Programs axe non-academic admission requirements

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By Alexandra Holyk 

Ryerson’s Faculty of Communication and Design (FCAD), in cooperation with the journalism and RTA sport media programs, will be eliminating non-academic requirements from the two programs’ applications for the fall 2020 admissions.

In previous years, programs like journalism and RTA sport media called for non-academic requirements—mainly portfolios with sample work pieces in order to showcase an applicant’s skills and abilities. 

Janice Neil, chair of the Ryerson School of Journalism, said the purpose of the grades-only pilot is to open the application process to a wider selection of students, send out acceptances earlier in the year and ease applicants’ stress.

Based on previous admission statistics, many students who submitted portfolios had high enough grades to be accepted if the application was grades-only, said the Ryerson’s Undergraduate Admissions Office in an email. 

In recent years, both programs required additional components in students’ applications to support their academic transcripts. While maintaining a grade average between 77 and 80 per cent, students applying to journalism also needed to write an essay based on a given topic, provide a list of relevant journalistic experiences and prepare a portfolio showcasing their work.

Second-year sport media student Nicholas Robinson, said that he was required to write an essay response to two questions given beforehand and attend an in-person interview, where he answered a series of questions based on a given topic and why he chose to apply to the program.

For Robinson, he thinks the elimination of extra non-academic requirements is a bad idea. “It lets the faculty know who’s going to be serious about this. You need to weed out the people who are here for a degree versus people who are serious about being media professionals.”

There was also a $50 fee associated with non-academic requirements.

Several students said they feel that the elimination of these requirements is unfair and that they played a big role in the students’ acceptance.

“I did feel that my grades were enough to get into the program, but I felt that the portfolio did strengthen my application,” said Mahalia Gilmore, a student from McMaster University who has applied to Ryerson’s journalism program.

“I found in making my portfolio I was able to express why I could be valuable to the program.”

Emma Kunzelmann, a second-year journalism student, also said she found the grades-plus aspect beneficial when she applied. 

“Without the non-academic requirements, I’m not sure if I would have gotten in,” Kunzelmann said.

However, other students said that the non-academic requirements discouraged them from applying. Vivian Ibbott, a first-year journalism student from Carleton University, said that one of the reasons why she did not apply to Ryerson was because she felt intimidated about creating a portfolio.

 “I didn’t want the fact that I didn’t have enough experience to be the deciding factor in whether or not I suit the program,” she said.

Susan Harada, head of the journalism program at Carleton University, said the program never found non-academic requirements to be necessary when students apply.

“We’ve always felt that asking people to provide some kind of portfolio might hamper some students who don’t live in a place that has a school newspaper or community newspaper [from] which they can…get any experience,” Harada said. 

“We also find that not everyone knows they want to become a journalist and go into journalism until they’re in Grade 12, by which point they wouldn’t have any kind of portfolio.”

Despite the program admissions being grades-only, Neil said that applicants will have the opportunity to submit a “special considerations” document which will include their work examples and letters of recommendation.

“We’ll also look at who hasn’t made the cut based on grades-only and see if we are missing people—the kind of people who should be in the program,” Neil added.

There will be a review of the grades-only pilot to determine whether or not it will continue after the fall 2020 admission cycle. 

With files from Samreen Maqsood and Valerie Dittrich

Correction: A previous version of this story wrongly identified Gilmore as a current student at Ryerson. The Eyeopener regrets this error.


  1. Seems like faculty just doesn’t want to go through the interviews of students anymore, costs too much to have CUPE do it so it’s easier to try ‘grades only’ as a pilot to make less work for faculty and save money. Lazy and cheap, nothing more to it.

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