Top students lured by flights, personal visits



Andrew Wallace/torstar news service


Burlington Grade 12 student Will Schwenger, who will be attending Mount Allison University in New Brunswick next year, partly based his decision on the school’s willingness to chip in for his visit to the campus.


It’s not just about the $100 rebate, but that helped.

When Burlington Grade 12 student Will Schwenger finally decided to attend Mount Allison University in New Brunswick next year, it was at least in part because this small school made a big impression by chipping in some of the cost of his visit for a campus tour.

“I thought it was really great that they paid $100 toward my flight; it shows they care about you and really want you to come check them out,” said the 18-year old student at Assumption Roman Catholic Secondary School, who last month paid $118 each way on WestJet, plus $50 for a cab from the airport to the campus in Sackville.

The $100 rebate is one of a number of new ways universities are competing for students, especially those with top marks.

For Mount Allison, it’s a new “three-for-free” deal where any Maritime teen who comes to check out the campus with three friends gets a $100 rebate for gas. Anyone from outside the Maritimes, like Schwenger, gets $100 toward airfare.

“Our 18-to-24 (year old) demographic is declining in the Maritimes, so we have to work harder to attract attention,” said marketing director Sheila Blagrave. “But we know well over 50 per cent of students who visit here decide to come, so we’re trying to help make it easier to check us out.”

In Ontario, where the number of university applications is up 4 per cent and students are starting to receive offers and make their choices, universities continue to target new groups of prospective students.

York University is courting those who may want to take a “gap year” before starting university.

David Huckvale, York’s recruitment director, said that not only will York hold an accepted student’s spot for a year, a special website will keep them connected to the university during their gap year. “We recruit around the world, and we’re well aware how common the gap year is in the U.K. and Australia as a way to let kids get a little more seasoned before they begin university,” said Huckvale.

To the academic elite with marks in the mid or high 90s, York also hand-delivers offers of admission. Of the 50 students who received such offers last year — some at school, some at home, one in a coffee shop — 41 per cent chose York.

At McMaster University, applicants with marks above 90 per cent receive a congratulatory letter from the president and a brochure spotlighting the school’s research strengths, graduate programs and emphasis on independent learning. Those with 95 per cent or more are guaranteed a private room in residence.