The Waiting Game


A Primer on the University Application Process

So here is a parent’s point of view about having a child go through the university application process.

You and your child have thought about which program and which university. That’s a great start. But how do you actually apply to university, at least in Ontario? The good news is that it’s all electronic, through the Ontario University Application Centre (OUAC).

Your child will get all kinds of information at high school about the process, but it really gets going in mid-November when the OUAC PINs are sent out. That allows you to create an account on the OUAC site. There’s lots of useful information on the site itself, and university and program selection is easy based on dropdown menus. It costs $150 to apply, and you can choose up to three programs at one or more schools. However, you can add more programs/schools for $50 each. Applications are due by January 13.

Now it gets a touch more complicated. Each selected school gets notified by OUAC, and your child then needs to set up electronic accounts at all of them. Keep it simple and use the same password! Some schools and programs have extra requirements. That might include a personal essay or, for highly competitive programs (like health sciences at McMaster), a case study. For others, it’s just marks, plain and simple. U of T engineering required video questions, which might be one reason my son dropped the application (and he wants to leave home for school).

The schools do a good job of keeping the kids engaged with a series of emails, especially around March Break, when they run open houses and tours.

Kids with exceptional marks can apply for early acceptance based on Grade 11 marks. Most will need to wait until Grade 12 midterm marks are posted in early February. And then it becomes a waiting game.

My son applied to four universities for engineering (and dropped one) and two of the same schools for science. All the university web sites and program materials give you an estimate average mark required for consideration. My kid was above the threshold for admission, so it was a matter of waiting to hear back. Mercifully, his top choice, Queen’s, was first to send an offer of admission, on March 2. Big sigh of relief. Next, McMaster, on March 31. So, quite a gap. And, oddly, his last choice has yet to make an offer. He will then accept via the OUAC site.

The other thing it’s worth pointing out is that, having received an offer of admission based on an interim mark, the school will stipulate the necessary minimum final mark to get in. That can be quite a bit lower than the admission average, and encourage your kid to take his/her foot off the gas.

For some of his friends, and for colleagues with kids in the same boat, it can be a very stressful time, hoping but not knowing if they will be accepted. For all anxious students and parents, best wishes during this nerve-wracking time, and do you have any thoughts about the process?

Final acceptance is due by June 1, and my son is intent on engineering at Queen’s. Next fall, he’ll be leaving home and moving into residence. As I’ve written before, my wife and I are English grads, and find his math abilities baffling. My father, the gamekeeper’s son, would be proud and satisfied with the choice of engineering, a useful and practical education.



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3 Responses to The Waiting Game

  1. stevelpiazza says:

    This is an excellent breakdown of the application process for university. Your son’s focus is admirable! My undergraduate applications varied from biology to business and I ultimately settled on political science. Best of luck to him at Queen’s!


  2. All the best to your son!


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