Confederation College is trying a fresh approach to enrolment by reaching out to high school. Called Confederation Bound: Early Acceptance, the program aims to motivate students to stay focused through Grade 12 and help them overcome barriers to college attendance.
According to Don Duclos, registrar for Confederation College, based in Thunder Bay, Ont., “This is a partnership to find those students who may just need a little bit of an incentive.” For students who have to travel hours from northwestern Ontario’s small and remote communities, who are the first in their family to attend college or who are concerned about costs, the program offers a dose of extra encouragement.
Stephanie Borton, 19, now in her first year of the college’s culinary management program, was one of those students. In Grade 11, she wasn’t sure she could afford college or would even be accepted, but the $1,000 Confederation Bound bursary—which paid for her books—and the advice she received convinced her she could manage.
“Transitioning from high school to college, you begin to worry about if you will get the proper help you’ll need, where classes are and how to get accommodations,” she says. “Confederation College made me feel like I had someone looking out for me.”
Guidance counsellors at northwestern Ontario high schools are asked to nominate Grade 11 students who need an extra push to pursue post-secondary education.
This spring, during an on-campus celebration and tour at Confederation College, 43 selected students were presented with acceptance offers, conditional on success in Grade 12. The school guarantees them a $1,000 bursary and a spot in the program of their choice. As Confederation Bound enters its fourth year, Duclos says about 75 per cent of students who received early-acceptance offers in Grade 11 have enrolled after completing high school.
Building relationships helps overcome the uncertainty about post-secondary education that is common when students are the first in their families to enrol, says Duclos. “Those students do need a little extra bit of hand-holding because they’re not coming from homes that are experienced with applying for college, budgeting for college and setting themselves up for success when they get here.” The early-acceptance offers can be used in Thunder Bay or at any of the college’s eight regional campuses spread across a 10-hour drive from Kenora to Wawa. That’s appealing to students who can’t imagine themselves living in Thunder Bay. “Even our smallest campuses would be bigger than some of the communities we serve,” says Duclos.