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Mature students find success at U of T

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Everyone has a story, and mature students are no exception. Many have worked day jobs and paid bills for years before attending U of T.

Today, more students are coming to university directly from high school than they did ten years ago. However, a number of students still take time off from school and for a number of factors.

Sarah Lyons, 29, took a leave of absence on two different occasions, first in 2004 due to financial difficulties and again in 2008 when she found out about a rare tumour she had. She had to overcome many adversities to get where she is now. Lyons is currently finishing her last year as an undergraduate student and will be applying to medical schools in the fall.

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Nathan Berman, 50, began studying at U of T in 2006. He previously dropped out of high school because of his dysfunctional household where he experienced physical violence. He was unable to focus on schoolwork due to the many disruptions in his home. “Not all families are happy families, but it’s still my family,” he said.

After high school, Berman worked in kitchens, demo recording studios, and industrial settings as temporary unskilled labour. He would rarely make much more than minimum wage.

Berman moved to Hamilton from Toronto because the rents were cheaper there. Most of his acquaintances are employed in the “informal economy,” on social assistance, or trapped in unskilled labour.

In Hamilton, he was dismayed by the hate graffiti he saw; tags of Swastikas, homophobic slurs, and gang messages disturbed him for years.

The vandalism pushed Berman to be active in lobbying the city to remove the hate graffiti, but he encountered roadblocks. He realized that he needed credentials to be taken seriously. He decided to enroll in the academic bridging program at U of T and is currently finishing off his last year of study in political science.

The academic bridging program, which consists of a single course that must be passed, is the closest thing that the Faculty of Arts and Science has to a policy towards mature students. According to Glenn A. Loney, Assistant Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Science, U of T does not have a special category for mature students.

They fall into the same grouping as students who come directly out of high school, meaning that U of T does not have enrollment or graduation statistics for mature students.

Berman has seen success: since starting his full-time studies, he has received many awards at U of T. He’s been on the Faculty of Arts and Science Dean’s List every year.

Berman plans to pursue a master’s degree in political science with a focus on ethnic politics.