Aboriginal Students: What You Need To Know About Transition Year Programs


Are you thinking about going to university? If you need some help getting started, don’t worry – there are amazing resources available for you!

A Transition Year Program (TYP) is a great option for Aboriginal students who need a little extra support as they bridge their way into a desired degree program. This full-time academic year program is for individuals who do not meet the traditional requirements for university admission, but still wish to obtain a university degree.

With access to cultural activities, spiritual guidance, and academic counselling, TYPs are an ideal way to explore your potential and begin your post-secondary journey without barriers!

Here’s what you need to know about your TYP:

1. Your University and Connecting with your Post-Secondary Counselor (PSC)

A Transition Year Program (TYP) will allow you to immerse yourself in the university experience and figure out what faculty route you’d like to pursue in the future. Plus, it provides you with a strong community of support when facing the challenge of moving to a new (and sometimes new and urban) environment.

First and foremost, you’re faced with an important decision: which Public Post-Education Institution (PPSI) should you choose? It’s a school you’ll be attending for a few years, so you want to be confident in your choice for a productive and meaningful university experience. Some questions to think about:

  • What GPA do I need in this TYP to get into my preferred faculty?
  • What Aboriginal student resources are offered?
  • Are there Elders on campus to talk to?
  • What high school credits do I need as prerequisites to apply?
  • Am I eligible for financial aid such as scholarships or sponsorship?

Transition Year Program (TYP) faculty staff include Aboriginal Academic Advisors and TYP Coordinators who are readily available to answer such questions and guide you through the application process. You can find these contacts on your institution’s TYP webpage.
If you are a Status student, you may have already met your Post-Secondary Counsellor (PSC). PSC and Transition Advisors are important contacts to help you achieve your academic objectives, long-term career goals, and navigate you through your studies, so get to know them well!

Once you’ve narrowed down your PPSI choices, think about taking a campus tour, where you can check out the Aboriginal Student Centre and the organized cultural activities. This will help you get a feel of your potential academic learning grounds.

2. Choosing Your Academic Path

A Transition Year Program (TYP) is designed to ease you into the expectations and learning style of university, while obtaining the credits required for your program. The academic year-long program typically includes first-year introductory courses that provide a foundation on a range of topics such as Academic Writing, English, and Indigenous Studies. Depending on the institution, the TYP program may include tutorials and workshops to encourage you to work in study groups, gain self-confidence, and build productive study habits.
If you aren’t quite sure what career path you want to take, that’s completely OK. The introductory courses of your TYP allow you to try out courses from different faculties where you can discover interests and talents you never knew you had!

3. Funding Your Journey

For students with First Nation status and registered Métis Nation students, check with your band or agency for sponsorship information. You should ask what documents and forms are required to get funding and what living expenses are covered. Be sure to apply early, as most bands and agencies require a couple months’ notice prior to registration. First Nation and eligible Inuit students can look into the Post-Secondary Student Support Program as well.

If you don’t qualify for funding or would like additional financial aid, there are many scholarships, bursaries and awards for Aboriginal students offered at your PPSI, as well as a number of government agencies. Scholarships are generally awarded based on academic merit, and bursaries on financial need. The specific institution should have a form to complete for a number of awards and scholarships. Talk with your PSC for more information on school-specific awards that you are eligible to apply for!

The Government of Canada has a repository of over 700 bursaries across Canada for Aboriginal students.

  • For Aboriginal students living in Alberta, Freehorse Family Wellness Society (FFWS) offers a post-secondary funding program on behalf of Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) . Check out their website for more info!
  • For Aboriginal students applying to the University of Winnipeg, you may be eligible for Entrance and In-Course awards.
  • Check out Indspire’s bursaries, scholarships, and awards for Indigenous Students.
  • Apply for Canada’s Government Student Aid and Loans program (easy step-by-step information about the program can be found here).
  • For a list of Aboriginal student scholarships by province, check out AMMSA’s scholarship guide.

4. The Application Process

PPSIs across Canada typically have flexible academic criteria and provide a step-by-step guide to applying to their specific TYP. Generally, you’ll need to fill out an application form providing personal details, proof of your Aboriginal status, and provide 2-3 references (i.e. past teachers or employers). You will also need to provide official academic transcripts from past educational institutes you’ve attended, and some PPSIs require a Letter of Intent – a simple essay explaining why you want to join the program. Take a look at your PPSI’s admissions page for further exclusive admission details.

If this seems a little overwhelming, don’t fret – you are not alone! Remember, your PSC or TYP Coordinator are available to take you step-by-step through the whole application process and address any of your emotional, social and academic needs.

5. Your Aboriginal Student Centre and Resources


If you are leaving your home community for the first time, this exciting transition may feel a bit uncomfortable at first. Your Aboriginal Student Centre is an on-campus inclusive gathering space that encourages empowerment and identity and provides spiritual and cultural activities to stay connected with your Aboriginal peers and the local community. You will meet other Aboriginal students and create a solid support network for years to come. From creative traditional crafting, pipe ceremonies, to Elder services, check out what your PPSI’s Aboriginal Student Centre has to offer!

FYI: Off campus, you can find Friendship Centres in most urban cities across Canada that bring Indigenous people from all nations together to share food, meet local Elders, and participate in cultural activities.

So, are you ready for an educational journey of a lifetime? Stay strong, stay connected to your community, and most importantly, have fun!

Learn more about opportunities for Aboriginal professionals with our Aboriginal Career Guide!