Private College PSW Programs: How to Choose the Right one by Asking the Right Questions

When choosing a PSW program that will enable you to embark on your chosen career, it is important to be as informed as possible regarding the options that are available to you.

Like the saying goes, knowledge is power and asking the right questions is a critical component in the process of selecting a College.

Oftentimes, it can seem intimidating and there is a natural tendency to make the easiest and quickest choice without having a sufficient amount of information to do so. 


This article will assist you by providing a list of questions that you should ask the school administrators, particularly at private PSW colleges.

Private colleges offer many advantages for those who wish to obtain a certificate as a Personal Support Worker, however frequently, their advertising is intentionally misleading to the point of being detrimental to the students who enroll in them.

Therefore, by doing your due diligence, you will be able to make the best and most informed choice possible in your efforts to become a PSW in Ontario.

Here are the questions:


Administrative questions are the first ones you should ask while in the process of making your decision.

Having a sufficient amount of knowledge regarding the types of programs that are available will assist you in making the most informed choice possible.


The course timetables featured in private versus traditional colleges can vary significantly, therefore taking it upon yourself to learn what schedules are offered by conducting a simple online search would be beneficial when making your decision. 

By doing that, you’ll know which program will be most suitable for you to pursue prior to enrolling.


The thought of incurring a significant amount of debt before embarking on a career can be a daunting prospect and may discourage you from applying for a program.

While private colleges have many advantages over the school district and public colleges, the fees can be prohibitively high, even for a relatively short program.

Knowing if you have the financial resources necessary for the one you’re interested in before enrolling is crucial and can ultimately prove to be the difference between succeeding and not succeeding.

Therefore, asking the school you’re considering applying to about funding and then booking an appointment at your financial institution to obtain information regarding student loans packages may be necessary at this stage.

Please bear in mind that many private career colleges are not eligible for OSAP funding.

OSAP website provides an “OSAP school search” feature to find out if a college is approved for OSAP. 


Considering both the advantages and disadvantages that exist with respect to private colleges can also be a determining factor for you when making a decision.

While deciding on the best course of action, it is best to assess the pros and cons of attending one as opposed to a public college or district school board.

Here is a list of the advantages and disadvantages of a private college:


  • Smaller classroom sizes which can facilitate learning
  • “Fast-track” programs that enable students to complete their programs quickly
  • Scholarship programs available
  • The emphasis being placed on teaching as opposed to research
  • Responsiveness to changes in the workforce


  • High fees and tuition levels
  • Disproportionate profit-motive due to it being private a business
  • Misleading advertising
  • Low-quality equipment, supplies, and facilities provided in the interest of maximizing profits
  • (Often) poorly trained and unprofessional instructors
  • Unregistered programs and colleges that do not meet provincial standards
  • Difficulty in the transferring of credits


Another question that you should ask is whether or not the school you would like to apply to adheres to provincially mandated standards.

All private colleges are required to have their courses approved by the Ministry of Training, Colleges, and Universities (MTCU) and operate under the Private Career Colleges Act which subsequently governs the majority of their policies.


All private colleges in Ontario must be registered and be in good standing with the superintendent of private colleges.

They are therefore required to obtain and sustain their registration with the Ontario MTCU.

However, an educational institution being registered does not completely eliminate the possibility of a registered private college offering substandard programming.

There can be inadequacies with respect to the curriculum, the instruction itself as well as the equipment, supplies and general infrastructure provided.

Service Canada offers an online tool where you can search whether a particular college is registered and the PSW program being offered is approved

Check here whether the college you’re interested in is registered and have programs approved by the Superintendent of Private Career Colleges. 


As the purpose of undertaking a course in a private college is to secure employment after one has graduated, knowing if a school offers training within the curriculum that will enable graduates to find a job is critical.

Thus, a school having courses incorporated into the program that teaches students exactly how to obtain a job with respect to interview skills, résumé writing, and exam techniques can assist those who have completed the course to be adequately prepared for their job search.


Ensuring that you are aware of the level and type of support that is offered (if any) by personnel at a particular school post-graduation can often be beneficial as well.

Oftentimes, recent graduates will be disillusioned by the fact that they have no one to ask for advice or consult once they have completed a course.

Thus, knowing if the private college you are considering has staff that can and will keep in touch with graduates and offer tips, suggestions, advice and even just provide emotional support can be a determining factor when making your choice.


Although classroom learning and theory is a crucial component of any course or program, the practical and hands-on experience is also important.

When providing care to individuals within the specific parameters of the healthcare field, a graduate must possess all of the necessary practical skills to perform their duties effectively.

Thus, private colleges that offer substantial clinical placements within their programs are more likely to provide graduates with the knowledge and skills that they need to provide the best care possible.


It is difficult to determine what the odds are prior to completing a course or program.

Several factors play a role in the equation, significantly affecting the outcome from one situation to the next.

Therefore, your ability to obtain a position may be higher or lower than another graduate’s of the same program due to your connections, personality, interview skills, résumé quality and several other variables.

However, a tool has recently been developed for the purposes of assessing how recent private career college graduates have fared in the workplace upon joining the workforce.

Essentially, data is utilized to develop specific measurable values in order to ascertain what the KPI (key performance indicators) are.

Developed under the auspices of the Private Career Colleges Act, the policy directive implemented by the Superintendent established five KPIs which include:

  • Graduation Rate
  • Graduate Employment Rate
  • Graduate Employment Rate in Field of Study
  • Graduate Satisfaction Rate
  • Employer Satisfaction Rate

The objective is to enable prospective students to make informed choices regarding the educational institution and programs they wish to enroll in.

As a report based on KPI results is published annually, it would be useful for anyone in the process of making his or her decision to consult it in order to make the best choice possible.

Check out the “Frequently Asked Questions” about private career colleges, as published by the Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Development.


There are many ways to protect yourself from being a target of educational institutions, including private colleges if you think that you may be at risk.

The following are five steps that will help you to protect yourself from being made a victim:


Based on your personal profile is the first and most important step you can take in order to avoid becoming a target.

Oftentimes, scammers will prey on the most vulnerable members of the community.

If you are new to Canada and are therefore not fully acclimated to the culture, laws, language, and conventions that exist, you’re more likely to fall victim to the dishonest practices of certain private college administrators.

Be mindful of that fact and develop a plan or strategy to protect yourself by having a friend accompany you when visiting schools or contact the MTCU or a private organization where someone can advise you.


Consult private career college bulletins as they provide the public with information regarding provincial offenses, Ontario Superior Court Injunctions and License Appeal Tribunal decisions pertaining to private colleges in the province.

By visiting the MTCU website, you will be fully aware of which career colleges to avoid due to legal actions that have been taken against them in the past.


Another effective way to avoid being misled by private colleges is to conduct your own on-site investigation of a school that you’re interested in enrolling in.

Although speaking to administrators on the phone and looking through a website can be effective for research purposes, seeing it in person and meeting with administrators would provide you with a more balanced perspective.

A school may appear to be a good fit online, however, by seeing the building, equipment, supplies, instructors and administrative personnel, you will be better equipped to make a judgment based on criteria that you wouldn’t have considered otherwise.


Speak with current students of the program at the school you wish to attend.

Their opinions, insight, and perception will often be unbiased, allowing you to get a clear view of what the course is regardless of whether it’s positive or negative.


Develop a strategy or a plan of action to employ in the event that you enroll in a school or program which featured advertising that proved to be false or misleading.

This strategy could involve finding out what the refund policy is and who to contact at the MTCU to file a complaint if necessary.

Having a contingency plan will allow you to feel more confident in your decision and protect you if you ultimately do fall victim to dishonest practices.


Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Development provide information for students wanting to enroll in private colleges.

You can click here to visit their website for further information.


In sum, Personal Support Worker courses offered through private colleges are a fantastic way to complete the program and enter the workforce.

They provide students who may not have the education and practical skills necessary with the opportunity to enter a field that has seen significant growth in Ontario over the past decade.

Through their fast-track programs, condensed curriculum structure, small classroom sizes and responsiveness to changes in the workforce, they offer an ideal alternative to those offered by traditional colleges and district school boards.


it is important to be fully aware of the disadvantages that exist with respect to career colleges and exercise your due diligence.

Because they are profit-driven, they are more likely to engage in practices that are both unethical and illegal in order to maximize their revenues at the cost of providing quality programming to those who trust them to do so.

As a result, many recent graduates may not possess the skills they require which could undermine their careers and prevent them from providing the level of care that the most vulnerable members of Ontario communities need.

Therefore, before enrolling in a private college PSW program, exercise your due diligence and ask the questions you feel are necessary in order to make the best decision possible – both for yourself as well as for others.

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Avlin is passionate about helping aspirants become better personal support workers. He is an entrepreneur and runs a clinic in Toronto.

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