Volume 97, Issue 1
Thursday, May 22, 2003

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Waterloo admissions process questionable?

By Laura Katsirdakis
Gazette Staff

Getting into certain university engineering programs is more complicated than you may have once thought.

When deciding which students to admit to engineering programs, some universities – Western not included – adjust the marks of high school applicants based on the grading practices of the high school they attended.

"[The University of Waterloo] engineering faculty has been adjusting high school marks of applicants for more than twenty five years," said Peter Burroughs, director of admissions at Waterloo. "Grades vary quite a bit between high schools."

Burroughs confirmed that Waterloo engineering admits students separately. "Some high schools mark harder than others. We try to recognize this difference in our admission process," he said.

The high school marks of students are compared to the success of those same students after one year in Waterloo's engineering program, he explained. This way, Waterloo can determine which high schools produce quality students, he added.

"Another big factor in the admission process consists of things like extracurricular activities," said Kim Boucher, assistant director of admissions in engineering at Waterloo. All applicants submit autobiographical essays, Boucher added.

However, at Western, the registrar's office does all admissions centrally, said Raouf E. Baddour, associate dean of engineering.

"[At Western], admission is based only on marks," said Baddour. Marks are not adjusted and extracurricular activities are not taken into consideration.

"We are not in a position to assess the differences between high school marking," Baddour said. "Ranking high schools can be a very questionable [admission tool]."

"I think it is a fair practice," said Kelsey Green, a fourth-year mechanical engineering student. A large number of engineering students do not make it past first year, he added.

"Some high schools grade students in order to get people into university, some grade them as a way of making sure they will be prepared for university," Green said.

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2002 THE GAZETTE