Immediate and Delayed Transitions: The 50% and 75% Patterns

Student Transitions Project Research Results. June 2012. Heslop, Joanne.

A foundational task of BC’s Student Transitions Project is to identify the proportion of the province’s graduating Grade 12 class that enters a public post-secondary institution immediately after secondary school or, alternatively, after a delay of one or more years. As a general rule, it is helpful  to think of half the graduating high school class as making an immediate transition into public postsecondary education. In addition to the 50% pattern for immediate transitions, another 25% or so wait before beginning post-secondary studies, making for a total transition rate, depending on the year of graduation, of about 75%.

Different student populations have different patterns of immediate and delayed entry. For example, Aboriginal high school graduates are less likely than non-Aboriginal graduates to make an immediate transition, but after five years, the gap narrows.

Immediate entry students were more inclined to enroll in a research university. For those students who delayed entry for one, two or three years, enrolment at a college was most common. However, some of those who start at a college transfer to a teaching intensive or research university later in their post-secondary career.

Private and Out-of-Province Institutions: the 5% Top-up

Student Transitions into Post-Secondary Education Sectors - BC Public, BC Private and non-BC Institutions. STP Research Results, May 2010. Heslop, Joanne. 

Using financial aid records for BC students at private and out-of-province institutions, and adding private and out-of-province data to what was already known about transitions into BC public institutions, the six-year cumulative transition rate for 2001/02 high school graduates reached at least 81%. Roughly one third of those who enrolled immediately in a BC private institution or outside BC subsequently entered the BC public system over the subsequent five years.

Overall Transitions to Post-Secondary Education

To Public


To Private




Where Did They Go? Findings from a Survey of 2005/06 BC High School Graduates. BC Council on Admissions and Transfer: Research Results, April 2009. Canadian Council on Learning.

Another method of estimating the number of transitions outside the BC public system was through a survey conducted by the Canadian Council on Learning in partnership with BCCAT. The Council concluded that the two-year transition rate into public BC institutions of 62% increased to over 75% when all post-secondary destinations were taken into account. Consistent with STP’s findings, students with high GPAs tended to leave the province, while those with lower GPAs were more likely to enroll in BC private institutions.

Aboriginal Students

Education Achievements of Aboriginal Students in BC Student Transitions Project. March 2009. Heslop, Joanne. 

Self- or parent-identified Aboriginal students of varying heritages represent 10% of all students enrolled in BC public and independent schools, and roughly 5% of all high school graduates are Aboriginal. Aboriginal graduates were more likely to enroll in small colleges and less likely to enroll in a research university. They tended to enroll in shorter programs, being almost twice as likely to complete a one-year certificate as non-Aboriginal completers (56% compared to 30%).

International Students

International Students in BC's Education System. STP Research Results, November 2011.

International students were identified through a proxy: non-residents of BC whose primary language spoken at home was not English. Using this definition, the number of international BC Grade 12 graduates ranged from 700 to 1,100 in each of the eight years since 2001/02.

International students from BC high schools transitioned into BC public post-secondary education at roughly two-thirds the rate of domestic students. In 2009/10, they represented 11% of all (28,100) international students in BC public post-secondary institutions. Each year, roughly 40% of all post-secondary international students are new to the public BC post-secondary system. Graduate programs account for only 12% of these new international students, but they have shown the largest rate of increase, doubling since 2002/03.


Research University

Teaching University





% Int'l Registrants





% from BC K-12





Post-Secondary Learners who are Non-Graduates from BC Grade 12. Student Transitions Project. 2012. Beatty-Guenter, Patricia, and Cowin, Bob.

"Open door" admissions policies enable eligible students who lack Grade 12 graduation to be admitted to a post-secondary public institution. About 35,000 students, who attended a BC secondary school but who did not graduate from one, were enrolled in BC public post-secondary institutions in 2009/10. This number overstates the reality because some high school non-graduates may have graduated outside BC. Around 40% of high school non-graduates enrolled in post-secondary and undergraduate programs designed for high school graduates.

Enrollment Patterns of Non-Graduates from BC Grade 12


Teaching University
or Institute

Research University




The program distribution revealed three pathways into post-secondary institutions: 

  • 25% enrolled in developmental or upgrading programs; 
  • 40% enrolled in post-secondary or undergraduate programs designed for high school graduates, and
  • 35% enrolled in programs such as non-credit continuing education, contract training and other “contingent, non-core” programs that were often of quite short duration.

Longitudinal Study

A series of BCCAT-funded reports based on longitudinal research conducted by Dr. Lesley Andres highlights the diverse pathways leading to educational and occupational success.  For more information, please visit Paths on Life's Way.