Canadian universities are offering top-calibre applicants unprecedented perks as part of their recruitment efforts.
Administrators from York University in Toronto, including the president and two vice-presidents, hand deliver scholarship offers of up to C$6,000 (Pounds 2,560) to the 50 highest-ranked applicants.
"We phone them, introduce ourselves and meet them at home or school," said Barbara Brown, York's admissions director. She added that the students had "1,001 questions - when you can deal with them, they feel you are committed and connected and they're putting a face to the university".
At Laval University in Quebec City, 160 recipients of scholarships of between C$500 and C$2,500 were invited to a special ceremony with the president.
The University of Calgary says it does not boost its scholarship offers to outbid other schools, but tries to entice the cream of the crop with much sought-after single rooms in residence, 25 per cent discounts at the campus bookshop and early registration, so they can get into all the classes they want.
Universities are responding to increasingly sophisticated applicants who have found that they can auction themselves to the highest bidder. Last spring, a woman disappointed by her scholarship offer to the University of Waterloo contacted the president to ask if he could sweeten the deal. He did - and Waterloo now offers applicants with a 90 per cent or better grade average a meeting with the president.
Another student turned down C$40,000 over four years from Mount Allison University in New Brunswick - the first time such an offer has been rejected, the school says - because she was able to use the offer to secure C$12,000 a year from the president of a competing university.
Quentin Huang, father of a 16-year-old maths genius, used his son Yifan's stellar high-school grades last summer to get the best deal in a bidding battle.
The University of British Columbia in Vancouver would not let Mr Huang live in residence with Yifan, but Simon Fraser University agreed to provide the two with a campus apartment - in addition to offering Yifan a C$10,000 scholarship.
"I called both universities and asked if they could provide a family residence because Yifan is very young and skipped three grades in high school, so he still needs care," Mr Huang said. "Simon Fraser made a special arrangement to let me live on campus."
Despite its failure to lure the Huangs, UBC has one of the most avid recruitment schemes in the country. From last year it has been making direct contact with all the winners of two prestigious national awards - the 70-odd recipients of Canadian Merit Scholarships, valued at up to C$75,000, and the 900 winners of Millennium Excellence Awards of up to C$20,000.
Whether they have applied to university of not, it offers to give them an extra C$500 for books plus up to C$4,000 based on grades, to outflank other schools.
"These types of students are very confident, very intelligent and they know they have a lot of options," said Andrew Arida, UBC's associate director of recruitment. He added: "They're trying to find the one that works best for them."
* Canada last week announced pilot projects for relaxed work permit rules to encourage international students. One allows overseas students to work off campus, while the other allows them to work for two years, rather than one year, after graduation.