By Vanessa Farquharson
As Ryerson sifts through thousands of extra student applications this year, it faces a “crushing” workload, says the head of the admissions department.
Applications to Ryerson are up 71 per cent this year, and associate registrar Gene Logel told the Board of Governors on Monday that the school has been struggling to evaluate all the student applications.
The workload is especially heavy because more than half of Ryerson’s undergraduate programs require non-academic criteria for admission — including portfolios, essays and interviews.
The school has already sent out more than 6,000 acceptances, with the rest to follow by next month. With that deadline looming it’s not easy for departments to find more time for professors and adjudicators to pore over this extra material and conduct in-depth interviews and auditions.
This has resulted in department faculties either clocking extra hours or taking some shortcuts.
Ryerson’s fashion department expected to receive about 800 applications this year — 200 more than usual. In the past, prospective students were asked to attend an interview after submitting garment pieces, sketchbooks or portfolios along with resumes and references. This year, the department decided to forego the interview process and reduce the required number of garments.
The administration says the new process is fair and that every applicant will be treated equally.
But some students already enrolled in the fashion program, who have until now endured a more extensive evaluation, feel the revised version has cut important corners.
“The interview process was stressful, but great experience,” said Meghan Telpner, a fourth-year fashion communications student. “I felt, in the end, that I was chosen both because of the work I presented and how I presented myself. It also gave me the chance to meet the instructors and get a real view of what the program would be like. It’s unfortunate the new students won’t get that.”
But not all departments have made this cut. Radio and television arts will continue the interview process as part of admission to its program, despite the extra students applying and the extra time professors may have to commit.
“The RTA faculty has agreed we still want a rigorous application process because it’s the fairest way for students to demonstrate their capacities,” said RTA professor Clive Vanderburgh.
Nine full-time RTA faculty members will interview as many prospective students as possible over an intensive week-long period. Vanderburgh said the RTA staff are scheduling carefully and working with the admissions department to ensure this process doesn’t overwhelm the faculty.
When asked why — with all the other criteria involved — interviewing was necessary in the application process, Vanderburgh stressed the need for universities to take responsibility.
“Universities aren’t businesses; they’re more like a public trust,” he said, “and the school and faculty have a responsibility to make sure this is maintained.
“When you ensure you have the finest students the school benefits, the industry benefits and the community at large benefits. Our process is fair to the students and fair to the public.”
Ryerson’s architecture department hasn’t changed the requirements for non-academic criteria either, but has had to schedule more time and more faculty to evaluate students’ work.
“We’ve got more faculty volunteering their time this year, and we’re making them come in early on Saturday mornings in order to get through all the material in time,” said George Kapelos, chair of architecture.
“We have to put more resources into the process in order to comply with the university’s guidelines,” he said, but the methods of evaluation themselves haven’t changed. “And the standards for getting in are all relative,” Kapelos added.
The architecture department will spend an intensive two weeks holding information sessions and poring over portfolios.
Ryerson’s admissions department have been meeting privately to discuss how the administration has been dealing with the excess workload. It has been reported that Ryerson’s toughest problem is organizing an evaluation format to determine the quality of an application.
The school is still negotiating how many offers it will send out.
Most departments have been told how many students are applying to their programs this year and are currently structuring their evaluation procedures with the help of the admissions department.