How Do University Admissions Work?

There are several different admissions processes that universities around Canada use to evaluate your profile. These vary across Canada, by province, and even by schools. However, the processes can be sorted into several categories:

What is Grade Based Admission?

There are still many top schools that only assess your grades to determine your admission including certain programs at Simon Fraser University and The University of Alberta. Many schools and programs have a minimum grade requirement in order to apply. The process of admissions is relatively simple when they only base your entrance on grades as you are only required to submit your transcript.

All universities will weigh your grades to some degree, and it is usually focused on your Grade 12 grades, so keep your academic average up in Grade 12!

What is Broad-Based Admission?

Broad-based admission is the fancy way of saying you will have to write an essay or personal statement. This is a more holistic approach that can be used to determine an applicant’s fit for a school. Broad-based admissions are used at institutions like The University of British Columbia and The University of Toronto.

Broad-based admissions can include a set of essay questions that a student must answer, which allows the admissions team to gauge the applicant’s life skills from problem-solving to leadership. Some schools weigh the essays equally to grades, while others give the essay writing a lesser weight than grades.

PURPOSE: The purpose of broad-based admissions is to focus on the student’s character as a whole, rather than only considering the student’s grade point average. Universities have focused their attention on well-rounded students instead of students with good grades.

Do Universities Applications Have Interviews?

The most recent Canadian admissions requirement is online interviews. Many commerce faculties have implemented this across Canada, and it is expected that interview admissions will continue to rise. The interview usually occurs in combination with the broad-based admissions applications and grade point average.

PURPOSE: Universities and colleges are finding it increasingly important to identify critical skills such as collaboration, in-class discussion, and public speaking since these skills can’t always be identified by one’s grades or essay. Video interviews aim to assess a student’s ability to communicate clearly by verbally articulating one’s thoughts and ideas.

Which University Should I Go To?

When choosing between schools ask yourself questions and really understand what you want to create from your post-secondary experience. Ask yourself:

  • Is the university in a city that you would enjoy living in?
  • Is there a program or major that fits your interests?
  • Will the school provide you with job opportunities such as a co-op program?
  • Are there clubs that you are interested in joining?
  • Is the school within your budget and can you create a financial plan to afford it?
  • Are they offering you scholarships or awards if you choose to attend there?
  • How well does the school rank academically? Or your specific program?
  • Does the school have any interesting electives you’d like outside of your major?
  • What have the alumni of the school/program gone on to do?
  • How far is the school from home? How close do you want to be to your hometown?

When Is The Deadline For University Applications?

The university application timelines are different depending on the university you are aiming for. However, as a general rule of thumb, for students transferring directly from high school into university for the next academic year, university applications will tend to open up in Mid-Late October and be due by late December.

How Do I Write A Strong Essay?

In order to stand out on an application, you want to find your unique offering. Why is it important? Your unique offering can make or break your ability to get into a top post-secondary school in Canada. With the current focus being on broad-based admissions, universities want to know what value you are going to bring to them beyond great grades.

The reality is every student is a “good” candidate these days. At GrantMe, we help you identify your unique offering to differentiate you from the competition and turn your applications from “good” to “great”.

Once you are clear on your unique offering, then comes your skill of articulating this. Effective essay writing uses the following principles

  1. Using the STAR (Situation, Task, Analysis, Result) method can be helpful for ensuring your essay remains concise and to the point.
  2. Try and REFLECT carefully on what extracurricular activities you have been involved in and narrow down to the most impactful activities. This prevents you from listing everything you have ever done without providing an in-depth discussion of your contributions and impact.
  3. Be SPECIFIC when writing your responses. Using details such as numbers or names can help the reader get a clearer picture of your contribution.
  4. Be YOURSELF and focus on what is important to you. Don’t provide the answers you think the school might want to hear.
  5. Don’t be afraid to discuss FAILURE. Universities care less about the challenges you have faced and more about how you were able to react and overcome them. The admissions team is looking for resilience and persistence.
  6. Show the IMPACT you are going to have at the school and how it aligns with their mission/values.

What To Write About On Your Application

The common essay topics and associated key terms that admissions look for are

  • Community Service: leadership, teamwork, problem-solving, community
  • Getting a Job: responsibility, independence, self- confidence, future career
  • Sports: teamwork, dedication, resilience, commitment, leadership
  • Overcoming Adversity: inspiration, determination, new perspective, sense of self
  • Travel: new perspectives, courage, diversity, common bonds
  • School Project: problem-solving, shared responsibility, collective goals
  • Transferring to a New School: self-reliance, personal growth, intellectual challenge
  • Projects/Inventions: Creative, self-motivated, active-learning, problem-solving

The CRITICAL piece: Do your research to determine the values of that school and the qualities that they value in their students. For example, many schools look for leadership, an ability to problem-solve and a strong sense of self and community. These are qualities you want to display in your essays.

If one of the options is “a topic of your choice,” feel free to write about something that didn’t necessarily fit in with the other essay prompts. This is a good opportunity to include something unique that may not fit under another category!

When actually writing an application, the key points to get across are:

Why You Want A Specific Major

  • Describe how your experiences both in school and out, will help in pursuing your major.
  • Discuss related activities/hobbies to show you had an interest in the major in high school.
  • Suggest a field you might want to study upon graduation–they will not hold you to this.

Why You Want To Go To That Specific School

  • Do not write a generic essay that would apply to all schools.
  • Explain how the students, professors, or programs at that school are unique.
  • Identify professors you would like to work with and explain why.
  • Explain what type of clubs and organizations you plan to join and why you are interested.

A Current Issue You’d Like to Address in Your Future Career

  • The essay should be about you and why you believe a particular issue may be important to solve in life.
  • Consider an issue that ties into an activity or interest mentioned in your application. For example, if you have attended engineering camps, consider an issue with an engineering solution that you may be interested in researching or studying in the future.

Applying To Scholarships At University

For strong applicants, a university is often willing to provide scholarships to the student as an incentive. University scholarships can also be broken up into two categories

  1. Grades Based Awards – For students above a certain GPA or average %, universities sometimes offer scholarships to these students. Often the amount varies depending on how high your marks actually are. For example, Western University in Ontario offers a $2500 scholarship to accepted applicants with a 90%+ average 
  2. Merit-Based Entrance Awards – These are offered to students based on their achievement in areas like community involvement, athletics, and fine arts. These scholarships take into account both volunteer work and grades. Sometimes these awards are given to students automatically upon acceptance to a university. Other times, you need to submit an essay or additional application.

By searching up the “[name of your university] scholarships”, the first couple links will be from the university website. They will explain which of the above systems they use, or more commonly how they use both. If you need support with how to write a strong scholarship essay, check out this article.

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