October 9 , 2003  
Volume 97, Issue 24   

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Princeton yes, Western no

There have been countless times when bureaucracy has screwed over good people. Added to the tally is 18-year-old Eva Vertes.

Vertes applied to the three universities of her choice this year (Western, McMaster and Toronto), probably thinking her chances of being accepted were pretty high. After all, not every Ontario high-schooler obtains a 90 per cent average while doing Alzheimer's research in Italy. But Vertes was turned away by all three institutions, including Western, because her courses in Italy were still ongoing at the time of the university application deadline.

So, what it all comes down to is grades. It doesn't matter if the school calendar year in Italy is different from ours. It doesn't matter if you've been spending time outside the classroom doing research on a prevalent disease. Apparently, what matters is the numbers and if they aren't received by the deadline, you lose regardless of whether or not your circumstances are legitimate - and in Vertes's case, they certainly were.

Not only did Vertes achieve well above the minimum high school average required to be admitted to these universities, she achieved it while doing important extracurricular work at the same time. How many students can claim they did this? Likely very few. Most people haven't done work of Vertes's calibre by 18 years of age. Hell, most people haven't done work of that calibre by eighty years of age.

And you would think universities would want students as exceptional as Vertes - students who are able to effectively balance both their regular class schedule with additional involvement in other activities; after all, your institution is only made stronger by bringing in the cream of the crop. But no. Western, U of T and Mac need to see the paper with the numbers and if they don't get it, they won't even re-consider the circumstances for even the best applicants.

It's unfortunate some post-secondary institutions focus solely on grades when deciding who gets in and who gets left out. Look at grad schools - not only do they consider students' marks, but they also take a look at what other activities their applicants have done and prefer to meet them before admission. In comparison, high school students applying to university only have their transcripts sent; there's no indication of what kind of people they are or what they can do aside from studying all day and night.

The one good thing that has resulted from all this is that Vertes was given a $30,000 scholarship from Princeton University. But it's still little comfort when we've lost one of our best students to the United States simply because bureaucracy can't get out from under their damn bureaus and make exceptions for exceptional students.




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