01/23/2012 08:09 EST | Updated 03/24/2012 05:12 EDT

UBC adds life experience to undergraduate criteria

High school students will need more than just good grades to secure a spot in the University of British Columbia's undergraduate programs starting this September.

The university is expanding its selection criteria to include an emphasis on personal experiences in addition to strong scholastic performance.

Use of the broad-based admissions process for undergraduates will make UBC the largest Canadian university to place such an emphasis on non-academic criteria from its applicants.

Would-be UBC students will now have to answer four to six "personal profile" questions in addition to providing secondary school marks.

But high school marks will continue to be important for admission decisions, said Paul Harrison, associate dean for students in the Faculty of Science, who has been involved in expanding the broad-based admission system .

"Success at university requires students to engage with their learning at a deep level and to learn from the challenges they encounter as they work toward attaining their goals," Harrison said.

"We’ll use the personal profile to gather a broader range of indicators to assess an applicant’s potential for success."

Student diversity

The university believes examining the full range of an applicants' accomplishments will help it build a more diverse student body, eventually producing stronger graduates ready for leadership roles.

UBC's Sauder School of Business has been successfully using a broad-based admissions process since 2004.

Registrar James Ridge says the change will allow the university to include students who might otherwise have missed the cut. "We have students who have placed at national science fairs and until broad-based admission, there wasn't a mechanism for them to tell us about that."

Ridge says marks — even good ones — may not tell the whole story.

"At the other end of the spectrum, you may see — and this is certainly our Sauder School experience — students with exceptionally high marks who may not get in," he said.

UBC typically receives more than 30,000 applications to undergraduate programs each year and admitted just 5,913 new first-year students to its Vancouver campus, for the 2011-2012 academic year.