All Posts Tagged With: "university applications"
One student’s experience with a lost university application
From the 2013 Maclean’s University Rankings, our 132-page guide to choosing the right school.
In my head, it was going to be perfect. After weeks of waiting, I’d check the mailbox at my parents’ house for a letter marked “Ryerson University.” I’d rip open the envelope and, with any luck, I’d see “Congratulations!” in the first line, and I’d know that I had gotten in. The reality, however, was more fraught: a five-month process with lost deposits, missed deadlines and more than a few burst blood vessels in my father’s face.
I sent my application to Ryerson’s School of Journalism in the winter of 2008 during my last year of high school, and the school notified me by mail that I’d receive more correspondence in the spring. By April, there was still no letter in the mailbox. Starting to worry, I checked my online Ryerson account—the number was included in the initial letter—and found a letter of conditional acceptance: if my grades remained the same, the school would gladly take me. It wasn’t the triumphant moment I was hoping for, but at least it was something.
Waiting for acceptance is excruciating
High school seniors across Canada are on tenterhooks these days as they await news of their acceptance from the country’s universities or colleges.
Their parents are likely just as anxious, having heard the oft-repeated lament: “Will I get in?” Vida Korhani, 17, of Toronto, says waiting to hear from the three Ontario institutions she applied to–the University of Toronto, Ryerson and York University–has been absolutely excruciating. “It was horrible. Many of my friends had heard back from U of T and I just felt like my average maybe wasn’t good enough.”
Her average is 92 per cent.
While the student at the Hawthorn School for Girls found out she was in fact accepted at both Toronto and York, she’s still waiting to hear if she’ll make it into her first choice, Ryerson’s well-regarded journalism program.
“Mind-boggling” is how her Grade 12 classmate Abiola Abraham describes the wait to hear from her first choice, the University of Waterloo, for computer science and business administration. “So anxious, every day I was just checking my email all the time,” the 16-year-old says. Being accepted at University of Toronto and McMaster University in Hamilton, Ont., has relieved some of the pressure, she says.
Laura Schoof, 17, of Vincent Massey Secondary School in Windsor, Ont., says it was stressful waiting to be accepted. “I pretty much went home and checked the Internet every day just to see and we woke up and checked the mailbox as soon as I got up,” she says. She was accepted at three colleges but chose the pre-health program at Fanshawe College in London, Ont., because it is close to home and will help her get into medical radiation technology later.
As if the students aren’t nervous enough, the “cut-off marks” referring to the lowest mark a university will accept from an incoming student can be a moving target. Montreal’s McGill University, for example, has been gradually lowering its cut-off marks every two weeks this spring. No one knows where it will end.
Seneca College, like many other institutions, monitors its “application targets” daily, says Cindy Hazell, vice-president at the Toronto college.
Offers are sent out over several months, although the two major waves are in February and April.
The cut-off marks are not necessarily determined by ability to pass the program but are set according to the number of physical spaces, specialized equipment such as labs and number of faculty available, says Hazell. Much of that is determined by the amount of government funding supplied to each post-secondary institution, she adds.
But even when students are accepted, the nerve-racking part is not always over. More than one offer means they’ll have to choose.
That’s where guidance counsellors come in. Fern Schessel of the Toronto French School has been a guidance counsellor for 41 years and works with students applying all across Canada and abroad. Schessel says students fortunate enough to have more than one choice should ask themselves several questions. Which school has the program they want? Where can they flourish? Where would they feel most at home? What resources are available to them at various institutions?
Finally, she tells them to listen to their gut. It’s important that they do their research, she says. Her advice: visit the schools, look at their programs, check out the city they would live in. “A lot of our kids will go based on ‘my friends are going to McGill’ or . . . ‘it’s perceived as prestigious for me to go from here to McGill’ and so McGill is automatically a university of choice.”
“They may not have opened the calendar to see what programs are available, they may not have walked the campus, but they will go,” she says.
Mohamud Bulle, 17, another Vincent Massey student from Windsor, has been accepted at two universities but hasn’t heard back from his first choice, the University of Western Ontario in London. He favours Western because it would allow him to study law in his second year, if he has the marks.
But that’s not the only reason. “Western’s a lot of fun, I’m not going to lie,” he laughs. “Some of my older friends have gone there and they say it’s a lot of fun.” He hesitates, then adds “as long as you balance.”
The Canadian Press
Unis say more money needed to fuel “knowledge economy”
Almost 2,300 more prospective students have applied to enter Ontario’s universities this September, new data shows. Numbers released Monday show 86,500 students have sent in applications to the Ontario Universities’ Application Centre. That’s an almost three per cent increase over last year.
The number of mature students applying to go back to school is also tracking almost three per cent higher compared to last year. The Council of Ontario Universities says that could mean more than 45,000 mature students applying by the end of their application cycle in September.
There has been concern that Ontario’s Grade 12 students will face heavier competition for university and college spaces in high employment courses as those laid off due to the shaky economy seek to go back to school.
However, Ontario’s minister of education and some university officials have indicated Grade 12 students will not be given priority for the available spaces despite the fact they could end up in the workforce with only a high school education if they are not accepted. Laid off workers would by definition have some employment experience to fall back on if not accepted.
Professor Bonnie Patterson, president of the Council of Ontario Universities, says with the increase in applications, governments will have to invest more in universities in order to have enough graduates to fuel the so-called “knowledge economy” of the future. “To meet these demands, enhanced government investment in the sector is required to accommodate the growth and to ensure that the quality of the learning experience is not undermined by taking more and more students on board,” said Patterson.
Patterson reminded the government that its own task force highlighted the need for more educated graduates. “We recognize that these are challenging economic times for the province but as the Ontario Task Force on Competitiveness has said in a recent report, the recession has not changed the imperative for developing our human assets – if anything it has heightened the need,” she said.
There has been a 46 per cent increase in the number of university applicants since 2000.
The Canadian Press
For many students, applying to get into a university is like applying for a job
The holiday break could prove a busy and stressful time for high school seniors in Ontario facing a Jan. 13 deadline to apply to university and a demand for high grades to enter competitive programs.
While the Ontario Universities’ Application Centre began receiving applications in November, many students will spend the holidays submitting forms before the deadline to ensure they’re guaranteed full consideration, said OUAC director George Granger.
Tyler Carson is among those students competing for a coveted spot next year.
The 17-year-old Toronto student says he did a lot of research over the past two years into which university he should go to next fall. The Sir Wilfrid Laurier Collegiate Institute senior visited four university campuses in the Toronto area and checked out schools and programs online.
Carson applied to the University of Toronto, York University, Wilfrid Laurier University and McGill University to study sexual diversity and human rights. He later hopes to attend law school. Carson, who is student council vice-president, founder of the school’s first gay-straight alliance, and has a 94 per cent average, says he’s not worried about being accepted into a top university.
“I’m pretty confident I’ll get into all the generalized programs. I’m applying to Vic One which is a specialized program at U of T that only accepts around 25 kids from my stream, so that will be competitive,” he said.
For many students, applying to get into a university is like applying for a job.
The guidance counsellor at Carson’s school, Renee Rawlins, advises students to get their applications in early and do research. That includes speaking to recruitment officers, going to campuses, and looking into university programs and requirements, such as prerequisite high school courses and marks needed.
Business and engineering programs are more competitive than Bachelor of Arts programs, and require students to have marks in the mid 80s to 90s to get in, she said. “A student with a 55 per cent average in their six courses — they’re not looking to be very competitive anywhere,” said Rawlins. “If you have 90, we can say, well, you’ll be very competitive anywhere.”
One student’s story about not getting into his dream program
Microscopes. Lab coats. Dead bodies. What’s not to love? Yes, I’m talking about the perfect pre-med program—in this case, health sciences at McMaster University.
In my last year of high school, when filling out university applications, health sciences at McMaster seemed like a perfect fit. I knew that after my undergraduate degree, I wanted to study medicine, and McMaster’s program has all the prerequisites built in. It gives students lab experience, and it’s focused on biology, my favourite subject area.
The more I read about the program, the more I wanted in. Health sciences at McMaster was my first-choice program. But I knew the odds. A minimum 90 per cent average is required for consideration, but in order to be competitive you need to be in the low 90s at the very least.
Med schools across Canada claim they’ll consider any undergraduate degree—meaning, it doesn’t matter if you have a degree in biology, anthropology, engineering or drama. It’s your GPA that really counts. Most med schools still have prerequisite courses, like organic chemistry, microbiology and physics. You can apply to med school with a music degree, but you still need to have all of those mandatory courses. The beauty of McMaster’s health sciences: after completing the program, you have all the necessary prerequisites to apply to any med school across Canada.
Oh, there’s also the fact that Mac students get to experiment with cadavers. Seriously.
A 90+ average isn’t the only thing you need to get in. There’s also the mandatory supplementary application—essays and personal questions, including a few, well, odd ones. One asks, “What’s one extracurricular activity that’s important to your sense of self and why?” There’s only one thing worse than a meandering, open-ended, self-exploration kind of question like that. And that’s question No. 2: “What is the one question that shouldn’t be asked and why?” (I knew instinctively not to write, “Have you accepted Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Saviour?”)
Unlike with real estate, when it comes to choosing a university, location isn’t the most important criteria. Sure, it matters. But when I decided health sciences at McMaster was my first-choice program, it wasn’t because it had the most convenient location. After all, I live within 15 minutes of the University of Waterloo and Wilfrid Laurier. But health sciences at McMaster was still number one. It was meant to be.
Politicians submitted names of sub-par students, who received preferential treatment
Following an investigation by the Chicago Tribune, officials at the University of Illinois have announced that they will suspend “Category I” — an internal list of well-connected student applicants who receive preferential treatment.
In a series of articles that began last Friday, the Tribune reported evidence stemming from a Freedom of Information request that sub-par applicants had been admitted to the school under the political sponsorship of state lawmakers and university trustees over the past five years. That investigation also revealed that acceptance decisions, at times, occurred over the objections of admissions officers.
Last week, officials from the university issued statements saying that they “mostly get it right.”
During its investigation, the Tribune found instances in which the school’s lobbyists overruled rejections, blew up at admissions staff and forwarded veiled threats from politicians who wanted candidates admitted. According to documents, both Democrat and Republican politicians had asked lobbyists to track the status of more than 500 applications, which made up more than half of the names on the “Category I” list.
The paper says the so-called “clout list” creates an awkward situation in which university officials are taking requests from legislators who hold the school’s purse strings and trustees who are, in essence, their bosses.
School officials have announced plans to appoint a panel to investigate the practice and suggest how to make sure in the future that admissions decisions aren’t subject to political pressure.
“The review will examine how contacts from legislators, trustees, alumni and others have been managed in the past, what best practices are at peer institutions and what changes should be made going forward to ensure the integrity of the admissions process,” said the university’s statement.
Why Advanced Placement is catching on with smart kids and ambitious parents
Before she’d set foot on campus, Jacqueline Dohaney already had two university courses under her belt. Like most students at her Williamstown, Mass., high school, she didn’t think twice about taking her school’s Advanced Placement course in European history. Dohaney loved the subject, so when it was offered in Grade 12, she enrolled. But when she moved to Canada to study geology at Ottawa’s Carleton University, the intensive course helped her in ways she’d never anticipated.
“Advanced Placement classes saved my life,” says Dohaney. “But in high school, I didn’t have any concept of how they would help me later on.”
Advanced Placement courses, or AP, allow students to do university-level work while still in high school. The program has long been popular with American students and parents—and the trend is catching on in Canada. Participating high schools offer the courses as part of the regular curriculum, with the program generally open to only the most capable students. Courses are capped by a standardized, year-end exam, administered by the New York-based College Board, which oversees AP. Exam results, on a five-point scale, are often used by colleges and universities in the U.S. and Britain to make admissions decisions: the AP credential is seen as proof that you are a superior student. What’s more, AP courses can earn students university-level credits, reducing the number of classes needed to complete a degree.
Now a master’s student in geological sciences at the University of British Columbia, Dohaney was surprised when Carleton recognized her AP course in European history. The school gave her two university transfer credits, which meant that for two semesters, she took four classes instead of five. “I don’t care what discipline you’re in. Having one or two fewer courses in a semester can make a really huge difference,” she says.
Dohaney isn’t the only one seeing the program’s perks. Over the last two decades, the number of Canadian high schools offering AP has ballooned from one to 510. Last year, nearly 14,000 Canadian students were enrolled, writing more than 20,000 AP exams. Enrolment is especially strong in British Columbia and Alberta, as provincial ministries and high schools jump on the program, hoping it will give their students an edge.
George Ewonus, director of Advanced Placement in Canada, says he is as amazed as anyone at what he describes as the “astonishing” growth of the program. The College Board offers 34 AP subjects, from the most popular—calculus, English, and literature—to the slightly more obscure, such as environmental science, human geography and studio art. (See the complete list of AP subjects here.) More than 4,000 colleges and universities around the world recognize all or some AP credits as equivalent to a first-year-level class, though whether and when a university will give a transfer credit varies.
Slow growth adds fuel to the enrolment debate
Applications from high school students to Ontario universities have continued to increase this year, according to preliminary numbers released by the Ontario Universities’ Application Centre (OUAC). Applications are up 1.1 per cent compared to last year.
However, the growth of applicants has slowed considerably compared to last year, when it rose by by nearly five per cent. This adds further fuel to the debate raging in higher education circles over the future of university enrolment levels. Will Canada experience a continuing upsurge in university enrolment, or have we reached a peak?
Last year, an audit performed by the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions, or OSFI, a federal oversight agency, said enrolment at Canadian universities would start decreasing in 2009. (See: Yes, there will be shrinkage. Jul 2, 2008). Ontario’s universities, however, have been telling a different story, saying that demography and economics are likely to lead to an university enrolment boom in Canada’s largest province. According to the Council of Ontario Universities, enrolment at Ontario campuses could increase by 120,000 new students by 2021. (See: Do I hear 120,000. Oct 4, 2007) Most of this growth is expected to occur in the Greater Toronto Area. (See: Is there really a looming space crunch in Toronto? Jul 31, 2007)
It’s difficult to make conclusions based upon the first release of application data from OUAC, but a few observations are possible.
While the numbers do not fulfil COU’s prophecy provincially, we’ll have to wait and see if predictions of a major crunch in Toronto come to pass later this year.
Applications at the University of Toronto and Ryerson University have grown, but they’re not skyrocketing. Applications at the two universities increased by 2.9 per cent and 3.7 per cent respectively. The total increase in applicants between the two schools is 2,544 potential students. York University is a wildcard: with the CUPE 3903 strike dominating the headlines, applications are down 10.8 per cent — representing 4168 fewer applications than last year.
Due to the York strike, its hard to say anything definite as to whether or not there is a “Toronto Space Crunch.” We’ll have to wait until final enrolment figures are finalized in the summer.
In the rest of the province, only two universities saw double-digit increases in applicants this year, and application numbers at other universities are distinctly mixed, with applications falling on many campuses.
Algoma University, Ontario’s newest university (and one of its smallest) which previously operated as a satellite college of Laurentian, has seen a 40 per cent increase in applications. The new university may have benefited from its clever and widespread Colossal U publicity campaign. The majority of Algoma’s increase is in students making it their fourth or lower choice, though 14 per cent more students did make the university their first choice. (In Ontario, students apply to multiple universities through the centralized OUAC applications centre. They also list the universities applied to in order of preference.)
University of Guelph – Humber, a joint college/university campus continues to see large growth. Last year at this time, applications at the suburb Toronto campus were up 24.7 per cent. This year, the increase is 17 per cent.
Many universities saw a decrease in applications. Brock, Laurentian, Nipissing, Trent, Waterloo, Western, Laurier, and Windsor are all showing a drop in applicants.
Applications by program are not showing the same variance as last year when applications to environmental and mathematics programs skyrocketed. This year, growth in environment students continues at 8.5 per cent but applications to mathematics degrees is down 7.5 per cent. Only two programs are showing a double-digit increase. Both nursing and social work show increased popularity with potential students.
OUAC will release updated statistics in the middle of February and continue to do so monthly until final enrolment figures are confirmed in September.
More students means a higher cut-off average for many exclusive programs
A tough economy is being cited as the reason behind record-level university application numbers in Ontario.
The Council of Ontario Universities says 84,300 applications have been submitted this year – a 1.1 per cent increase over a record set in 2008. The council says the figure is 42 per cent higher than the 59,197 applications made in 2000.
Peter George, chairman of the Council of Ontario Universities, says more people see a university degree as key to a successful career, “particularly when economic conditions are challenging.”
The only year with a higher total was the “double cohort” year of 2003.
That’s when 102,618 students applied to universities after the cancellation of Grade 13, causing two classes to graduate in the same year.
The council said the number of people applying for university typically increases during economic downturns.
“Applicants know that this is a good time to attend university and get that degree or to upgrade their skills, Paul C. Genest, council president, said in a release.
Last year, some 84,000 high school students applied for 64,000 spots at Ontario’s 20 universities.
Grade cut-offs change every year, and vary for each program in each institution. Last year, most schools made offers to students with minimum grades averaging in the mid-70s or 80s.
Several stringent programs made offers only to students whose average grade was in the low to mid-90 range. Those programs included McMaster University’s health sciences, York University’s Schulich School of Business and biotechnology at the University of Waterloo.
Some universities begin making offers of admission as early as February, but most institutions send out rolling offers until late May.
- The Canadian Press