Laurier drops in OUAC rankings

Wilfrid Laurier University is seeing a fall in students selecting the school as their first choice on their Ontario Universities’ Application Centre application.

According to new data released by OUAC on June 12, out of the 20,511 secondary school applicants who applied to Laurier this year, only 3,390 selected it as their first choice.

Of those 20,511 applicants, only 3,417 accepted their offers to attend Laurier. 1,940 of those applicants listed Laurier as their first choice.

According to Tom Buckley, assistant vice-president of academic services at Laurier, the university is not surprised with the numbers presented. However, it does come as a “shock to the system.”

“We’ve had a period of very sustained and rapid enrollment growth at Laurier,” he said.

“It’s almost become a bit of an expectation that students will continue to select Laurier in increasing numbers.”

“It’s almost become a bit of an expectation that students will continue to select Laurier in increasing numbers.”

That growth has appeared to plateau, however. Last year, OUAC reported that 21,616 secondary school students applied to Laurier. This year, that number is 5.1 per cent lower.

Compared to 2013, the number of students selecting Laurier as their first choice has decreased by 13.3 per cent — from 3,910 to 3,390 — and students selecting Laurier as their fourth choice or lower has risen by 1.2 per cent – from 8,572 to 8,674.

The report shows a decrease in secondary school applicants across the board, with nearly every school receiving lower total applicants. Laurier, however, has the second highest decline in first-choice rankings, falling behind Western University’s Huron University College at a 15.4 per cent decrease.

According to Buckley, this is a result of new trends emerging in the province.

“There is a reality happening in Ontario system-wide, and that is there are fewer high school students graduating, which is something new,” he said. “The second piece is that participation rates are lower. So the percentage of those graduates that are choosing university is going down.”

In 2012, 401,065 secondary students applied to Ontario universities through OUAC, which rose to 417,872 in 2013. This year, that number decreased to 414,755 students.

“The trends and looking at the swings across universities were a pattern we’ve never seen before, both in terms of those who have increased and those who have decreased and by how much. It was really a very different outcome than we’re used to seeing this time of year,” Buckley said.

Non-secondary applications – meaning those that have not come from Ontario secondary schools – have increased greatly over the past two years. In 2012, 128,675 non-secondary applications were received by OUAC, and the numbers have grown to 148,007 this year.

Buckley said that due to the decrease in secondary school applicants, Laurier has been working on “diversifying” intake from non-secondary applicants.

“We really focused on three key areas – increasing the numbers of aboriginal students in our outreach, college transfer students … and the largest effort – and frankly the most successful – has been related to international student recruitment.”

Third-year Laurier student Maddison Bibby said McMaster was always her first choice when applying to university.

“I got into their health sciences program and I thought that would be the best choice for me because I’ve always been thinking medical school as a future career,” she said. “I thought that was the most prestigious program in terms of somewhere I could go for the pre-medical undergraduate.”

She said she also applied to Laurier’s health science program, but didn’t consider it as a serious option until she toured the campus.

“When I came for Laurier’s [tour] everything seemed so bright and nice, and everybody seemed so comfortable and laid back, and I thought that I could fit in here. I was still torn at the time, just because the program was so good at McMaster.”

Buckley said this has always been common with potential students.

“By investing and being creative in our conversion activities we changed some minds. Those third and fourth-choice applications in November [and] January, we got them on campus … and once they were here they picked Laurier and they kept coming.”

However, he said this strategy might not be an option anymore.

“Last November/December, we noted with our initial numbers that this year it may not be possible to convert our way out. There was a decline in first and second-choice applications – particularly in arts – that followed the system trend that was a little more acute,” Buckley said.

“That has played out; we’ve seen a material drop in the number of students confirming into the BA program and the concurrent BA/BEd in Brantford.”

“That has played out; we’ve seen a material drop in the number of students confirming into the BA program and the concurrent BA/BEd in Brantford.”

However, Buckley said the university is looking at the rankings as a chance to reevaluate how they connect with potential students.

“We’re not surprised where we are right now,” he said. “We’re looking at this as an opportunity to renew what we do, the programs we offer and how we talk about ourselves … and it’s time for a bit more bravado in terms of how positive this experience is.”

 

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