Universities relax admission rules for Fort McMurray students

Post-secondary institutions across Alberta are doing their utmost to make life easier for high school graduates impacted by the wildfires in Fort McMurray.

Universities say they’ve relaxed admissions criteria and extended deadlines for those students hoping to start post-secondary school in September.

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    The wildfires that prompted a mass evacuation of the town and caused millions of dollars in damage put a stop to high school classes across the city and initially left students in doubt as to how they could complete required exams and finish final courses.

    READ MORE: Fort McMurray school inspections start as crews check air quality, structural integrity 

    Students say they’re grateful that those hurdles have been addressed, but still lament the fact they’ll be missing out on typical high school graduation rituals.

    Proms have been cancelled and parties rescheduled, and official graduation ceremonies have been rebooked for the end of August when some students will have already left town.

    Kaylin Lynett has experienced both the benefits and drawbacks of the circumstances imposed by the Fort McMurray fires.

    Relief at having her early acceptance to the University of Alberta confirmed without the need to write normally mandatory diploma exams has been tempered by social media posts of other friends trying on prom gowns and celebrating the start of a new chapter alongside their high school friends.

    “I never realized how much I wanted a grad until I didn’t get a grad,” the 17-year-old said in a telephone interview. “Just the fancy dresses and them with all their friends making funny poses and things like that.”

    Missing out on grad traditions seemed like the least of Lynett’s problems when she and her family were forced to flee the flames engulfing the city in early May.

    READ MORE: ‘Don’t be shy’: Alberta teens offer to take Fort McMurray grads to high school prom 

    Her acceptance to the bilingual business program at University of Alberta had come through, but Lynett said she was nervous that it could be revoked if she failed to complete a diploma exam required of all Alberta high school students and finish her high school course work.

    Accordingly, she registered at a high school in Red Deer, at least an hour away from where her family members were staying.

    Her luck changed less than a week after the fire broke out, however, when Alberta Education announced that students from Fort McMurray high schools were exempt from taking the tests.

    The next day, the six post-secondary institutions in the Edmonton area announced their intention to smooth the path for students impacted by the fire.

    Concordia University of Edmonton, King’s University, MacEwan University, the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology, Norquest College and the University of Alberta all acknowledged the difficulty the fire could present for prospective students and said they were committed to offering what support they could.

    University of Alberta registrar Lisa Collins said the 250 applicants from the area became a high priority and their cases were handled individually rather than according to standard protocols.

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