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UBC applicants need more than just grades

The University of British Columbia is expanding its use of broad-based admissions – an application process based both on grades and personal experiences – to all applicants of direct-entry undergraduate programs at the Vancouver campus this year, making UBC the largest Canadian university to include non-academic criteria in its application process on this scale.

The move requires applicants to answer four to six “personal profile” questions in addition to providing secondary school marks. The questions give applicants the opportunity to talk about their learning, experiences, and goals. The application deadline for the 2012/13 academic year is January 31, 2012.

“The inclusion of personal profile questions is an example of taking an existing good practise and extending it to a broader group of students,” said UBC Associate Vice President and Registrar James Ridge, noting that the process has already been used successfully in individual programs at UBC.

Broad-based admissions have been used by the Sauder School of Business since 2004 and other faculties have made partial use of the system in recent years. In 2011, 25 per cent of all new first-year UBC students on the Vancouver campus were admitted with broad-based admission.

“By allowing us to consider the full range of our applicants’ accomplishments, broad-based admissions has allowed Sauder to build a more diverse and engaged student body,” said Daniel Muzyka, Dean of the Sauder School of Business. “The feedback from the business community about the calibre of our graduates has been tremendous. Focused, bright and collaborative, the students have the dynamic qualities necessary to find success and take on leadership roles.”

Paul Harrison, Associate Dean for Students in the Faculty of Science, who has been involved in expanding the broad-based admission system, said, “a successful UBC science student needs a strong academic background and high school marks will continue to be important for admission decisions.”

“Success at university requires students to engage with their learning at a deep level and to learn from the challenges they encounter as they work toward attaining their goals. We’ll use the personal profile to gather a broader range of indicators to assess an applicant’s potential for success.”

To demystify the process and 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. The questions do not ask for a “laundry list” of activities in which the applicant has had the chance to engage. Instead, applicants are invited to reflect on the lessons they’ve learned from their life experiences.

“The application process ultimately challenged me to be reflective about the experiences and challenges I had faced that contributed to my individuality,” said Flora Wu, a third-year Faculty of Arts student who was admitted using a process similar to the personal profile. “It gave me greater perspective on what experiences I would want to pursue in university.”

“UBC wants to improve our ability to select students who will really engage in the life of the university because university is about so much more than getting a degree,” said Ridge.

UBC offers students the opportunity to take part in community service learning projects, international service learning projects, undergraduate research, co-op programs, study and research abroad programs and more. UBC typically receives more than 30,000 applications to undergraduate programs each year. Last year, UBC welcomed 5,913 new first-year students to its Vancouver campus.

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