After months of careful review and consideration, universities nationwide are sending out offers of admission. Whether or not a student is accepted into their academic program of choice will impact the next four years of their life—possibly even the path their life takes. Naturally, each spring UBC fields many questions about how applications are evaluated, and how the university determines who to admit.
In 2012, UBC introduced the Personal Profile to its admissions model, which considers a more holistic set of criteria based on a student’s life experience and how it’s shaped their perception of the world. This year, UBC is further expanding its admissions model. Whereas the admission decision has historically been focused on achieving the highest grades on a minimum number of required classes, UBC will now look at everything the student has done in Grades 11 and 12. The message is clear: all learning is important.
Andrew Arida, deputy registrar of enrolment services at UBC, says the university has shifted its admissions framework to support a more comprehensive, merit-based process.
“Academics is about more than getting the highest grades. It’s also about how you challenged yourself in high school, how you’ve approached the opportunities in your life, and what you learned from these experiences,” says Arida. “We think there’s value in understanding how you make decisions about your education.”
This enhanced approach also enables UBC to consider a broader set of differentiators as candidates increasingly look similar academically. Every year, Canadian secondary-school applicants demonstrate progressively higher grades. While this may look like the result of students doing better in high school, first-year performance at UBC has remained relatively constant.
“There’s a perception that UBC and other universities set a high standard of admissions, and anyone who doesn’t meet that standard is rejected outright,” says Arida. “In reality, it’s the applicants who set the standard. Admissions are fundamentally based on the demand of students and the supply of spots available. We evaluate all applicants, rank order their applications, and admit enough students to fill all of our seats; the last applicant admitted in the rank ordering essentially determines the competitive criteria required to gain admission.”
The number of students UBC can admit is set by pre-established enrolment targets. For example, the Bachelor of Science program on the Vancouver campus receives more applications than any other program at UBC. In 2018, the domestic target for new student intake for the BSC was 1,620. This target was determined based on funding from the Ministry of Advanced Education, Skills and Training. In the same year, the target for new international student intake for the BSC was 535. This target was determined by the amount of additional students UBC believed it could accommodate while still offering all students the highest possible quality of education.
This means while domestic and international applicants have comparable competitive admission requirements, international students compete for spots against other international students, while domestic students square up against other Canadians. The admissions office assesses each group of applicants and offers of admission are made to independently achieve each target.
“UBC is committed to enroling the targeted number of domestic students each year,” says Arida. “In fact, we often take in more than we are funded for. Our goal is to maximize access for all our applicants, while ensuring domestic and international students do not displace one another.”
UBC considers as much information about applicants as possible, looking for signs that they will thrive in the rich and rigorous academic environment on our campuses.
“Once a student has met the basic admissions requirements, we dig into their applications to determine who they are, and this is where the personal profile and essay questions provide the most valuable insights,” says Arida. “UBC’s undergraduate admissions process is one of the most comprehensive in Canada. We want to set our students up for success, and we believe our approach ensures we do just that.”