More Americans at McGill

DANIEL McCABE | The Yankees are coming! Or to be more precise, they're already here.

There is no way to be dead certain without combing through decades' worth of registration records, but the folks in the Admissions, Recruitment and Registrar's Office believe that this year's incoming class of new students might include the highest ever proportion of American undergraduates.

Four hundred and sixty-six new students hail from the U.S. a 35.5% increase over the number of Americans who arrived as first-year students the year before.

Applications from American students are also up this year by 21.1%, while the number of American students who accepted offers of admission from McGill increased by 20.9%.

ARR director Robin Geller strikes a cautionary note about these stats. The course drop/add period, in which student numbers are often adjusted, hasn't occurred yet. And the numbers only apply to those faculties and departments that ARR works with, namely arts, science, management, education, engineering and the schools of nursing, social work and physical and occupational therapy.

The increase in Americans isn't an accident. The University has been actively wooing American students for the past two years and the effort is clearly paying off.

Together with the University Relations Office, ARR has been working with an American public relations firm, KSV, in a bid to get McGill mentioned more often in the American media.

One story has been particularly popular with the U.S. press as a result -- namely that Canadian universities in general, and McGill in particular, are terrific bargains for U.S. students looking for affordable schools. "An American student spends about $7,000 to study here compared to about $30,000 at the kinds of schools that U.S. students who consider McGill are also considering," notes Geller.

Stories were published in Business Week, The Boston Globe, The New York Times, The Christian Science Monitor and other major U.S. publications underscoring McGill's attractiveness as a relatively cheap university with high academic standards.

Beverley Redmond, associate director of ARR's recruitment branch, says McGill made a point of sending her and other recruitment officers to California, Texas, Georgia, North Carolina and other states -- many of which McGill visited for the first time -- to meet with high school students.

ARR staff also collaborated with the McGill Alumni Association and McGill graduates in the U.S. to organize receptions for students in Boston, New York and Washington who were interested in finding out more about the University.

Redmond says the involvement of McGill alumni in the U.S. is making a difference as McGill recruits more Americans. "If a prospective student has questions, several graduates have told us that they would be happy to talk to them about McGill over the phone.

"Some of our recent graduates aren't yet in a position to support McGill through donations, but they have the time and energy to help us out in these sorts of activities. They're showing up at events and making phone calls on our behalf. It helps."

In addition, ARR staff have made a concerted effort to process applications from American high school students more quickly so that McGill's response would be timed to better coincide with the replies from American universities.

"The staff in this office, in every respect, did an outstanding job to make this happen," says Geller. "We've been turning around applications as quickly as possible. Admissions officers have been reading hundreds and hundreds of files."

So why the focus on the United States? McGill is committed to building on an existing strength -- its large percentage of international students. The Americans were seen to be ripe for the picking thanks to McGill's ability to deliver a good education at an affordable price.

The investment in the U.S. is also something of an insurance policy. Quebec students have always been the foundation stone for McGill's student population. This is still the case, but the province's anglophone community has been steadily declining for years. There might not be as many young anglophones to recruit as there once was.

Redmond says ARR is eyeing the Middle East as another area that McGill might be able to recruit more students from. There is considerable interest in McGill from students in Singapore, India and Pakistan too, says Redmond, and McGill recruiters plan to visit each of those countries once every two years.

New students who hail from overseas high schools are also up this year by 8.4%, while students from Canadian high schools have increased by almost 10% over the year before. The number of new students from Quebec CEGEPs is almost exactly the same as it was last year. The 1,676 new Quebec students represent a little over 40% of the newcomers. Overall, there is a 7% increase in the size of this year's frosh class over the year before.

Of the prospective students who received offers of acceptance in response to their applications to McGill, 52% agreed to come to the University. "That's not a bad take-up rate when you consider the quality of students who apply to McGill," says Geller. "These are people who have a lot of choices available to them."

Thanks to a suggestion from Associate Vice-Principal (Research) Ian Butler, Geller expects her office to work more closely with professors in the months ahead. Butler noted that professors often travel out of the province to attend conferences or present lectures -- maybe they could do a little student recruiting for McGill while they're there. Geller followed up on the suggestion and ARR will be collaborating with interested professors as a result. Some faculty will also phone up prospective students who have asked to talk to a professor about academic matters. "We have to take advantage of the home-grown wealth of talent," says Geller.