Grad school applications expected to rise in 2009

School an 'investment' for future

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

With the economy dwindling and entry-level jobs diminishing, students across the country may now be looking to apply to graduate schools instead of directly entering the job market.

“There seems to be a clear correlation between what’s happening in terms of job availability in Canada and an increase in graduate applications,” Zach Churchill, national director of the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations, said.

Already, the University of Toronto is reported to have received 12,631 graduate school applications, approximately nine per cent more than at the same time last year.

According to Linda Miller, vice-provost of graduate and post-doctoral studies at Western, the school is uncertain at this juncture if it has received an increase in applications to its graduate programs.

“The economy may be contributing to some increases in applications to graduate programs in some areas [but due to Western’s new application process], we can’t be certain about increases,” Miller said.

In the past, graduate school applications were directly submitted to the programs and therefore, only the selected applications were forwarded to the graduate studies department, Miller said. As well, many graduate programs do not have a specific deadline and accept applications into the summer.

“For these reasons, it is difficult to know if applications are higher than they have been in the past and even more difficult to know what may be affecting application activity.

“We do, however, know that there has been a significant amount of application activity related to our graduate programs through the [Ontario Universities’ Application Centre] system over the past couple of weeks,” Miller said.

She also mentioned the economy could have a negative impact on applications in some departments, such as the MBA programs.

According to Churchill, while the economy is receding, students should take the opportunity to further their education.

“It only makes sense that everything moves forward with our knowledge based economy and that more people pursue higher education and try to acquire higher skills than they had before,” Churchill said.

“The economy is poor right now so [applying to graduate school] gives you stability for the next year or so and an opportunity to get a job in the future over people who just have an undergraduate degree,” Gregg French, a fourth-year history student at Western, said.

In addition, French mentioned a rise in applications to graduate schools may also be due to the increased requirements of law and medical schools.

“The more difficult they make law and medical school, the more difficult graduate school is going to be. But it is something people are going to look into more and more,” French said.

“Professional programs are highly selective and very competitive, so getting a graduate degree adds value,” Kul Bhatia, an economics professor at Western, said. “It’s an investment towards your future.”

The fact more students are pursuing graduate studies raises the question of whether or not having exclusively an undergraduate degree is enough in the workplace.

According to fourth-year political science student Jeff Patterson, an undergraduate degree still has value, but may diminish in significance in the near future as more individuals acquire a masters degree.

“[An undergraduate degree] is the new high school diploma of our generation ... It’s something you have to do before you go on,” French said.

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