Ministry of Advanced Education
Choosing the Right Institution
The institution you choose should be right for you. Once you are accepted into a course or program, you will be required to enter into a binding contract with that institution before beginning your studies. Thoroughly checking out institutions is key to making an informed decision you won't regret. Look at several institutions so you can compare them.
If you decide to visit the institution you are considering, check to see if you can meet with someone who will be able to answer your questions. You may also ask to take a tour, observe a class in progress, and speak to instructors or other students. Please download and print Prospective Students: Questions to Ask for questions you might want to ask during your visit.
The enrolment contract is an important document that you should review carefully. The institution may be able to provide you with a sample copy to review while you are making your selection. A standard student contract should include details such as:
- The length of the course or program.
- The costs of the program, including tuition and other related costs.
- Dates when your payments are due.
- The refund policy if you withdraw or are dismissed from the program.
- Information about the institution's academic policies and standards of conduct.
Take as much time as you need to read the contract and review the institution's policies carefully before signing.
Different institutions and programs have different types of admissions processes. Some programs will require prerequisites, such as a high school diploma, or other credential. Some institutions will require you to take an admissions test or language test. These procedures are to ensure that you have the skills and knowledge necessary to complete the program successfully. You should be aware of all of the admissions requirements of the institution you are considering.
Successful completion of your program demands that you budget both your time and finances wisely. Understanding and planning for the costs of your education is one of the most important things you can do as you set out to undertake post-secondary training.
Institutions offering similar training often charge similar tuition. If there is a substantial difference in the costs of similar programs, do not be afraid to ask why. Services or materials such as books, tools, laboratory services, equipment and tutoring may or may not be included in the tuition price. You should be aware of all of the costs that you can expect to incur with your program before choosing an institution. It is also important to consider the institution's refund policy, and what avenues for compensation are available to you in the event of school closure.
How you intend to finance your education may affect your choice of program or institution. All public universities, university colleges and institutes in British Columbia are designated under StudentAid BC. Students intending to take out student loans should be aware that not all private institutions are designated under StudentAid BC. Only students at designated institutions can apply for student loans.
You may wish to investigate the future job markets in your field of interest. You can research future job opportunities in British Columbia at Work Futures. You can also contact potential employers and ask what type of training and skills they look for in their employees.
Some institutions provide job placement or career advisory services. You may wish to know the extent of these services and the success rate the institution has in placing their students in jobs that relate to their training.
Private Career Training Institutions
In British Columbia, private career training institutions that offer career-related training programs with at least 40 hours of instruction and at least $1,000 in tuition costs are required to register with the Private Career Training Institutions Agency.
Institutions registered with the PCTIA have the option of undergoing a quality assessment process to obtain PCTIA accreditation. An accredited institution can be designated under StudentAid BC so that its students may benefit from student financial assistance. You should contact the PCTIA to find out the status of any private career institution you are considering.
Private English as a Second Language Schools
Private training institutions that do not offer career related programming may register with the PCTIA voluntarily. Private ESL schools and other language schools fall into this category. Private institutions must be registered with the PCTIA to have their students benefit from the Student Training Completion Fund. The fund is set up to help students who are unable to complete their course or program because of institution closure. The fund ensures students can either complete their studies at another institution or have their tuition refunded.
If you are considering a private language school, you should find out whether it has registered with the PCTIA.
Private Degree-granting Institutions
British Columbia's degree granting authorization process enables private post-secondary institutions and public institutions based outside the province to grant degrees in B.C. Private and out-of-province public post-secondary institutions may only offer and grant degrees (associate, bachelor's, master's, etc.) if they have received ministerial consent. For more information, please see the list of programs that have received ministerial consent.
Professional Associations and Accrediting Bodies
To qualify you for employment in certain professions, such as health care or early childhood education, your program may need to be approved or licensed by a professional association. Your institution can provide you with the name of any professional organizations that approve its programs. Check with these organizations to learn whether the institution is approved, licensed or accredited. A directory of professional associations that operate in Canada and in each province is maintained by the Canadian Information Centre for International Credentials.
Whatever institution you choose, you are going to be spending a lot of time there. Be sure that the institution's environment and equipment suit your needs.
When you visit the institution, investigate all the facilities and equipment that will be available to you. Download the Prospective Students: Questions to Ask guide for an idea of what to look for.
You may want to investigate the curriculum you will be learning, and the courses you will be required to take. While institutions may offer similar programs, one program may cover a particular subject that you are interested in, while another program may be completed in a shorter period of time. All of these variables will affect your final selection.
You may wish to ask the institution about its policy regarding the qualifications of instructors. If your program leads to training in a licensed occupation, the licensing body may have strict requirements as to what qualifications your instructors must have for your credential to be recognized. Contact the licensing body to make sure your institution's instructors meet their standards. The licensing body may also be able to tell you if the program curriculum is current with the most up-to-date developments in the field.
Institutional policies and rules will affect your daily life. These policies should be available to all students in writing, either in a course catalogue, academic calendar or some other document. Institutions may have policies about student attendance, behaviour and dress. It is important that you know what is expected of you while you are a student.
The institution's academic policies will also affect you. You should know if you have to maintain a certain grade level to continue in the program or to graduate. You should also familiarize yourself with the institution's methods for addressing student complaints and grievances.
Many quality programs are offered through distance education. However, students considering distance programs should do their homework before they sign up.
If the program you are considering is offered through distance or correspondence, you may not be able to visit the institution or meet your instructors. Student loans may or may not be available. Furthermore, distance education programs are offered through many different institutions throughout the world, and are not subject to one set of regulations.
Unless the institution offering the distance program has physical operations established in British Columbia, the institution is not subject to provincial oversight. If you are considering a particular distance program, you may wish to investigate what standards and regulations govern post-secondary education in the institution's home jurisdiction, and whether the institution is approved/recognized by that jurisdiction's regulating body. If you plan to undertake distance education you should make every effort to be assured that you are getting the quality instruction you pay for. There are many Internet resources available to help you with your research.
Do you plan on continuing your education after you have completed your program? Is there any possibility that you will need to move while you are still studying? Investigate your options. Some programs are transferable in whole or in part toward programs at other institutions. Check with your institution to see if it has any arrangements with other institutions for transferability of course credits.
For more information on the transferability of courses and programs in British Columbia, please consult the British Columbia Council on Admissions and Transfer.