The step between high school and CEGEP is a big one. Often students find themselves overwhelmed with the increased course load or the increased autonomy that comes with this institution. The reality is, CEGEP is one of the greatest experiences you’ll ever live as a student and really should not be a source of stress. Here is a list of 10 things you should know about the “Collège d'Enseignement Général Et Professionnel” that will help you be more prepared and maximize the 2 short years you have there.

1. While being a mostly pre-University institution, CEGEP also offers many Technical programs/ Career programs. The technical programs available depend on which CEGEP you’re considering, but they range from police tech to nursing to paramedic to engineer tech to dental hygiene and much more. These programs often last about 3 years and will allow you to directly enter the work force after their completion. You can also enter University with a technical degree, but may face a few pre-requisite issues.

2. If a technical degree is not for you, here is a short description of the pre-University programs available to you. This list is not complete and should only be used in order to get an idea of what’s out there. Aspiring doctors, architects, mathematicians, engineers, nurses, pharmacists, scientists, physicists, physiotherapists and anything else science-related or technical should go into pure and applied sciences. Aspiring accountants, managers, marketing supervisors, financial analysts should go into commerce. Aspiring artists, painters, filmmakers, photographers, philosophers, writers, artists should carefully select which art program they are interested in; this is very dependant on the CEGEP, so do your homework. Aspiring lawyers and politicians should go into social sciences with carefully selected classes or a more specific program if offered. For those who aren’t sure, but are up to the challenge of learning hard math and sometimes time consuming science should go into pure and applied sciences to keep their doors open. For those who are not sure, but definitely do not want to go into sciences, social science is the program for you. Each CEGEP’s website has very good program descriptions, so definitely check that out in order to get an idea of what’s good for you. Remember you can always change programs once your there. In terms of pre-requisites, pure and applies sciences is the hardest program to get into, commerce is the second hardest and the rest are about the same. Once again, check the website in order to really understand which pre-reqs are required.

3. You must apply online and the deadline is around March 1st for the Fall semester (September). After applying and hopefully being accepted, you will need to make an online course schedule. This means you will need to select which classes you plan on taking and fit them all together. The information describing which classes should be taken at which time can be found online on your program’s webpage. Try not to stray too far from the suggested order, since the timing of the classes is made in such a way that they fit together nicely. You may run into trouble later.

4. Prioritize teachers over a nice schedule. A good teacher makes all the difference. Having Fridays off is great, but in the long run you’ll appreciate a good, clear teacher. Check out ratemyteachers.com to see what other students had to say about your potential professors.

5. You will have much more freedom. Often teachers won’t take attendance (some will) and often you’ll start/ finish classes at odd hours. This is a great thing and it will help you prepare for University, but don’t start slacking. Often students start skipping classes and fall behind. Enjoy your freedom, but be mature about it. After all, it’s time to start taking things seriously in CEGEP.

6. Most of the time profs will not know your name. CEGEP professors are awesome people and they love helping students, but the pure scale of things means they often will not know you personally. This should not stop you from seeking help when in need though. Professors often hold office hours where they actually encourage visits from students. Take advantage of this.

7. Taking class notes is now up to you and so is your homework. Some teachers will provide some structure, but don’t count on it. You now need to show up prepared as of the 1st class and start taking notes. You then need to figure out what to study. Use the book and buy the solution manual.

8. CEGEP is very social. You will meet a ton of new people. Make friends and be social. This is one of the aspects that makes CEGEP so much fun. You’re all in it together, so help each other out.

9. There are a ton of student services to take advantage of. Guidance counsellors, fitness areas, pools, labs, student advisors, therapists and the list goes on. Don’t hesitate to take advantage of what’s offered to you.

10. The marking in CEGEP is a little different. The are no percentages or letter grades, instead CEGEP uses the r-score or also called CRC. It’s a super complicated calculation that takes into account the overall strength of your class, your marks in the past, your current mark, the class average and standard deviation and so forth. You will get an r-score for each class and an average r-score for each semester. The value ranges from 0-50. 25 is an average r-score. Between 25-30, you are above average, between 30 and 35, you are excellent and anything near (or higher) than 35 is really fantastic. Med school and dentistry will ask for an r-score close to 35. Architecture, law and physiotherapy will ask for something in the low 30’s and engineering, science and management programs will ask for an r-score in the 25-30 range. The remaining programs ask for more or less average r-scores (25). These numbers are not official, they are simply guidelines. Make sure to check on the University’s website for actual figures. Remember that University’s will often post their cutoff r-score, a slightly higher r-score will actually be needed to get accepted. In addition, some programs will ask for more than just a good r-score (portfolio, interview, volunteer work, …), make sure to check with your CEGEP’s guidance counsellor or the University website.