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Ontario student Shannon Prager believes her chances of entering university next year are slim, especially with her low high-school average and stiff competition from the rest of the province's double-cohort class.

The 17-year-old plans to take a different route by applying to several colleges in her region, as will many other students.

"School is really difficult this year," Ms. Prager said. "I'm pretty sure I won't get into university, and it's quite expensive too."

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But the so-called double-cohort class, where Grade 13 students will graduate with Grade 12 students because of the provincial government's move to discontinue the fifth year of secondary school, is having a major impact on the enrolment at colleges as well.

The number of high-school students vying for a spot in a college this September is up 21 per cent -- 4,069 students -- from the previous year, according to figures released yesterday by the Ontario College Application Services. In total, the OCAS expects to receive applications from 85,000 high-school students.

The double-cohort "is definitely not just a university phenomenon. There's a college impact as well," said Greg Hughes, executive director at the OCAS.

The deadline for Ontario students applying to universities was yesterday, but Gregory Marcotte, executive director of the Ontario Universities Application Centre, said schools will still accept applications on a case-by-case basis.

He said close to the expected 105,000 students have sent in their applications, with one student applying to 51 university programs yesterday afternoon.

At the college level, the deadline is Feb. 1 for those who want to get into some of the top programs, such as law and security, graphic design and early childhood education, Mr. Hughes said.

Although the majority of students applying to college are those who have been out of school for a few years, Mr. Hughes said enrolment among high-school students jumped by 7 per cent last September. Furthermore, the number of high-school students entering college in the winter semester that began earlier this month is up by 38 per cent.

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Richard Johnston, president of Centennial College, said colleges are able to entice more students with applied degrees, which combine formal instruction and work experience.

"We're going to go after that group and we hope some of them will shift over to us," Mr. Johnston said.

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