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Universities raise early-admittance marks
Ontario student can blame double cohort for increased competition

By Caroline Alphonso
Education Reporter

Updated at 11:37 AM EDT     Thursday, May. 15, 2003

Ontario universities have raised the bar for students hoping for an early-admittance offer, with a number of schools accepting only those with 80-per-cent averages or higher

As offers trickle in for high-school students graduating in the province's so-called double-cohort class, the entrance marks for early admittance have climbed by three to what could be as high as 10 percentage points for most arts and science programs. This is a result of more Ontario students vying for spots on campuses than ever before.

The provincial government's move to discontinue Grade 13 has resulted in twice the number of students graduating this year -- the double cohort.

"It's more competitive," said David Farrar, vice-provost at the University of Toronto. "We have increased the number of students we're admitting, and there's still a huge pool out there."

The Ontario government has confirmed that universities and colleges will have enough spaces for the huge pool of students who have applied for spots, and that likely will prevent entry marks for many programs from ballooning.

Despite this increase in spaces, receiving an early offer from a university is as tough as ever.

The University of Guelph sent early offers to students with averages of 85 per cent and higher -- a 10-percentage-point increase for the arts program over last year's averages and five percentage points for the science program. Last year, Guelph sent offers out all at once. This time around, the university is doing it in two stages.

But universities stress that when all student marks are recorded, admission averages may drop. Brian Pettigrew, registrar at Guelph, expects the cutoff mark to drop a bit in less-competitive programs after the university receives marks for semestered schools today.

At other universities, the picture is similar. Queen's University has raised the entry marks for early offers by about three percentage points -- to 87 per cent for arts and 90 per cent for science. At the University of Western Ontario and University of Toronto, early-offer cutoffs are around the mid to high 80s, up two to five percentage points.

Some students, such as Stephanie Gomes and her twin brother, Jeffrey, have received several offers. The 19-year-olds must decide which to accept.

"I was really relieved," said Ms. Gomes, who has an 85-per-cent average and applied for arts and sociology programs. "There's been so many people applying, so I thought I should apply to many schools. I was scared of not getting in."

Her brother, who has an average of 95 per cent, applied to science and math programs at five universities. He received offers from all, except from the University of Waterloo.

Students who have received early offers have high marks, and the offers are based on the students keeping up those grades. Universities will make their remaining offers after they receive the second-semester midterm marks today from schools.

"If you haven't received an offer yet, it doesn't mean you're not going to receive one," said Jo-Anne Brady, registrar at Queen's. "It's not that the best students have offers now. Some of the very best students are still waiting."

The university has sent about half its offers, while the University of Toronto has mailed roughly 60 per cent. Mr. Farrar said 10 per cent of the early offers that went out in mid-April were to students who had marks in the 90s. He expects the remaining offers to be mailed in the next couple of weeks. All students have until mid-June to respond.

"It's challenging," said Lori Gribbon, manager of undergraduate admissions and recruitment at the University of Western Ontario. "You want to make sure that the students you offer are going to maintain their averages. And you want to ensure you're saving enough spots that you're able to offer a second round, as well."

Rodney Webb, associate vice-president, academic, at York University, does not expect cutoff marks to move much higher at the university this year. But he acknowledged that some programs, such as engineering and science, are more competitive than others.

"We're certainly not going to accept students that are any less qualified than last year," Mr. Webb said.