By Liam Dynes
Originally published on Jan. 21, 2003 in The Brock Press
The elimination of the OAC year of high schools in Ontario has resulted in massive increases in university applications for September.
With the double cohort year looming, universities have been preparing for a large influx of first-year students. The Jan. 15 deadline to apply to Ontario universities has allowed Brock University its first chance to see how its enrolment will be affected this coming fall.
“As of this morning [Friday, Jan. 17], we have 26,271 applications,” said Barb Anderson from Brock’s registrar’s office, “which is a 126 per cent increase from last year at this time, when we had 11,621. Of those numbers, 5,028 applications place Brock as a first choice, which is up 76 per cent from the same time last year.”
Second choice applications are also up by 77 per cent, third choices are up 70 per cent and choices beyond the top three amount to 11,816, up more than 350 per cent from the 3,328 received last year. But with all of these increased numbers, Anderson feels it is important to realize that the actual number of students applying is not quite as high.
“We treat all applications equally, no matter where in the ranking they are found,” said Anderson. “But even with those numbers, the actual number of applicants is probably around 17,000 when double applications are taken into account.”
Brock’s administration is confident that, even with large prospective numbers, the university will be able to handle itself. “It’s a bit of a mouthful,” said Brock President David Atkinson. “One of the problems right now is that we’re not sure what that actually means, as the 26,000 number is a gross number, referring to all choices, but we do know that these applications tend to pool in high demand programs, such as child and youth studies or sports management.”
Atkinson also says that the school has yet to set a firm plan on how to deal with these applications, as the numbers tend to fluctuate over the next couple weeks, and once the field of applicants solidifies, Brock can start to look at filling its expected 3,725 first year spots for the fall.
“Given that we have a set number right now of 3,725 that we will accept, we’re reasonably confident we’ll be able to manage,” said Atkinson. “One concern we all do have right now is about the total number of spaces available in all Ontario universities, and that the Ontario government won’t ask schools to keep taking in more students that we just can’t handle.”
As far as Brock’s internal handlings of the cohort, the school’s primary concern, according to Atkinson, is maintaining the quality of its programs no matter what kind of influx it receives. But Atkinson believes that the double cohort will only be the start of a whole new problem area of increased university admission.
“The double cohort is only part of the problem,” said Atkinson. “The demand for higher education is [rising], with only a small drop-off in 2005 or 2006 when the cohort students graduate. But for now, until we know what the expectations are for the system, things are up in the air. Some students may not get their first choice, either in program or institution, but it’s a hope not to have to turn anyone away.”
Despite universities’ preparations, high school students are still wary. When asked about student concerns at his school, a St. Catharines secondary school guidance counsellor, who asked to remain unnamed, cited the pressure of competition as well as the worries of parents in a student’s planning for university.
“Everybody’s worried about getting in,” the counsellor said. “And most students are hedging their bets by applying to six or seven different schools and programs, where in the past most students just applied to the three free slots provided by the application forms. Out of our 366 total graduating grade 12 and OAC students, 77 or 78 have applied to university, and a lot of those will be backing it up with a college application. Number-wise I’m actually more curious to see how many of the remaining students apply to college rather than university, since the college deadline isn’t until Feb. 1.
“And as for the ages, with more 17 year olds entering university out of grade 12, I don’t know how the students are reacting. They don’t seem to be as concerned as the parents are. Parents don’t seem to want their kids going at an earlier age.”
Atkinson addresses these concerns citing the fact that Ontario has actually been in the minority until this year in their high school exit policies.
“Ontario is actually behind the times,” said Atkinson. “Most other provinces admit students to university at 17, and the behaviour at 17 out of grade 12 is really no different than 18 out of OAC. As far as residence space goes, we’re taking steps to have live-in advisers in our residences to help with adjustment, as it’s not the best idea to pour so many 17 year olds in together.”
But now Brock must wait and see how the applicant pool levels out in the next couple of weeks before deciding on a course of action that will determine its enrolment for the coming fall.