Spring is the season for renewal and regrowth. In the field of university admissions, it is also a time to prepare for a new group of students and to reflect on topical issues and trends of the day. Each year Ontario’s universities host Regional Dialogues to update counselors on new programs and changes to admissions practices, and to receive feedback on their outreach activities. We attended presentations at York University’s Glendon and Keele campuses.
ACADEMIC PROGRAM AND ADMISSION TRENDS
The following are three trends we observed:
- Increased emphasis on supplementary applications – There was a time when all required for admission to Ontario universities were good grades, even for selective programs like Engineering and Commerce. Gone are those days. When I first started in admissions, personal statements for first-entry programs were only required by one or two highly selective universities. These received interest from so many qualified applicants they needed a way to differentiate between them. We now observe and increased number of Ontario universities requiring supplementary applications as well as interviews for admission to limited enrollment programs.
- Focus on work integrated learning – The modern economy has changed universities from Ivory Towers to agents meant to play a role improving students’ employment prospects. Ontario’s universities offer an increasing number of work-integrated learning programs (e.g. co-op, clinical placements, internships, etc.) across a range of disciplines, from health sciences, to fine arts to social sciences. As students increasingly look to post-secondary education to help prepare them for employment and to provide advantages in the labour market, the structured integration of theory and practice should help them better determine career fit, refine learning goals, and develop specific competencies related to career objectives.
- Budding emphasis on grade 11 marks – It used to be that academic late bloomers applying for admission could rest easy knowing they would be evaluated based on senior year marks. While this is still the case, we now see more Ontario universities making offers of admission based on grade 11 marks. Some universities are making offers of admission as early as November. We should, however, note that for the time being this process appears to be largely limited to open enrolment programs – those with more space. Universities seem to be taking a more conservative approach in making “early offers” to their more competitive programs. Still it serves as a reminder that students should not downplay the importance of earlier years.
EXPECT TRENDS TO CONTINUE IN ONTARIO
We see these trends continuing in the foreseeable future. Raised expectations by students – and governments – that universities become more responsive to Ontario’s labour market lead us to believe the range of work integrated programs will continue to expand. As the number of applicants increases, expect universities to continue to use interviews and personal statements to identify students who best fit limited enrollment programs. Moreover, in the competition for students, grade 11 marks may increasingly be used as indicators of future academic success.
SET GOALS. GET TO WORK.
In this context, it is important for students to begin as early as possible to research available opportunities as well as admissions requirements. The sooner you know your goal, the sooner you can begin preparing. This is especially important for students interested in limited enrolment programs and in “honours-like” programs that are now so in vogue.