Undergraduates’ life experiences now count in addition to academic achievements
UBC is expanding its undergraduate admissions policies to ensure that the best — as well as the brightest — students have every opportunity for a university education.
A broad-based admissions process will be in place for 2013-2014 at UBC’s Okanagan campus. Applicants will be considered on the basis of such things as their life experiences, out-of-the-classroom learning and personal goals in addition to academic performance.
Faculty members believe broad-based admissions will showcase a student’s characteristics and strengths, enhance classroom discussion and help differentiate talents aside from academic standings in order to make an informed decision about applicants.
“We feel a great deal of excitement about doing a better job selecting the best possible students for UBC by valuing things that all educators prize,” says Gordon Binsted, dean of the Faculty of Health and Social Development. The faculty comprises the Schools of Health and Exercise Sciences, Nursing, and Social Work.
“For our programs, the reflection of a student’s success goes beyond the grading process and lets us differentiate values. We can have a better look at competencies, leadership and other attributes of students who have a chance for success. For us, that’s a big differentiator.”
Essentially, students will be able to tell their own story. Applicants will answer four to six “personal profile” questions, in addition to providing secondary-school marks. The questions give applicants an opportunity to talk about their learning, life experiences and goals.
Jan Cioe, head of the psychology unit of the Irving K. Barber School of Arts and Sciences, says the current level of academic success among high school graduates makes it difficult to distinguish students based solely on grades.
“Probably one of the most important elements is the strong empirical evidence that the dimensions of broad-based admissions will help predict how students will succeed, despite not having top marks.”
Cioe suggests educators will see a difference in the classroom.
“These kinds of students will provide a richer environment for classroom discussions. They will be able to draw from their personal experience and that will have a definite value for the quality of discussions.”
Binsted cites an example where an 18 year old plays a major role in a single-parent family by taking care of siblings.
“As a result, their high-school marks may not be up to their capability, but their life experience gives them an added depth of character,” says Binsted. Measures such as family responsibilities, overcoming adversity, volunteer service, hobbies and community engagement are valuable ways to predict a student’s success, says Binsted.
Responses to personal profile questions will also be used as eligibility criteria for Major Entrance Scholarships, International Major Entrance Scholarships and the Outstanding International Student Award.
The broad-based application process – centred on grades and personal experiences – has been used across UBC’s Vancouver campus since last January for applicants of direct-entry undergraduate programs.
Some Vancouver faculties have employed broad-based admissions for several years. In 2011, fully 25 per cent of all first-year students at the Vancouver campus were already being admitted with the broad-based approach.
“These experiences show that by including personal profile questions, UBC is building a more diverse student body,” says Fred Vogt, UBC deputy registrar.
“By extending this to UBC’s Okanagan campus, we are providing a cohesive and system-wide policy that includes all entry-level undergraduate students.”
Wesley Pue, Provost of UBC’s Okanagan campus, says the broad-based admissions process provides a more complete picture of an applicant, their learning passions and potential.
“It is a ‘whole-person’ approach to admissions,” says Pue, which takes account of academic performance as well as other accomplishments and personal traits that have been shown to be strong predictors of success at university.
To help students understand this new step in the application process, the university has created a video featuring students and staff explaining how to complete the personal profile questions.
Typically, UBC receives more than 30,000 applications annually to undergraduate programs. Last year, UBC welcomed 2,049 new first-year students to its Okanagan campus and 5,913 to its campus in Vancouver. UBC is the largest Canadian university to include non-academic criteria on this scale for its application process. The application deadline for the 2013/14 academic year is January 31, 2013.
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