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UBCO grads want stay and play in Kelowna

Okanagan Valley students can’t take enrolment for granted

The Okanagan lifestyle attracts people here for a number of reasons – career, retirement, to start a business, to work remotely.

And that lifestyle influence is no different for post-secondary education, as the UBC Okanagan campus is drawing students from across Canada and from other countries.

And often they don’t leave, as about 50 per cent of UBCO alumni have remained in the region to pursue their careers.

Leanne Isaak, associate director of student recruitment and advising for UBC, says while that scenario may appear to present some challenges for Okanagan Valley students hoping to gain admission to UBCO, the university is both aggressive and tutorial in attracting and assisting local area students to enrol at the Kelowna campus.

“There is a bit of a myth out there about admission, but the reality is 88 per cent of students who applied to UBCO and their last education institution was in the Okanagan Valley had an offer of admission to UBCO,” Isaak said.

“That doesn’t mean all those students ended up attending UBCO as students often apply to different post-secondary institutions to keep their options open, but that is a pretty good statistic. As a comparison, or a high-level university like Stanford, that figure is more like four per cent.

“We also understand Okanagan students choose to go elsewhere, whether it might be our Vancouver campus, or University of Toronto or McGill, or to the U.S. There are many factors that play into what a student decides to do.”

She said the current student breakdown is for direct entry to UBCO from high school is 19 per cent from the Okanagan Valley, 17 per cent from the Lower Mainland, 15 per cent from rest of B.C., 27 per cent from others parts of Canada and 22 per cent are international students.

Over the last five years, Isaak adds that 16 to 19 per cent of new students to UBCO come from other universities or colleges, with about one-third of those transferring in from Okanagan College.

Isaak’s message is while for Central Okanagan students to earn a degree from a university ranked among the top 40 out of 25,000 universities around the world is a tremendous opportunity, don’t take admission for granted.

“It is important to understand UBCO is really a great place to study and pursue your post-secondary education, but you need to be thoughtful and intentional about setting out your pathway to get there,” she said.

Grade 11 and 12 marks combined with your life experience and completing an entry essay are key assets to identifying yourself as an engaged and motivated student that UBCO is looking for, as is taking the specific high school credit courses for given post-secondary study options as called for.

While acknowledging the pressure is turned up on students entering Grade 11 to figure out a post-secondary pathway for their chosen career, she urges students to not get stressed out if that pathway is not always readily apparent, if the answer to the question ‘What do I want to do for a career?’ is still ‘I don’t know.’

The trail to UBCO for many Okanagan students often does not directly connect from high school, one example being to opt instead to attend OC for one or two years and transfer to UBCO to complete a degree.

Two key aspects of that particular route – you still end up still with a UBC degree, and scoring lower marks in Grade 11-12 for whatever reasons become less of an admission hindrance.

“So if a student has a bad year in Grade 12, if you enrol at Okanagan College, the marks for the 30 credits at college take precedence over high school marks for gaining admission. Again, that helps some students to get another chance to gain admission to university,” Isaak said.

She said UBC recruitment, whether to the Kelowna or Vancouver campus, blankets the Okanagan in many ways to encourage and educate students on the best fit for accomplishing their goal of a post-secondary degree.

That includes field trips for students to the UBCO campus to get a taste of campus life, visiting Okanagan Valley high schools in the fall, offer admission workshops and various online options to explore potential career opportunities at the website

“We appreciate the national and international exposure UBCO is getting, but we also think locally about how we an help set up students for success, as the primary focus is about earning that world-class degree, a message we here consistently from students regardless of where they come from,” she said.

READ MORE: New Kelowna downtown campus to alleviate UBCO space crunch

Barry Gerding

About the Author: Barry Gerding

Senior regional reporter for Black Press Media in the Okanagan. I have been a journalist in the B.C. community newspaper field for 37 years...
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