to university if you find you do need credentials down the road, but it will typically take years to earn a university degree. If you need a piece of paper, and need it quickly, you’ll probably choose to write the GED exams instead. Even then, there is studying involved and waiting until a test is offered, so be aware that while your opportunities may not be limited, the speed with which you can act on them might be.

Undergraduate Degree (your first university degree):

No, you do not need a high school diploma because alternative admissions are possible.

Professional degree (law, medicine, teaching, veterinary):

You need some level of university study, but since you don’t need a high school diploma to get into university, therefore no, you don’t need a high school diploma for professional programs, generally speaking.

Graduate Degree (an advanced academic degree such as an MA, MSc, PhD):

You need an undergraduate university degree, but since you don’t need a high school diploma to get into university, therefore no, you don’t need a high school diploma for graduate degrees, generally speaking.

College/Technical/Apprentice Programs:

In Ontario, these programs often do require a high school diploma unless you wait until age 19 or 21 (depending on the school) to apply as a mature student. Read admissions information carefully and look for “high school diploma or equivalent” to see whether there may be a loophole or some flexibility.


As you can see, it is possible to follow an advanced academic career without a high school diploma through alternative entrance to an undergraduate program.  But, it is important to make sure that the alternative path you choose is actually preferable to simply earning the high school diploma.

Some people will prefer being assigned a curriculum, having lessons planned and work graded externally to the more independent options such as studying for standardized tests. Some students will benefit from the social experience of attending a high school (even if only in an “it’s like watching a sociological experiment” kind of way!) and others may find that the high school really is the resource hub of the community with the best music, athletic or science equipment, and therefore opportunities, in town.

Responsible academic planning is as much knowing when to take advantage of a well-worn path as it is knowing when you can safely cut corners.  As always, think about which path offers the best combination of challenge and support for your child; a solid high school education requires both.

* a local husband-and-wife bowling tournament in our old neighbourhood required you to submit a marriage license with your application to prevent contestants from pairing up with ringers. So, you just never know when you might need an official piece of paper!

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How early do I have to start planning for university?

(This is a part of the document that I used to hand out at my Ontario University Admissions seminar. Just thought I’d get it up online.)

The answer to this question depends in part on how you intend to enter university. Below you’ll find some general tips and suggestions for your high school program that address credit courses, standardized test prep, “top six” and portfolio-based options. Of course, these are just some general, brief guidelines to get you thinking about the process.

To earn the OSSD: start taking credit courses in “Grade 9″ and plan to take roughly 6 – 8 credit courses per year for four years.

To write Standardized Tests (SAT/ACT): follow a challenging English/Math program of your choice through “Grades 9 and 10″ and begin specific test prep in the fall of “Grade 11.”

To take 12U credit courses (“Top Six”): follow a challenging English/Math program through “Grades 9 and 10″ and begin with one or two 12U credit courses in fall of “Grade 11.” Finish the rest of the six courses in “Grade 12.”

To prepare a Portfolio: document activities (begin to prepare a transcript with course names, descriptions, lists of texts used, tables of content followed) starting in “Grade 9.” Start producing samples of graded, admission-level work (projects, essays, tests) in “Grade 11.”

To enter an open university directly: follow a curriculum according to interest and ability in “Grades 9 and 10.” Choose more challenging/advanced programs in areas of future specialization. For interests in humanities, develop solid writing skills early. For interests in social studies, develop advanced reading comprehension early. For interests in math/science/engineering/technical areas, develop solid math skills early. Begin your first course or two in “Grade 11.” Choose an area of strength or interest to start. Look ahead to courses you might take over the next 2 years and if need be, study specifically to prepare for those courses. Complete 4 – 6 courses over the course of 2 – 3 years. Then, decide whether to continue studying by distance or transfer as a university transfer student to a traditional university setting.

General Admissions Timelines – “Grades 9 and 10″

Decide on an admissions strategy to aim for:

  • Standardized Tests,
  • 12U credit courses (“Top Six”),
  • Portfolio/Transcripts,
  • Mature student entry,
  • Transfer from an open university.

Research admission policies:

  • Homeschool policy already in place?
  • Homeschool contact person at university?
  • Contact universities to confirm policies and establish relationship.

Personal thinking/planning about future

  • Am I a “science” person? A “history” person?
  • Do I have a specific profession in mind?
  • Do I want to attend university right after high school?

Begin formal documentation for portfolios/transcripts

  • Consult Ministry of Education course descriptions for curriculum topics by grade
  • Collect samples of work, externally-evaluated if possible
  • Keep exhaustive list of activities and use edu-speak to translate into courses

Start regular, academic writing

  • Argumentative/persuasive writing
  • Report writing
  • Grammar and style
  • Research and documentation
  • Organization and structure

Analysis of texts and literature (fiction and non-fiction)

  • Reading for meaning and content
  • Understanding tone, perspective, and bias
  • Use of figurative language
  • Themes and character development in works of fiction

Regular diet of pre-algebra/algebra

  • Basic arithmetic and order of operations
  • Integers, fractions, decimals
  • solving equations
  • rate, ratio, percent and proportion
  • linear and quadratic functions
  • linear and quadratic equations and systems of equations
  • analytic geometry
  • polynomials and factoring

Establish/Develop areas of academic interest

  • Having an “academic speciality” can go a long way to being noticed as a university applicant.
  • Put together your own “survey course” in a particular field
  • Explore professional/industry/career organizations in that area and familiarize yourself with their suggested links/resources

“Grade 11″ – credit courses or personalized study program for standardized tests

Attend university fairs (usually in the fall)

Visit university campuses – when students are there!

Language Development

  • Continue regular writing and revising – style and sentence variety
  • Work on improving, enriching vocabulary – consider studying lements of Latin, Greek
  • Read challenging texts, including those which are open to interpretation
  • Studies in current events/world issues
  • Elementary Logic, especially logical reasoning and fallacies for the purposes of evaluating arguments, identifying faulty reasoning
  • Traditional Grammar Study for clear, concise communication

Mathematics Development

  • Humanities students: Continue studies from Grades 9 and 10, working towards proficiency in these skills, and/or SAT preparation
  • Business students: this should be a pre-calculus year with an added emphasis on statistics and probability””if possible, write AP Statistics exam this May””(or with the intention of pursuing this next year)
  • Social Science students: studies from Grades 9 and 10, working towards proficiency in these skills, and/or SAT preparation with an emphasis on statistics and probability (or with the intention of pursuing this next year)
  • Science students: this should be a pre-calculus year (physics students should also consider this a pre-linear algebra year)
  • Math/Computer science students: this should be a pre-calculus and pre-linear algebra year. Completion of the equivalent of 11U Mathematics (Ontario) or Algebra 2 (U.S.) should be the goal.

Standardized Test Route

  • Start prep for SAT (and any AP exams) in the fall
  • Write SAT (May or June)
  • Write one or two “easier” AP exams (May)

Credit course route

  • Take one or two 12U courses in first semester (easier ones)
  • Take one or two 12U courses in second semester

Research universities – Method A: By School

  • Close to home vs. far away?
  • Finances and Scholarships?
  • Size of campus/classes?
  • Size of city/town?

Research universities – Method B: By Program

  • Where is the program available?
  • Co-op or internship possibilities?
  • Specialization or general?

“Grade 12″ – STANDARDIZED TESTS or 12U courses

Visit OUAC website in the fall

  • Contact OUAC in September re: applying as a home schooled student to receive appropriate login information or paper applications
  • download copy of INFO (available late Sept/October) for specific program requirements and application information

Language Development

  • Read and respond to challenging, classical texts – explore the universal themes of classic works and the elements of language used by the author to communicate his or her message
  • Use academic journals (instead of newspapers) to explore current issues
  • Choose some subjects to be studied “from the textbook” and develop the skill of learning independently from a textbook (perhaps choose a text you may be using next year in university – e.g. intro to psychology)
  • Attend local seminars held by museums or local colleges/universities
  • Join or form a book club with deadlines for reading and discussion dates

Mathematics Development

  • Humanities students: No further mathematics is typically required beyond studies from Grades 9 and 10, and/or SAT, but you may wish to consider preparing for a SAT Subject Test (Math I) or your university program’s breadth requirement in math/logic/statistics
  • Business students: study calculus (formally or informally) this year with an added emphasis on statistics and probability if not previously studied. Plan to write SAT Subect (Math I or II) test and/or AP Calculus & Statistics in the spring, if not previously written.
  • Social Science students: plan to write SAT Subject Test (Math I or II) and AP Statistics in the spring, if not previously written.
  • Science students: study calculus (formally or informally) and possibly linear algebra. Write SAT Subject Test (Math II) and/or AP Calculus in the spring
  • Math/Computer Science students: study calculus and linear algebra (formally or informally) with the intention of writing SAT Subject Test (Math II) and/or AP Calculus.

Standardized Test Route

  • Revisit prep for SAT in the fall if you wish to rewrite this year (Before Dec.)
  • Start AP and/or SAT II preparation in the fall
  • Write AP exams (May)
  • Write SAT II subject exams (Spring)

Credit course route

  • Take two or three 12U courses in first semester (ideally, have 6 done!)
  • Take one or two 12U courses in second semester, if desired/necessary

Other academic options for Grades 11 and 12

  • Volunteer placements
  • Internships, job shadowing
  • Online university/college courses (for credit or “open study” such as MIT)
  • Competitions and contests (e.g. music, academic)
  • Special camps/activities hosted by universities or community groups
  • Offer tutoring and/or mentoring to younger students
  • Outside certification courses (e.g. cooking, technology, athletics, public speaking, technical writing, swimming) in areas of interest and/or teaching classes in these areas
  • Specialized research project
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AP exams for Homeschoolers in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA)

A great way for homeschooling high school students to “prove” their academic prowess in specific subject areas is through writing Advanced Placement examinations

The problem with AP exams for homeschoolers in Ontario has always been that these exams must be written in accredited high schools who have registered to offer AP examinations. The chances of your local Ontario high school offering AP exams aren’t all that great, since the Advanced Placement program isn’t nearly as popular here as it is in the U.S.

And, even if a school near you does hold AP examinations, there’s no guarantee that they will allow outside students to write exams at their school. They are not required to open their testing doors to everyone, and some schools have very reasonable restrictions on external students on exam day.

For example, one of the leading AP schools in the province is an all girls school, and they do not allow outside students to write AP exams with their own students. How fair would it be to have their female students suddenly surrounded with boys on high stakes exam days? How fair would it be to say that only female homeschoolers can join the girls for these exams? You can obviously appreciate that there can be reasonable justifications for what may at first seem like unreasonable, exclusionary policies.

I think for a couple of years now I’ve been casually mentioning on various message boards that there’s “some school just west of Toronto” who has been open and welcoming to having homeschoolers participate in their AP exams. Allow me to now formally share the details:

Dear Sarah,

Thank you for your awareness of Bronte AP program, we are offering a wide range of AP exams (about 27 different exams out of 39 exams offered by College Board) we are proud of being the first school offering AP exams for external students in GTA. Each AP exam will cost $150 and we are also offering AP exam preparation sessions for three months prior to exams schedule (Once a week) a copy of our AP exams tutorials for 2008 is attached. If you have any more inquiries don’t hesitate to contact me


Dr. N. Gouda
Head of Student Governance
88 Bronte College court Mississauga Ontario L5B 1M9
Tel. 905 270-7788 ext.2042 Fax. 905 270-7828

Dr. Gouda has been personally recommended to me both by the head of the Ontario Council of AP Schools in Ontario and by a homeschooling mom whose daughter took a few AP exams at Bronte College and was very impressed with the whole examination environment and proctoring at Bronte.

Unlike the SAT and ACT tests, AP examinations are held only once per year. Also unlike the SAT/ACT, AP examinations cover first year university level, subject-specific material. In other words, you don’t have the luxury of writing it over a few times a year until you get the score you like (although, you may write again the following year – there is no restriction on rewriting) and the material is much more challenging. Both of these elements combined can make for a pretty stressful exam day! Knowing that you’re in good, competent hands and that every effort will be made to provide optimal test-taking conditions is worth its weight in gold. . . or at the very least, $150! 😉

Like the SAT/ACT, however, the exam can be written “cold.” You are not required to take any AP “classes” before writing the exam. The review classes offered by Bronte College are available to but not required of homeschoolers. Just as with any standardized test, familiarity with the test format and types of questions generally asked is just as important than the content covered by the test itself. So, I don’t actually recommend writing the test with no prep, but preparation can be as simple as a $20 AP exam prep book from Chapters or Amazon (or free from the library).

I would like to take this opportunity to thank Dr. Gouda for being a model of accessibility. For many students, AP exams are a fantastic alternative to Ontario high school credit courses. It’s great that Bronte College is promoting this option to a group of students who can really benefit from it.

If Mississauga is a bit too far for you to travel for an exam, you can visit to find a list of AP schools in Canada.

If you need reminding why the AP program is a path to university that you definitely want to check out, have a look at the university-by-university AP credit policies and how many university credits can be earned for success on an AP exam.

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Lost in Translation – or the high school transcript for homeschoolers

These thoughts stem from JoVE’s post [on the now defunct site] yesterday about transcripts and portfolios. What started with a discussion of “mastery” and transcripts led me to observe that the Ontario transcript, in its current form, is predicated on the notion of a LACK of mastery. (If the material in classes were “mastered” then why would we need grades?)

So, if transcripts are not meant to demonstrate mastery, but only one’s proportional lack thereof, how is a homeschooler to use a transcript? Is one necessary at all?


Of course, the exercise of preparing transcripts is not so much for the child; it’s for some third party who will use the transcript to make assessments or evaluations of your child.

Making a transcript is simply an exercise in comparing what your child has done to provincial standards. Or in other words, which courses and grades do I reasonably expect my child, in his or her current academic state, would have walked away with had s/he studied and been evaluated according to the provincial curriculum expectations? Of course, the only reason to do this in the first place is if someone somewhere is going to ask how your child would have done in this situation, and only if you feel it’s important to tell them! 🙂

In many cases, transcripts for homeschoolers are not meaningful in and of themselves because the child didn’t follow the provincial school curriculum (including provincially-mandated forms of assessment and evalutation) and therefore the transcript may bear little resemblance to what the child actually did.


Even if your child had a traditional textbook-based high school homeschooling experience, the Ontario transcript is still only a poor approximation of your child’s educational achievement. For one thing, and I can’t stress this enough, the Ontario curriculum not only mandates curriculum (what is taught) but also pedagogy (how this material is taught) and gives very specific assessment criteria.

For example, the use of graphing calculators is mandated in Ontario Grade 9 math. Ontario courses also have requirements that 30 – 40% of your final grade is determined at the end of the year by some cummulative project, assignment or examination. If your “grade 9” homeschooling math curriculum did not include specific functions on the graphing calculator, or if your method of calculating a final average did not give the requisite weight to a massive activity at the end of the course, then already the percentage grade you may have diligently calculated based on textbook work, reviews and tests doesn’t mean the same thing as a percentage grade on an Ontario transcript.

Given the above directives of the Ontario curriculum (including content, pedagogy, assessment and evaluation), it’s extremely unlikely that *any* homeschooler not actually enrolled in an Ontario credit course can actually be said to be following the Ontario curriculum. This doesn’t just apply to unschoolers, but also to those who are following what is in fact (ironically?) a more traditional program of study than that offered by our public school system.


It’s easy to justify that any attempt at putting together a transcript resembling the provincial one is an exercise in futility: we could do it, but it wouldn’t really mean anything! Given that many people homeschool precisely to avoid the all-too-common meaningless activities in education, one could conclude that there’s no point in preparing a transcript. And therefore, one could get pretty ticked off about being asked to provide one to the universities when applying for admission.

But, how does our perspective change if we think of the transcript as an olive branch extended to a university admissions committee, as our attempt to help them do their job of ranking and comparing (not assessing and evaluating) applicants? (That was my metaphor. Joe put it a little more harshly: What if we don’t want to appear like a boorish tourist who is indignant that, while visiting a foreign country, no one speaks our language?)


I think of generating a transcript as an exercise in translation. It’s an imperfect translation to be sure, since each “language” lacks the words to represent certain key concepts in the other language. But, it’s an attempt to approximate ideas, and to facilitate communication.

Language is culture-based, and sometimes our difficulties speaking and understanding foreign languages are based on this lack of shared cultural experience. So, a transcript can seem all the more difficult to generate because not only are the cultural notions unfamiliar (credits, grades, instructional hours) but they may also be in direct opposition to the values of our own culture.

From an Ontario university standpoint, the good news is that these strange, exotic creatures (university admissions officers) are for the most part willing to deal with those for whom transcript-speak is a second language, and are tolerant of imperfect translations as long as a reasonable attempt at communication is made.

Not all Ontario universities require you to submit a transcript, and those that do are really only interested in documentation that would relate to a typical accredited school experience. The key to effectively translating your experience into transcript speak is understanding their cultural notions.


One noteworthy example is the concept of “instructional time.” The Ontario transcript, and Ontario universities measure academic study directly in hours, and only indirectly in topics of study. This can seem very foreign when your curriculum plan is based firstly on achieving certain outcomes or covering certain material and the amount of time it takes to do this is only a secondary concern, if it is a concern at all.

For example, your child may have self-studied the equivalent of Grade 12 Calculus over a period of 3 years or zipped through it all in six weeks, but the university doesn’t really care how long it took. The proper way to record this on a transcript for them is to say that the length of study was 110 hrs, one semester, or one school year. This is because the university simply wants to know what, in relation to the provincial curriculum, was accomplished.

The provincial curriculum sets aside 110 hrs (or one semester, or one year) of time for this course and the material covered within it. To claim that you studied “six weeks” of calculus is like telling the university that you studied “a chapter or two.” Similarly, to claim three years of study is akin to saying you’re ready to jump into Topology at the university level. It’s not “lying” to say that you studied 110 hrs when it reality it didn’t take that long or more likely, when you didn’t bother to log the number of hours; it’s effectively translating into transcript-speak.


If the goal is effective communication in this non-native language, then the first thing we have to do is understand that direct, literal translation only gets us so far. It doesn’t take very long at all in studying French to realize that “I have eight years,” and “Today, it makes nice,” are in fact the proper ways to communicate to a French speaker that you’re eight years old and it’s a nice day out. It’s no stretch to realize that the translation for “instructional hour” (a concept not used in homeschooling, and different from a 60-minute hour) is going to sound even weirder to non-native transcript speakers.

Your homeschool transcript, should you choose to create one, is going to be more about them than you. Your goal is to look through the Ontario curriculum and decide which courses (based on content) and grades (based on mastery) reasonably approximate the studying your child did throughout high school. It won’t be accurate, and it might sound incomprehensible spoken in our own, native educational language. But it’s all simply an exercise in communication, and it is one of the tasks we sign up for when we choose to assume the role normally taken by the school in our children’s education.

For reference: Ontario Student Transcript Manual, 2007

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