It’s that time of year again: millions of school leavers across the world are submitting applications to get accepted into a college or university of their choice to study business, economics or Medieval poetry. From penning an essay to double-checking the school’s checklist, there are many tasks and protocols you need to complete to ensure a successful admission.
However, no matter how hard you have worked throughout this process, the little man inside your stomach is telling you that you could have done a bit more. You could have done more online research, you could have triple-checked the checklist and you could have composed a better letter.
Well, there is good news if you have yet to hit the ‘Submit’ button on your web browser or you dropped the application in the mailbox. Whether it is a prestigious university or a respectable college, you can bolster your chances of admission by taking advantage of these 10 university application tips.
1. Write an Essay to Shine
Depending on whom you speak to, penning an application essay is either the easiest part of the process or the most difficult. Some will say that this stage allowed them to shine, while others will note that writing the essay took too much time, effort and energy that could have been better allocated to other aspects of the package.
Although the written word may not exactly be your strong suit, there are several ways you can overcome some of these hurdles, and it all begins by carefully reading the guidelines. You would not believe how many applicants make the mistake of not combing through the instructions, guidelines or recommendations – of course, this leads to an automatic rejection.
What else can you do to compose an essay that would make Anton Chekhov blush? Here are some tips:
- Produce a clear essay plan that can allow you to stay on point.
- Begin with a compelling and insightful introduction that draws in the reader.
- Send clichés to the bin and start being original – authenticity is a clincher.
- Use stellar and reputable examples to support your arguments.
- Proofread your work and be sure to ask others to proofread it as well.
- Refrain from using foul language, text speak or emoticons.
- Never plagiarise someone else’s work.
By using these suggestions, you can produce an impeccable essay that will stand the test of time.
2. Create a Genuine Personal Statement
A personal statement is somewhat of an extension of the essay stage, but it is a short, reflective piece of writing that explains why you are a sublime candidate to earn a degree in your respective field. It is an essential component of your UCAS application because university tutors thoroughly read them.
Despite society’s denunciation of all young people being vainglorious, a lot of us are terrible at giving ourselves a pat on the back and highlighting our skills and accomplishments. However, this isn’t the time to be humble or self-deprecating.
You do not need to be so in-depth with your personal statement, but there are still elements that you need to home in on to make sure that it is captivating and convincing. Here are a few ideas to use:
- Come up with a subject that relates to the courses you’re studying.
- Explain why you’re a right fit for the college based on your acumen and experiences.
- Do not be emotional in your personal statement.
- Ensure you’re staying in the 4,000-character ballpark, or 47 lines.
- Be positive, show you’re a critical thinker and present your long-term goals.
Again, it can be hard to talk about ourselves (surprisingly), but this is necessary to get into a post-secondary institution.
3. Participate in a Professional Interview
Most universities and colleges, whether they’re located in the UK or the US, are engaging in face-to-face interviews. They have become a critical aspect of accepting or rejecting candidates, which is a representation of how fiercely competitive university and college, especially the most prestigious ones (we’re looking at you, Oxford and Harvard), has transformed into.
Studies keep pointing out how terrible young people are at participating in one-on-one interviews. Everything from arriving late to texting on our smartphones to bringing our parents, it is apparent that we need to do a whole lot better in interviews. What’s the key? Preparation.
Here are a few ways you can prepare in advance for the interview:
- Leave the house early and arrive 15 minutes early.
- Wear professional attire, and keep the jeans and beachwear at home.
- Find out what you should be expecting, such as the format or types of questions.
- Bring a list of questions related to the school, course and field.
- Ask teachers and graduates about the face-to-face interview.
It might be intimidating at first, but you should think of it as preparation for the real world.
4. Ensure You’re Prepared for Tests
Up until this point, all you have done is testing. From the time you entered primary school to the moment you finished secondary school, it has been all about tests, quizzes, exams and anything in between. Is it any surprise that more students are suffering from test anxiety?
That said, one part of your university application is to complete a test, or a series of tests. You will be given ample time to fill in these tests, but you should be well prepared to showcase your proficiency in the subject you’re specialising in.
Remember, if you are really dedicated to this topic, and have been for years, then these tests should be a cakewalk for you.
5. Gather Letters of Recommendation
And this is where a stellar reputation comes in handy, even in youth: letters of recommendation. Some colleges do not request these letters, but the more prestigious institutions do ask for them, especially in this day and age where young people are firing off odious tweets and Facebook posts.
So, as you gather your letters of recommendation, you need to be careful and select about who will be writing your letters of recommendation.
Typically, you would want an employer, a teacher, a professional or a family friend who happens to be a head of state (or is that wishful thinking?). Moreover, they should be aware of your strengths, proffering details and specific examples of your hard work, dedication and superior knowledge. Simply put: anything relevant to your application should be added.
6. Remain Organised to Meet Deadlines
The application process has never been easier, but we are still in disarray when the deadline approaches. This is because we are not organised creatures, despite the vast panoply of mobile applications and software programs that were produced to aid our organisational plight.
But being organised is key to not only getting the applications – print or online – done, but to also meet any and all deadlines attached to the admissions process.
Here is how you can stay organised during your application endeavours:
- Start your application early by setting your own deadlines for completing essays, forms or pages.
- Do not make careless mistakes at any part of the application – always triple-check!
- Alert your school as early as possible so it can send your transcripts to the schools.
- Remain consistent by using the same font, name and style of writing.
Being organised is how you get through life.
7. Stand Out from the Crowd
You have likely heard from everyone that you need to stand out from the crowd, prompting you to perform a quick Google search: ‘How to stand out from the crowd.’ It’s easier said than done, just because of the enormous number of students wishing to attend the same school as you.
Authenticity, originality and desire are important factors for getting picked out from a busy crowd. It might be cliché at this point in time, but being yourself is the best way to get ahead in life. Remember: no two people are exactly alike, so you should never prevent your true self from coming out.
While it is true that there are certain things you might not like about yourself, to err is human, and many unis and colleges, if they have a creative vision, will want to see that. It’s all about correcting your mistakes; it’s akin to what legendary philosopher Lenny from The Simpsons said: ‘That’s why they have erasers on the back of pencils’.
8. Choose the Right Courses
Today, many young people apply to college or university just because everyone else is doing it even if they don’t want to or it is expected of them once they complete their secondary studies. In other words, you’re spending large amounts of money on courses you’re not really interested in, only because your mates, family and instructors expected you to. That’s not the way to go through life.
As you consider going into a particular field, you need to determine that you have selected the right courses that match your career objectives. If you’re studying 18th Century philosophy or ‘The Sociology of Fame and Lady Gaga’ for the heck of it, then you’re wasting time and money.
Moreover, let’s say you’re adamant about furthering your educational goals, so you decide to apply for something that is completely out of your league, such as quantum physics, economics or international politics. You’re terrible at science, economics bores you and you can’t name a single African leader. You are potentially spending vast sums of cash on courses that you could likely flunk. You’re setting yourself up for failure.
In the end, you need to pick and choose courses tailored to your acumen and career path.
9. Apply to Harvard or Oxford
So, you want to apply to an elite university, huh? Okay. And why not? What do you have to lose, anyway? It will be a challenge to say the least, but it is something that can be done if you’re confident it can be achieved even without top-notch grades. If you’re willing to engage in this battle, then we’re here to give you a helping hand.
Here are some tips when you’re applying to a prestigious institution:
- Explain why your grades are not as high as they could have been.
- Ensure you’re well-rounded: describe your extracurricular involvement, highlight your sports skills and talk about your unique accomplishments outside the classroom.
- Offer a genuine interest in that particular school – this is reflected in your personal statement.
- Be honest about your academic career and where you see yourself in the future.
- Do not place all your bets on Yale or Cambridge; still apply to other facilities.
We wish you the best of luck, and who knows? You might benefit from clearing!
10. Never Feel Overwhelmed by Process
Let’s be honest: young people are feeling more stressed out, overwhelmed, disappointed and anxious than ever before. It is understandable, but you should never endure these feelings when you’re applying for college or even a scholarship.
This is supposed to be the time when you’re paving a path to success. If there is some consternation and resentment, then you will never be able to enjoy the best time of your life – or what is considered to be the greatest time of your existence.
Should you feel worried or upset, then you should talk to someone about it. Or perhaps you just need to de-stress on the weekend.
No one will ever argue the fact that applying to college, either prestigious or otherwise, is a taxing process. You need to perform a lot of research, write a lot of letters and essays, double-check deadlines and, if you’re applying to a foreign school, then you need to make plans to relocate. By the end of it, your personality might metastasise into that of a tempestuous person.
In the end, you need to take comfort in the fact that this is all part of experiencing youth. Yes, it might be a tad intimidating, but it is also highly rewarding because you’re challenging yourself to the extreme. And what better way to go through life than to test your integrity and self-determination?
Do you have any tips for university or college applications? Let us know in the comments section below!