October 9 , 2003  
Volume 97, Issue 24   

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University admissions: U.S. schools doing better?

By Marshall Bellamy
Gazette Staff

Eva Vertes is an 18 year-old Canadian student whose research has won her academic acclaim — she can now be found studying at Princeton University, rather than at a university in Canada.

Vertes’ overall high school average was 91 per cent and she had received international attention for her research on Alzheimer’s disease, however the University of Toronto, McMaster University and Western all turned down her application because her mid-term marks could not be submitted on time and she did not complete some of her required courses because she was doing her research at an Italian university.

“I guess a computer just read [my application] and threw it away,” Vertes said, adding despite the fact the director of the neuro-science department at U of T wrote a letter to the U of T admissions office to notify officials that some of her admission requirements would not be completed promptly.

The head of U of T neuro-science was referred to Vertes by the Alzheimer’s Society, which had also promised her a sizable grant to assist her with her research while attending classes in Toronto, if she had been accepted.

“Every university has autonomy in its [admission process],” stated George Granger, executive director of the Ontario University Application Centre.

According to Granger, admissions, general framework and other undergraduate admission issues are handled by the universities themselves, while the OUAC acts as a conduit between the students and all of the Ontario universities to pass admissions information to and from the two groups.

Karel Swift, registrar and director of admissions and rewards at U of T, pointed out admission to U of T is based on academic achievements such as marks and not always on special considerations such as research or an applicant’s overall achievements.

If applicants to U of T send word to the admissions office well ahead of the application deadline, it might allow some time for the university to consider the circumstances, Swift noted. “We were not aware of anything unusual, which is unfortunate — we would have considered her,” she added.

“We don’t have a system of points for extra-curricular activities,” said Lori Gribbon, manager of undergraduate recruitment and admissions at Western.

According to Gribbon, admissions at Western does take special circumstances into account such as family death and sickness with proper notification, but cases such as Vertes do not usually occur.

When special cases are taken under consideration, they are done so on an individual basis and when they do reach this stage there are certain criteria, such as finishing the requirements, Gribbon explained, noting generally Western reviews 300 to 400 special consideration cases a year.

“We had no information in her case,” Gribbon noted when asked concerning the issue with Vertes, adding if there was information, the admissions office could have considered it.

In mid-May, Princeton University sent Vertes an offer of admission and a $30,000 grant that would cover her tuition at the Ivy League school, Vertes said. “I wanted to keep my options open — I wanted to work at U of T.”

A spokesperson at the University of Michigan stated the requirements for the Big 10 university and most American universities is a favourable SAT mark and extra-curricular activities. All of the applicant’s achievements are considered in the American university admission process.

Many American universities accept applications from prospective students right up until the end of the summer, just before classes commence, the spokesperson noted.

“[Princeton’s] wonderful. I love it so much,” Vertes said, adding that after her stint at Princeton she intends to attend Harvard University or Stanford University and get her medical doctorate and her Ph.D., so she can research and practice medicine.



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