The fact that Laurentian University had the highest increase in application numbers of any university in the province is what “any university president likes to see,” said Dominic Giroux.
However, the president of Laurentian University said he's cautious not to “fall in love” with these numbers, as high school students have until June to confirm which university they'll be attending.
In some cases, those applying to graduate school have until September to decide on which program to attend.
According to preliminary figures released by the Ontario Universities' Application Centre (OUAC), Laurentian University's application numbers have climbed 23 per cent over the previous year.
The next closest university, Ryerson University, saw its application numbers grow by 12 per cent. The province's universities had an average application increase of 4.6 per cent.
Giroux, though, said when applications not directed through OUAC are considered, Laurentian's application numbers have actually grown 25 per cent — 26 per cent at its Sudbury campus and 24 per cent at its Barrie campus.
“Generally, I think it speaks to a sense of excitement about Laurentian University,” he said. “That's the feedback we're getting from applicants. They sense there's a buzz about Laurentian University, and they want to be part of it.”
He said some of the largest increases to applications are in the health promotions program, which is up 63 per cent, science four-year programs, which is up 48 per cent, arts four-year programs, which are up 46 per cent, radiation therapy, which is up 46 per cent and engineering, which is up 43 per cent.
In addition, more than 250 applicants are competing for the 70 spots available for the first intake at the university's new school of architecture.
In terms of where these applicants are coming from, Giroux said they come from all areas of the province and even from overseas, not just northeastern Ontario, Laurentian's traditional pool of students.
While the increase in overall applications is significant, Giroux said the increase in applicants who have earmarked the university as their first choice to attend is at nine per cent.
“More applicants have applied to Laurentian as their second choice or third choice and so forth,” Giroux said.
He said the university will be working hard to win over these applicants.
“In the coming weeks, faculty and staff will be talking with applicants about their program, about university life and about life in Sudbury.”
Laurentian's application numbers reflect an overall trend at the university, he said. Over the past 10 years, the university's enrolment has jumped from 6,000 to 10,000 students.
Laurentian has also increased its average entry grade from 79 per cent to 81 per cent over the past few years, with the goal of further boosting that number to 83 per cent by 2017-18.
“So that's the catch,” Giroux said. “Often you hear colleges and universities brag about their enrolment growth, but they fail to mention their average entry grade is going down, and they've opened their gates to a larger intake.”
He said there's many factors behind the increase in applications.
First of all, the university has been doing a better job of marketing itself, Giroux said.
“We've started visiting more secondary schools,” he said. “Faculty and staff have really gone the extra mile in their interactions with high schools and so forth. We've developed more partnerships with schools boards and high schools.”
Laurentian has also been getting more attention in national media, including a recent editorial in the Globe and Mail, which praises the university's 2012-2017 strategic plan as an “excellent strategy,” Giroux said.
Potential students like the fact that with Laurentian's smaller class sizes, they're often able to participate in research projects while completing the third and fourth years of their undergraduate degrees, he said.
At larger universities, this is an “opportunity usually reserved for master's and PhD students,” Giroux said.