By Scott Roberts
With competition for university spots at an all-time high this year, more high school students are making Ryerson their first choice.
Ryerson will see a 38 per cent increase in first choice applications this year, says Keith Alnwick, Ryerson’s registrar.
With 7,066 students picking Ryerson as their top choice, the university ranks fifth overall in the province, beating out several larger schools.
“This shows that Ontario is quite aware of Ryerson,” Alnwick says.
Overall Ryerson will have about 35,000 applicants next year, including 14,600 students who paid $25 to select Ryerson as an extra choice beyond the three choices they are given.
“The number of students making extra selection gives you a sense of the competition this year,” says Alnwick.
Alnwick says students applied on average to five programs this year, up from around four in recent years.
According to the Ontario Universities’ Application Centre Director of Operations Ron Scriver, provincial university applications have increased by close to 50 per cent compared to just a year ago. As of this week 101,668 students have applied to university programs in the province. Scriver expects that number to rise to around 105,000 when all the numbers are tallied.
The double cohort was created when the Ontario government decided to scrap the fifth year of high school known as the Ontario Academic Credits. This year both Grade 12 and OAC students will graduate at the same time, creating a surge of applications to Ontario’s 19 universities.
One way Ryerson is bracing for the increased demand is by the creation of two new programs. The Bachelor of Arts in Arts and Contemporary studies focuses on broad-based arts education with applied orientation, and will take in 160 first-year students in September. The Bachelor of Arts in Gerontology focuses on studying Canada’s aging population.
Where the double cohort may take its worst toll is on two of Ryerson’s most competitive programs. Last year more than 1,900 students applied to Ryerson’s four-year journalism program and only 120 were accepted. Radio and television arts tells a similar tale. About 1,300 applied last year for just over 100 spots.
Vince Carlin, chair of Ryerson’s School of Journalism, expects applications to rise significantly again this year.
“This year we’re anticipating well over 2,000 applicants to our four-year program,” said Carlin. “But under the current circumstances we won’t be able to accept any more than 120.”
According to Carlin, the School of Journalism submitted a plan to Ryerson three years ago, to expand the program to accommodate 30 additional students. But no agreement has been reached.
Laura Merrit, an OAC student at Chatham-Kent Secondary School in Chatham, Ont., has been feeling the pinch all semester. Merit, who has applied to Ryerson for business, said the double cohort has added a lot of extra pressure on her and her friends.
“It’s a lot more important to get high grades this year as opposed to other years,” she said. “Some of my friends have applied to like 10 or 15 programs hoping to get in somewhere.”
Last week the Toronto Star reported that one student applied to a record 50 different university programs in hopes of being accepted. The student applied at a cost of $80 for the first three choices and $25 apiece for the rest. The process cost the student $1,265.
But it isn’t just Ontario students who are feeling anxious about the upcoming year. Out of province students planning to attend Ontario universities are also nervous.
Ashley Johnson, a 17-year old high school student from Calgary, applied to a host of Ontario universities including Ryerson for journalism. Johnson said most of her friends have applied to at least one university in Ontario. She said she’s extremely worried about getting in.
“When I came to the university fair and toured Ryerson it was really unnerving to see how much competition there really is,” she said.
The double cohort will likely result in an increased demand for spots in one of two Ryerson residences. Liza Nassim, Ryerson’s housing manager, said on-campus housing can only accommodate 840 students per year. She said the office generally has to turn down between 200 and 250 housing applications annually.
“(The competition to get into residence) will depend on how many more students the university takes on next year,” said Nassim. “Until we know that I really can’t say.”
The OUAC is expected to release exact application numbers of each Ontario University today.