Back-up school no more

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For years, Ryerson has struggled to gain respect, attract students and ditch the “Rye High” label. Now, as the university sends out acceptance letters, Samantha Sim investigates whether students are jumping for joy or if they’re just glad they got into their back-up school

After years of being treated like a joke, Ryerson finally had enough. It would not take any more name-calling. People would finally stop asking whether it was a university at all. It would become a downtown staple, a campus students would be proud to call their own.

President Sheldon Levy set out to change Ryerson’s image in 2006, when he introduced the Master Plan, a project meant to revitalize the campus and cement the university’s downtown presence. Ryerson would no longer be forgotten, tucked amidst retail storefronts and office buildings.

“Within five years, everyone will know where Ryerson University is,” Levy vowed to the crowd of 300 people gathered for the unveiling of the project.

Five years later, the campus is not the student paradise Levy described. But his vision has begun to materialize. For many, Ryerson is not a back-up school anymore. Some are even listing it as their first-choice school.

Last year, Ryerson ranked second in overal number of first-choice applications in the province, right after the University of Toronto.

According to Ontario Universities’ Application Centre statistics, Ryerson received 52,299 applications and nearly 28 per cent of them listed the university as a first-choice. U of T received 65,947 applications and was selected as a first choice in 35 per cent of them. York University received a total of 50,741 applications and 21 per cent listed it as a first choice.

The numbers kept by Ryerson’s office of admissions are even more striking. When internal applications by students switching programs or resuming their studies are included, the university received a total of 66,857 applications in 2010, said Charmaine Hack, associate registrar and director of undergraduate admissions and recruitment.

Keith Alnwick, Ryerson’s registrar, said the interest in the university is the highest it has been in the past decade. He said that the increase in applicants—especially those selecting Ryerson as their first-choice school—is largely due to its downtown location and its unique programs.

Ryerson has also become one of the top Ontario universities students end up choosing. Ryerson issued 25,453 offers and 32 per cent of those applicants registered in the 2010-2011 school year. In mid-August, there were still over 8,900 students on waiting lists for admission, according to the office of admissions and recruitment.

In Alnwick’s view, being a back-up school is a thing of the past for Ryerson.

“Get with the program. That view is a decade out of date.”


  1. Ryerson is the TOP school because we have the most awesome Profs, the best programs, the best diversity the best admim, the coolest University president ever, the best services, the most approachable staff and faculty and the best location. Ryerson RULES 🙂 .

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