How to Get Into UBC Sauder (Commerce) for 2014/15

UBC Sauder is ideally situated as a gateway between the Eastern and Western business worlds, and is located at the heart of one of Canada’s most beautiful campuses.

It is at Sauder where you interact with and learn from some of the world’s brightest minds. It’s a great business school – which is why less than 6% of applicants get acceptance offers. Here is a general guide on how to get into UBC Sauder and what to do in order to join those lucky few.


According to Sauder’s website, the cut-off for grades is the high 80s. The mean admission average is usually around 92-93% for incoming freshmen, which means it’s a pretty tough crowd to keep up with. If you are at or above 87%, you have a reasonable shot – of course, higher the better. If you’re sitting around 90% or more, best to focus on your extra-curriculars and essays to broaden your chances. If you are anywhere below 87%, your extra-curriculars need to be outstanding.

Extra-Curriculars (EC)

That being said about grades, I know brilliant students with 98% averages or higher who were rejected and others with 84% who were accepted – the point being that high school marks are only the tip of the iceberg. In fact, once one receives an admission offer from Sauder, they must simply maintain a 67% average for the remainder of the school year to maintain the offer.

Sauder appreciates diverse people, and they understand that this means more than simply staring at a textbook all day. Extra-curricular activities play a pivotal role in the admissions process at Sauder – the admission decision is around 30% based on ECs, making it crucial to have something other than schoolwork on your plate. This can include volunteering, a job (or two!), school clubs, visual or performing arts, and even hobbies. They do not all need to be glamorous, but they do need to show a learning experience or value creation.

The best EC by far is team sports and team-oriented activities. Being able to say you were on your school’s varsity rowing team shows that you’re not only talented, but also hardworking, dedicated, and can work with a team in a pressured environment with at least some success. If worded well in your essays – which we will discuss next – it can easily make your case to the admissions team.




I saved the best for last: after going through the general UBC application comes the Sauder-specific supplemental, filled with several essay questions. Before doing anything, I highly recommend you copy & paste the questions into a word processer, where you can freely work on the essays and can submit when completely ready. Spend as much time as possible on this section; essays easily encompass 50% of the admission decision.

You will notice right away that all essays are limited to 100 or 200 words each. This may sound quick and easy compared to the 1500 word essays from 12th grade English – but it is difficult to squeeze all your ideas into such a small window. Sauder is testing your writing and communication style here: can you communicate your ideas clearly and concisely?

Here is a little tip to get the most out of the word limits: start by writing as much as you like/can for the given essay, and then go back to re-word/eliminate in order to get below the limit. This strategy is much easier and more effective than trying to keep the word limit in mind while writing – doing so will inhibit your creativity and your essays may lack emotion or passion, both of which are critical pieces to a successful essay.

Let’s walk through one of the questions on the 2014-15 application:

Explain how you responded to a significant challenge that you have encountered and what you learned in the process. (maximum 200 words)

University essay questions sound daunting and vague, and that is because they are. They are designed to filter out the less skilled communicators. The best way to answer questions like this is to begin by reading it over several times. Break the question down into smaller sections: identify a significant challenge, what you did in response, and what was the learning outcome. One seemingly vague question now has three subcomponents which are much easier to work with in developing a response.

Sauder loves hearing responses in a context, action, result format (not necessarily in that order). Discuss the context of the situation first: what was the challenge and who was involved. Then, get into what actions you took in order to overcome said challenge: discuss the skills or experiences you leveraged in making the decisions you made. The result in this case is the learning outcome from the situation. Tie the three together into a clear chronology and you have the making of a great essay.

Alex Dorward

Alex Dorward

Alex is the co-founder of UniversityHub (now CampusRankings) and current Technical Director for CampusRankings. Alex grew up in Ottawa before attending St FX in Antigonish, NS. After graduating, he joined Accenture and is currently a Manager in Accenture Digital.

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