Recent media coverage has focused on how universities are retooling their admissions procedures, including assessing applicants through standardized tests, personal references, and complex interview processes to measure students’ critical thinking abilities. In an attempt to ascertain the overall suitability of a student for success in a program and future career, many universities have started to rate applicants more holistically, and not based solely on academic ability.
Twenty-five years ago, a brief essay and short interview could secure medical school admission. Today, a high GPA, an outstanding MCAT score, personal references, a rigorous interview and a résumé with diverse work and volunteer experiences doesn’t always guarantee admission with more holistic admissions criteria. Admission to other professional programs, such as dentistry, law and business are equally as competitive.
While grades remain an important metric, they are only one piece of the admissions puzzle in working towards a chosen career path. Planning should begin as early as junior high. Students, as well as parents, should consider creating a plan for the student’s future university studies.
Overall, universities are evaluating a student’s longitudinal development. For example, if you volunteer in an organization in Grade 10, what is your longevity with that organization? Do you continue to volunteer over time and gradually take on roles with more responsibility? Do you grow and develop leadership skills? What is your progression? Being able to demonstrate commitment and growth in areas outside of academics are becoming increasingly important from a university admissions perspective.
University is a long-term investment. Bachelor degrees are still relevant and develop valuable critical thinking skills, providing the launching point for professional development. Many university programs have moved to problem and case-based learning, providing a broad cross section of transferable skills, with learning models that sometimes include internships and co-op placements to provide students with early exposure to future work environments. These placements also provide the opportunity to demonstrate personal value and expertise to potential employers, which can result in an offer of employment following the completion of a degree.
How can students improve their application profile? Focus on talent, aptitude, areas of interest and passion. Volunteer and develop skills with respect to communication, time management and leadership. Pay attention to academics while taking advantage of the opportunity to develop critical thinking skills. These steps will help prepare a student to apply successfully for university admission, but most importantly, will develop them as a person. Learn More about Academic Planning