News from the Faculty of Graduate Studies and Research

Graduate Admissions

There are a number of issues related to the admission of graduate students that are important for departments to bear in mind. This column is written with the hope of clarifying misunderstandings and of providing general guidelines for the admissions process as it is now and as we expect to see it evolve. Our overall aim in the graduate admissions process is to enhance the quality of our graduate students, to avoid unnecessary duplication of work by departments and the Graduate Studies Office, to be timely, and to make information as clear as possible to all of the people involved.

Quality Admissions

The overriding concept in admissions to graduate studies at McGill should be to enhance the quality of our graduate students. In keeping with this, the University has set the following minimal standards for graduate admissions.

Students wishing to pursue graduate studies at McGill should:

  1. be graduates of a university of recognized reputation

  2. hold a bachelor's equivalent to a McGill honours degree in a closely related subject

  3. have a minimum standing equivalent to a cumulative grade point average (CGPA) of 3.0 out of a possible 4.0 or a CGPA of 3.2 out of 4.0 for the last two full-time academic years (approved in the winter of 1998).

Non-Canadian students whose mother tongue is not English and who have not completed an undergraduate degree in the English language must submit documented proof of competency in oral and written English by appropriate exams, e.g., TOEFL with a minimum score of 550 or IELTS with a minimum overall band of 6.5 AT THE TIME OF APPLICATION OR BEFORE ACCEPTANCE/REGISTRATION. Permanent residents may be required to submit TOEFL results.

All criteria except for the CGPA have been in place for a number of years but they are not necessarily adhered to by departments in their recommendations of students to the Faculty of Graduate Studies and Research (FGSR). Our Admission Officers have reference guides that document international universities and they are in contact with the Ministère de l'Éducation du Québec (MEQ) university evaluation section. If a university of origin does not appear either in our reference books or on the ministry's list, students will not be admitted. Departments are always free to set higher CGPA and language test score standards if they wish, but they should not be trying to admit students with lower standards or from unrecognized universities.

There are some very regrettable results when students are registered without proper language test scores. For instance, in the past students have been admitted conditionally to obtaining a proper TOEFL score after their arrival at the University. This conditional admission may appear to be doing these students a favour but when such students cannot obtain the necessary score once they are at McGill (as is often the case), such a conditional admission has very detrimental consequences for the students involved. These students come here at considerable expense, often moving family members with them, only to have to return to their country of origin considerably poorer and with unnecessary loss of face. Some actually have to pay back the sponsorship money they spent while at McGill.

Timely Admissions

The Admissions Officers are still doing September admissions as this column goes to press in mid-October.

The deadlines for September admissions files to come to FGSR are:

  • May 1 for international students

  • June 15 for Canadian students.

Yet, since June 15, admissions officers of FGSR have received 700 files from departments. Over 120 of these were delivered to the Graduate Studies Office after September 1. This means that these 120 students were not admitted at the outset of their courses. Furthermore, international students whose files come to us later than May have a great deal of trouble getting their visas on time to begin their studies in September. While there may be a few justifiable reasons for the late admission decisions by departments, the present level is not acceptable.

Admissions 19992000 Workshops

The Graduate Studies Office will be holding workshops for graduate program directors and graduate program secretaries in the early winter. At these workshops, the division of the work between FGSR and the departments will be clarified and forms, procedures, and acceptance letters will be reviewed. A new checklist for decisions and applications will be introduced for faster verification and to guide departments in preparing files properly. The aim is to avoid delays due to unnecessary duplication of work and inaccuracies. The eventual aim is to have an informative instructional manual for graduate admissions in place by the year 2000. It is essential that all departments send their graduate program personnel to these workshops. They will provide a chance to meet and interact with key people in the process: graduate admissions manager Claude Lalande and graduate admissions officers Nitsa Kotoulas and Rona Schwartz.