No One Can Describe the Survivor Experience of Transitioning to College Better Than a Survivor

Fall 2018 SAVTI Newsletter

Hello! My name is Xiao Jie Chen, aka Angel. I’m an 18-year-old cancer survivor from the town of Richmond Hill and a graduate of Saint Robert Catholic High School. This September, I will be attending Seneca College in the Business Office Administration-Health Services program. My program is offered at the Newnham campus located at Finch and Don Mills. I wanted to share my experience with other survivors around preparing for the transition to college.

Program Selection

At the beginning of my Grade 12 year, I knew that I had to make a final decision about what I wanted to do after I graduated from high school. For most of high school I thought I would go into the art profession, to be a photographer. But as time went on I found that it wasn’t for me. So, from then, I still didn’t have a clear idea of what I wanted to do. My mom has always wanted me to go into some kind of office profession, but I felt that it wasn’t right for me. Then, one day, I had to help out my dad at his place of work because my uncle was out of town for a few days. I was the one sitting there, picking up the phone and organizing everything. From that day on I felt that I was ok working in an office and I started to look into different kinds of office jobs that I could study in. I found there to be a variety, like being a secretary at a school, business, law firm, doctor’s office, and many other places. So, it was from then that I decided I would like to study something in the office field.

Program Application

Then it came to applying for college. I had two colleges that I wanted to apply to; the first one was Seneca and my second choice was Centennial College. I applied for both and was accepted to both, so I had to choose which one to accept. I went to both colleges for a tour of the campus with my parents. My parents liked Seneca better then Centennial. Seneca was closer to home and the buildings were all connected to each other so there was less walking in and out to get to places. So, I went home and did a little of my own research. I read some of the things that previous students had written about the programs and was persuaded to go to Seneca. It also helped that all of my aunts had gone to Seneca at Newnham.

College Entrance Preparation


Once I accepted the offer to go to Seneca I had to think of financial aid, transportation, accommodations, getting a new computer (that was through ADP: Assistive Device Program), and program management. The hardest out of my list of to dos was applying for OSAP which I did at the beginning of June, wanting to get it out of the way. During the process of applying I had made a mistake of claiming that I was a single parent and didn’t realize I had made this mistake until I was asked to submit further verification. I had also properly identified myself as a disability applicant. As a result, I had to fill out a ten-page document confirming my disability with a statement from my psychologist and doctor. When I had all of my forms filled out I had to send them in online. However, when I scanned all the pages to the computer, it told me that the file was too big so I could not submit the document! After doing all that, how could I give up? Then I met with my SAVTI counsellor at Seneca and talked to the financial aid department. I was able to straighten everything out and am now waiting on a response from OSAP.


When considering transportation, I applied for the York Region accessible public transit service, which is called Mobility Plus. This would take me door-to-door, from my house to college, and allow me to access the college independent of my parents having to drive me.

Classroom Accommodation

After looking after transportation, I had to look into my college accommodations. I already had a psychological assessment done and had all of my files in order, so the only thing I had to do was meet with my accessibility counsellor. I booked my first appointment with her over the summer and invited my SAVTI counsellor so that we could prepare all of my accommodations before school started. Once I had met with my counsellor, almost everything was set and it was time to finish my application with ADP. I had already been in the process of applying for ADP from the start of the summer. By the time I had all the other pieces put in place for college I had already been talking with an occupational therapist and other people to try and find what kind of computer worked for me and all the other things that I needed, like the Dragon software, a mic, and also a keyboard that was right for me. Once we found all the things that I wanted, it was just a matter of submitting the order and the application. I have just recently received the letter saying that I was approved for the grant. With the approval, I can begin to install what I need. I also met with a Seneca College assistive technology person to discuss the different programs I’m able to use in class and the option of requesting a digital copy of my text books.

This has been my transition to college experience so far. I couldn’t have done any of this without the help of all the people from Holland Bloorview and SAVTI. Additionally, with SAVTI’s help, I was able to apply for the Childhood Cancer Survivorship Scholarship and was approved for $1500 I can now use toward the cost of school. Thank you. I hope that once I have finished my studies at Seneca College I will be able to find a suitable position for me in my field of office work.


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