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Do your Homework Before Applying to University or College!

Ever wonder what should go in your university application package? The first place to look is your program’s information page. A comprehensive research on the qualities that are considered to be desirable by your program’s admissions committee can prove to be very rewarding in the long run. To help with that, we compiled the Three Program Matrix to help you understand the type of candidate your program considers ideal.

Most university programs send signals regarding the types of characteristics they appreciate in students. In that regard, university programs fall into 1 of 3 categories: Direct, Covert, and Well Rounded.

1. Direct

These schools will highlight straightforward character traits that you can use to structure your application. Ideally, you would want to insert experiences that directly demonstrate the qualities sought by the program.

  • Example #1 – University of Toronto Engineering school. The program’s admissions page explicitly states it would be most interested in candidates who have demonstrated leadership and dedication. If you are a high school applicant, this may include leading a student club in your school or excelling in a sport or hobby that requires persistent practice.
  • Example #2 – Ryerson University Bachelor of Commerce in Business Management. That program explicitly states that it only selects students based on grades. Thus, students with strong extra-curricular experience but weak academic achievements may not be ideal candidates.

2. Covert

While these schools will avoid overtly mentioning any desirable characteristics, you could still uncover them through some research. For instance, you can discover that your program is aggressively marketing a particular initiative or department (something like an incubator for start-ups or a new program major), or you could research the types of activities that the program considers to be a “highlight”. This will help you infer the qualities that the school will expect from candidates.

  • Example #1 – the admissions page of the BBA program at Wilfrid Laurier University does not explicitly define the type of candidates it finds desirable. However, the “Program Highlights” mostly focus on participation in various case competitions within the program. Thus, it is possible to infer that the program seeks students who possess characteristics that will allow them to do well in such competitions. This means applicants would want to demonstrate that they are able to work well in groups and that they have participated in high-school level competitions, such as DECA.

3. Well Rounded

This category of schools and the one most candidates struggle with, contains schools looking for the proverbial “well-rounded student”. The program will often mention (too) many characteristics that it considers desirable, or will simply state that it is looking for students who are well rounded, complete or (our favorite), someone who can be “the leader of tomorrow”. As an example, both the BBA program at York University’s Schulich School of Business and the Engineering program at the University of Waterloo mention that they seek candidates who are “well rounded”. How should you deal with this? MyReducation can help!

Want to learn more about how to make your application stronger?

At MyReducation, we help candidates create strong university application packages. You will be matched with a coach who will personally guide you through the application process, help you understand your strengths, and will allow you to position yourself in the best way possible. Want more information? Contact us for a free consultation at

About the author: Roni Zveiris is the Founder of MyReducation. He has spent almost a decade in the post-secondary education system as a student, Teaching Assistant, and Sessional Instructional Assistant. He earned a JD and an MBA from University of Toronto.