How to: University Applications — Getting the Grades

The hopeful destination for a majority of students: post-secondary education. These ~4 years of your life essentially dictate the rest of your life, so no pressure, right? Chances are, your parents have stressed the importance of picking the right programme, going to the right school, so that you’ll be able to find lucrative and stable employment in the future. This blog series will provide you with useful tips and advice to prepare you for post-secondary life. This post will be focused on the academic aspect of the applications.

Marks, Marks, Marks

One of the most important components of your university application is the grade averages of the courses you use to apply. Most universities in Canada take a “top 6”, which is a collection of 6 courses at the U or M level (university or university/college level). Of these 6 courses, a few will be mandatory courses, in which the marks have to be submitted, generally speaking, most courses will require a grade 12 English mark, a grade 12 math mark and depending on the programme, one to two science courses (usually chemistry is one of them). This being said, most programmes have a grade boundary or “cut-off” for applicants to meet. Programme-hopefuls are highly recommended to have the average between their top 6 meet these standards to optimize their chances of making it in. Although there are the rare exceptions that make it into a programme with extraordinary extra-curricular experiences, for the average applicant, the chances of receiving an offer depend heavily on marks.

What are these marks useful for?


Taking a look at Waterloo’s preeminently low admission rates for their engineering programmes, it is evident that marks play a huge role. The forecasted probabilities of getting an offer for various admission averages can be found here: https://profbillanderson.wordpress.com/2016/10/11/chances-for-2017/. Clearly, the chances of making into a programme increase with grade averages (even more so if they’re in the mid to high 90s). For most super competitive programmes, averages from low-90s to mid-90s are a must. However, some programmes have lower grade requirements but look for applicant engagement in their community through their extra-curricular involvement. Other programmes require applicants to write supplementary essays or do online interviews to get a gauge for the applicant’s critical thinking and communication skills. In the end, the first requirement will always be grades, whether they be slightly higher or lower.

Additionally, these grades can be used to apply for various scholarships to pay for tuition, or just to have a little extra spending money. Scholarships are often awarded for marks, so that is yet another advantage to having the highest grade average possible. This site is helpful for searching for potential scholarships: http://www.scholarshipscanada.com/.

How do I get these grades?

Many articles online write about helping students get better grades through stopping procrastination and studying more efficiently. Although these factors do play an important role in academic success, there are more critical elements that impair grades. Students need to be able to realize the importance of their grades and actively seek to improve them. They must be able to establish definite goals and attempt to reach them. Good study and work habits help develop disciplined students that are able to work, even when feeling unmotivated.

In the end, high grades are achievable for anyone that puts their mind to it. Even if your dream programme doesn’t have the highest grade requirements, working for these marks will help build important work habits. Although worrying about marks is important to some extent, one should take breaks in which they forget their academic stresses for a while. With that being said, go and get some marks!