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University & College Applications & Scholarships

Attention UMCA Community

This message contains a lot of important information. Please read the entire message. We thank you for your attention.

An informative, complementary seminar and tutorial about all aspects of choosing a University and/or College and preparing Applications and Scholarships will be held on Friday October 20th from 4 p.m. – 6 p.m.

Following this seminar complementary sessions are available for UMCA students by appointment only.

The Time is Now!  

            For Grade 12 students the time is now to choose a university and program as well as begin thinking about and preparing University Application Packages and Scholarships.


Parents of Grade 11 students should also begin preparing now. Waiting until next year is a mistake. Resumes can only be improved from now until next January.


You need to be aware of the following changes in application prerequisites and how applications are judged.  

Admissions officers (those in charge of accepting students into programs) take into account much more than just marks in making their admission decisions.

The truth is that University acceptance has become much more difficult and demanding over the last 5 years. 

Good grades do not guarantee admission in many programs, and neither do extensive extracurricular activities.

In addition to good grades -- many Universities are demanding much more from applicants. What they ask for can account for a large percentage of a students application score. This is not an exaggeration and some Universities say this explicitly on their websites. Often, these “extras” make the difference of being accepted at a University or not.

Universities actually look for the full package.

  1. Universities want to see that students have blossoming enthusiasm for obtaining an education. It is strength for students to know what they want and show an active interest in working toward it.
  2. Even though grades do not paint a full picture of an individual, they are still important. Good grades serve as evidence of hard work and determination.
  1. Admissions officers want to know that students are capable of writing coherently. Personal statements and essays can reveal a lot about a student’s personality and ability to reason.
  1. Many admissions counselors seek face-to-face interviews to have a better glimpse into a student’s mind. These interviews are also used to ensure the honesty and accuracy of written statements and applications. Some Universities are also asking for video submissions to find out more about a students ability to communicate creatively. Many Canadian Universities (and American) have discovered that high marks alone are not good indicators of academic or life success. Creativity, writing ability, presentation skills and emotional and cultural intelligence are the most important factors. This is a massive change from the past.
  1. Colleges want to see that students have a history and future in pursuing well-rounded coursework. Taking a variety of difficult classes may show that a willingness to accept challenges and adapt to new situations.
  1. Universities also want to know that students are willing to participate in extracurricular activities, including sports and academic groups. This also demonstrates that the student is willing to follow through and become an active member of the campus.
  1. Not only do admissions advisors want to know that incoming students offer unique personalities, but they also want to see that students are bringing in their own sets of experiences. A student who can bring in a new perspective is often valuable in a university setting.
  1. Having a teacher or advisor write a glowing letter of recommendation is a great way to demonstrate a student’s ability to build professional relationships.
  1. Any written essay should show the student’s growth over time. Use any possible method to express maturity. 


(Taken from an article By Dixie Somers on How to Learn)   


The process involves a large time commitment which includes:


 ►Committing to extra volunteer hours (this should be done prior to grade 12 year if possible)

►Researching which University has the best program for your field of study and future plans

►Writing several essays and detailed short answer questions for each application

►Updating (or writing) a resume

►Completing Ontario Universities’ Application Centre (OUAC) forms

►Collecting reference letters ASAP 

            Throughout the process students can expect to spend up to 20 hours researching, thinking, writing, rewriting and tailoring just one essay to impress those on the admittance committees of the institutions they hope to attend. What this means is that if your teenager wants to apply to 5 different Universities that this work can easily total 100 hours. Business Programs in particular demand up to 7 essays per program.

***Students who have received scholarships and entrance into top University programs (including Ivy League Universities) credit their entrance essays as the most important factor in their being granted admittance.

            Another important piece of information to consider is there are too many students across Canada applying to Universities with averages in the upper 80’s and 90’s. The problem is that these students cannot all be allowed to enter into the best University Programs, as space is limited. In the minds of University administrators these high marks can partially be explained by a well recognized 20% variation in how students are marked within different schools and by different teachers. Additionally, they are also well aware of the pressure exerted by students and parents to award higher marks to students in Grade 12 in order to assist them in gaining entrance into top Universities. A final factor contributing to the distrust of high school marks is the increasing number of private schools which “sell” credits.  

            To eliminate students from their acceptance lists, more and more Universities and University Programs (including Business, Math, Science, Architecture and Engineering departments) are requesting increasingly demanding entrance packages. These packages often include essays, a resume and critical reflections of past volunteer work and job experience. Ultimately, what this means is that when it comes to choosing between two students with high marks, the one whose essays and application package is superior will be chosen. Thus, when students’ marks are high to begin with, thoughtful, well-conceived essays, and application packages coupled by fantastic references can substantially increase the chances of a student being admitted.

Keep in mind - Those who have high marks, but an inferior entrance package can and do rank lower than students with an outstanding application package and lower marks.

            Other Important factors to remember

  • Many of the skills required for University entrance essays are unique
  • University entrance criteria include questions which combine, narrative, analytic,
    expository and descriptive elements in addition to a high level of personal insight.
  • You need to provide insight into your character, past learning, future plans and goals while substantiating your research skills within your application.
  • Before beginning your writing, be sure that you are choosing the university with the most appropriate program for your marks, skills and experience.
  • Make sure that you understand precisely what each University offers, and what they expect from you in regards to your application package
  • Be prepared to spend many hours researching before you begin to write.

University Application Essay Writing

► Explanation of different types of application essays
► expectations and successful examples
► structuring your application essay
► describing yourself, your learning history and future plans in writing

Constructing a Resume

► Organization of experience, using proper descriptors, layout

Describing your volunteer and work experience

► matching job and volunteer experience to the criteria of the programs to which you apply Researching what you need to know to write a large variety of application essays
► navigating university websites, comparing program offerings, understanding the type of essay you are being asked to write

Choosing the best University program(s) for your future
* Important Note – While universities may offer a Business degree – what the degree focuses on and teaches is significantly different for each University.
► matching your skills and interests with university programs

How important is the admission essay?

If applicants appear equal in terms of their marks and experience, a well-written essay will be the difference between being admitted or not admitted. Also, if there are scholarships involved, essays become even more important.

A great essay can also help students gain entry into a University if their marks are not as high as other applicants to the University and/or who do not have a lot of extra curricular experience.  

Example from Queen’s University


We want to hear your individual voice in your writing. Write essays that reflect who you are; use specific concrete details and write in a natural style. Begin work on these essays early, and feel free to ask your parents, teachers and friends to provide constructive feedback. Ask if the essay's tone sounds like your voice. If those closest to you do not believe your essay captures who you are, we will not be able to recognize what is distinctive about you. While asking for feedback is suggested, do not enlist hired assistance in the writing of your essays.

The Common Application Essay

Candidates choose one topic and respond. (500 words maximum.)

  1. Evaluate a significant experience, achievement, risk you have taken, or ethical dilemma you have faced and its impact on you.
  2. Discuss some issue of personal, local, national, or international concern and its importance to you.
  3. Indicate a person who has had a significant influence on you, and describe that influence.
  4. Describe a character in fiction, a historical figure, or a creative work (as in art, music, science, etc.) that has had an influence on you, and explain that influence.
  5. A range of academic interests, personal perspectives, and life experiences adds much to the educational mix. Given your personal background, describe an experience that illustrates what you would bring to the diversity in a college community or an encounter that demonstrated the importance of diversity to you.
  6. Topic of your choice.

You're a leader in your school or community. You might be an athlete, an actor, or hold a part-time job, and you're definitely a strong student.

If you just read that and thought, "Hey! That's me!" you might also be a Queen's student. At Queen's we want to know all the things about you that make you unique. That's why, as part of the application process, we want you to submit a Personal Statement of Experience (PSE) and an additional Supplementary Essay so that you can tell us what your marks don't.

We're looking for:

  • Strong leadership skills
  • Commitment
  • Time management skills
  • How your experiences will contribute to the Queen's community

Undergraduate admission at Queen's is very competitive and we use the PSE and Supplementary Essay along with your academic record, to make admission decisions . The PSE is a mandatory document for every undergraduate program. That means you HAVE to fill it out and submit it.  The Supplementary Essay† is required for some programs (see below for details) and must be submitted at the same time you submit your PSE. Both of these must be submitted using our online student self-service system. We will send you the link after you apply.

The PSE and Supplementary Essay will be evaluated based on:

  • Style-spelling, grammar and syntax count
  • Content-your individual experiences and accomplishments
    Communication-how well you are able to link your experiences with the attributes Queen's seeks (you'll find all of that on the form online)

PSE Requirements  (Queen’s is changing all of their URL’s so keep checking for this document to update)

A couple more examples

University of Toronto: Engineering

What has inspired you to pursue an engineering degree and why would you like to study at the University of Toronto? What skills have you developed through your extra-curricular experiences that will support your future success as both a student and an engineer? (3000 words)

The largest application packages are for Business Programs which often ask for packages that can exceed 10 pages in length, including up to 5 different essays.  

*Appointment Preparation*

As this is a lengthy process and many students are interested in receiving extra help, only those students who have prepared and followed the instructions given below will be given private appointments. We thank you for your understanding and co-operation. Parents please note that even the best of students with top grades find this process very challenging and do not give themselves enough time to do this work properly as they underestimate what is required.

First Steps

The following is what you need to do before meeting with Jordan.  Doing this will make your meeting productive and save you a lot of time both at the meeting and when you have to fill out your completed applications and/or scholarships.

  • Write down on a separate page - each university that you wish to attend. Next to this, write the specific name of the program within the university that you wish to enter. Also, if the program is specialized you must also write this down as well. Many Universities also further subdivide their degrees not just by a regular B.A. or a B.A. with Honours but by the courses specific content. You must research these details. Don’t assume that all Bachelors offered at each Universities are the same or have the same name. In fact, some offer four different types of Bachelors degrees in one discipline.

For example, York University, Schulich School of Business: International BBA

                      York University, Schulich School of Business: BBA

Or - Western University: Richard Ivey School of Business: HBA 

Queens University: Queens School of Business: Bachelor of Commerce


Remember - Each university program or scholarship should be placed on a separate page. To be clear, if you are planning to enter one of two different programs that exist in 1 university or a program at a university and a separate scholarship at that university write down (or type) each on a separate page. 


2)  Include all of the 'Due Dates' that you find for your program. Then list what is required for you to enter into each program. This is not about what you took in high school but what they require (in addition to marks and courses) for your entrance into the program. Include the length of all required writing. 


University of Waterloo: Systems Design Engineering

Essay Writing: AIF is required 750 words 

Due date: (due dates vary for each program). Go to


From website

"Applicants should submit the Admission Information Form (AIF) as soon as possible, so that we have time to read and score each one.  The official deadline for submission is February 8, 2013, but students will be given at least three weeks to submit the AIF regardless of when they apply" Link to AIF Form:

Remember – There are often two different administrations to which you have to apply.

  • The University itself
  • The department that you are trying to enter at the University

3) If you are required to write any essays or descriptions of academic or volunteer experience also complete the following. 

Write down (on another piece of paper) a full list of all activities, groups, clubs and lessons within which you have participated. Under the title, amount of time you spent in each group and the level reached (if this applies) write down a brief description of what you did and the purpose of the group/club/ activity (two point form lines). Don’t forget the dates.

On still another piece of paper, write out a list of all awards and/or scholarships that you have received.  

Here is a suggestion of how to do this. Make sure that each category is on a separate sheet of paper or page.

Separate your resume information into the following categories. Don't worry if you can’t fill an entire page - put the heading there for now anyway - we may be able to get creative here when we meet! :-)

- Academic Achievements & Awards/Other Awards Extracurricular - sports, theatre, music etc.

-  Paid Work & Volunteer Work 

-  Extra-Curricular Programs (anything you have done outside school - dance, swim, tennis etc)

-  Fundraising - Community Service

-  Leadership Experience

For every entry write a small sentence describing what you did and when you did it.

If you know you have to write an Admission Information Form (AIF) or Personal Statement of Experience (PSE) or any other self introduction essay – or answer any long form questions about yourself, your past or your ideas – Do the following.

4) Choose 3 events preferably from three different experiences (for example school, work, and volunteer) which demonstrate 1 or more of the following characteristics: Your maturity, ability to plan, organize and follow through with your plan, your leadership skills, your social and emotional intelligence, an example when you overcame a difficult situational, intellectual and/or emotional obstacle.  

Writing these entrance applications and scholarships require several steps. What I have outlined above is the easiest step (requiring the least amount of work for some applications) but it needs to be completed before moving on to planning and writing.

Personal Note: I don't believe in busy work so you will have to trust me that this work is a vital part of creating all applications and scholarships. 

More Examples of how applications are considered

As we read and discuss your application, many questions will be on our minds. Some things we consider:

Growth and potential

  • Have you reached your maximum academic and personal potential?
  • Have you been stretching yourself?
  • Have you been working to capacity in your academic pursuits, your full-time or part-time employment, or other areas?
  • Do you have reserve power to do more?
  • How have you used your time?
  • Do you have initiative? Are you a self-starter? What motivates you?
  • Do you have a direction yet? What is it? If not, are you exploring many things? 
  • Where will you be in one, five, or 25 years? Will you contribute something to those around you?
  • What sort of human being are you now? What sort of human being will you be in the future?

Interests and activities

  • Do you care deeply about anything—intellectual? Extracurricular? Personal?
  • What have you learned from your interests? What have you done with your interests? How have you achieved results? With what success or failure? What have you learned as a result?
  • In terms of extracurricular, athletic, communities, or family commitments, have you taken full advantage of opportunities?
  • What is the quality of your activities? Do you appear to have a genuine commitment or leadership role?
  • If you have not had much time in high school for extracurricular pursuits due to familial, work, or other obligations, what do you hope to explore your additional free time?


Character and personality

  • What choices have you made for yourself? Why?
  • Are you a late bloomer?
  • How open are you to new ideas and people?
  • What about your maturity, character, leadership, self-confidence, warmth of personality, sense of humor, energy, concern for others, and grace under pressure?

How does the Committee review applicants?

We look at a variety of factors to help us inform our decision on a candidate including:

  • The student’s curriculum and grades - we hope to see that a student is challenging herself or himself with a rigorous course load
  • The context of a particular candidate, including family circumstances, secondary school, community, interests and access to resources
  • The quality of a student’s involvement in activities beyond the classroom
  • The character and personality of a candidate, and the impact she or he will make on our diverse, residential campus

How does the Admissions Committee distinguish among candidates?

The admissions process is a “holistic” one, taking many factors into careful consideration. We do not rely on standardized testing and grades alone and instead look at all parts of every application to help inform our judgment. We read personal statements to try to understand each candidate and what motivates him or her.

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