How you got here

University faculties place varying emphasis on a student’s personal statement of experience when evaluating an application.
University faculties place varying emphasis on a student’s personal statement of experience when evaluating an application.

Here’s what happens between the time you submit your application to Queen’s and receive your offer of admission. Or don’t receive an offer of admission.

Jo-Anne Brady, University registrar, said the University had 25,487 applications for 3,217 undergraduate direct entrance spaces for this coming year.

Brady said current admission criteria haven’t changed greatly in the recent past.

“I think in general, there’s tried to be a greater emphasis on looking at the more holistic view of the student,” she said. “Personal statements of experience used to be recommended in Arts and Science. Now they’re required.” Brady said each faculty sets its own admission requirements and criteria, although all applicants must fill out a personal statement of experience (PSE). The PSE asks questions related to extracurricular activities, work experience, volunteer experience and extenuating circumstances.

“For most programs there is an admission selection range,” Brady said, adding that the range of high school marks depends on the applicant pool for that year, as well as the targets for enrollment set by the Senate.

Any student with marks above the Faculty of Arts and Science’s threshold is automatically granted acceptance, Brady said.

Each year, there is a range of about two to three per cent near the grades cut-off where applicants are on the border between being accepted or not. In these cases, Brady said, more attention is paid to the PSE.

“Once PSEs are being used, then marks aren’t used anymore,” Brady said. “Everyone within this range is admissible, so they do it based on the PSE.”

As a rule, each PSE is read by two faculty members, who mark it out of three.

“Then, if they’re widely disparate ... there’s a third reader,” she said. “Each faculty may handle it slightly differently.”

It’s not feasible for larger faculties to consider every applicant’s PSE, Brady said, because they receive thousands of applications.

Brady said the cut-off point at which applications from students with lower marks are not considered varies from year to year, depending on the applicant pool and the number of spaces available in each faculty.

In 2005, the average first-year entry mark was 87. The numbers for this year’s pool are not yet available.

“This past year, I am expecting we’re going to see the average entry mark was quite high,” she said.

There are some things that are fairly consistent across the board.

“We ensure that there’s training through our human rights office for all people who are going to be reading [applications], so they have an appreciation of what they should and shouldn’t look for, and what they should and shouldn’t value,” Brady said.

None of the undergraduate faculties take gender into account when looking at applications.

“They’re blind to gender at the stage of offer of admission,” Brady said.

The University undergraduate population is currently 59 per cent female and 41 per cent male, with significant gender imbalances in schools such as Applied Science and Nursing, whose ratios favour male and female students, respectively.

Brady said recruitment staff in the Faculty of Applied Science make a point of encouraging female students to accept their offer of admission to the program by having women registered in the program phone female applicants who have been admitted.

Admissions are also blind to ethnicity, but special tracks are available to applicants of Aboriginal descent.

Some faculties such as the Faculty of Education have an equity admission option in which preference is given to “members of Aboriginal/First Nations groups, racial minorities, and differently-abled groups currently under-represented in the teaching profession,” according to the faculty’s website.

The applicants, however, must meet the minimum academic requirements and the prerequisites for the program option selected.

“By and large, it’s looking at the student, the student’s contributions, the student’s potential,” Brady said. “It’s blind to personal characteristics.”

Ruth Rees, professor of education, said applications to the concurrent education program are scrutinized through two processes: academic transcripts are sent to the University registrar, and a PSE is read at the faculty level by a member of the faculty and an educator from an elementary or high school.

The mark from the PSE and the applicant’s high school marks weigh equally in the selection process, Rees said.

Because the PSE plays a significant part in the selection process, Rees said, the faculty of education asks for references they can call to confirm the facts in the PSE.

“We ask for a reference and what we do is randomly go through the [statements] and we’ll phone, or the registrar’s office will phone, every one in 10 of the references,” she said. “Just to make sure the facts are correct.”

Rees said people evaluating the PSEs of ConEd applications look for any experiences that students have had that could be a positive influence for teaching.

“Just what in their background indicates they seem to have an inclination to work with kids or with teaching?” she asked.

Rees said the Faculty of Education generally accepts more students than it has spaces for in order to ensure that all those spaces are filled.

“The first round we send out about 50 more than we need to,” she said. “Even if Queen’s was your first choice, you might change your mind.”

Tenay Gunter, who works in the commerce admissions office, said applications for the commerce program are separated into a group whose marks are above a certain cut-off point, and a group whose marks are not.

This year’s cut-off point was 87 per cent.

“They’re looking for leadership qualities, extracurricular activities, showing they are responsible, that they can be a team leader,” Gunter said. “It’s highly based on the PSE ... some students make it in with a 94 and some students make it in with an 87, depending on how good their PSE was.”

The School of Music has the most labour-intensive application process, said director John Burge.

In addition to a regular Queen’s application, all applicants to the School of Music must come in for an instrument or voice audition, an oral cognition listening test and a written test on the rudiments of music.

Students who live more than 800 kilometres away are permitted to send in a taped audition.

They must also have completed several grades of music studies.

Burge said applicants’ marks are balanced with their audition, so that a highly-skilled musical student with lower marks and a student with exceptional grades but less musical talent both have a chance at getting in.

“The most important thing is the audition on the instrument or voice,” Burge said. “Students spend years practicing for that audition and they only have 15 minutes ... to demonstrate their abilities. For some students, it can be very stressful.”

A degree of guesswork is involved in the application process, as well: when admitting students, the University tries to deduce how many of those who receive acceptance letters will end up enrolling in the University.

“We have an experiential and educated guesswork methodology of how many offers of admission we have to get in order to meet those enrollment targets,” she said.

“This is trying to predict human behaviour.”

The evaluation of applications has changed over time, Brady said.

“For example, part-time employment is now also considered very favourably,” she said. “We’re looking for students who have this breadth of experience.”

This way, Brady said, students who work or participate in certain activities, but who may have sacrificed a point or two in their marks to do so, will still receive the consideration they warrant.

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