PETALING JAYA: Congratulations! The day is finally here. You’ve completed your college or foundation course, and a bright and shining future lies ahead of you.
It’s time for the next step: enrolling in university.
The process of applying for university can sometimes feel daunting. Many institutions of higher learning have stringent entry requirements, or only take in a limited number of students.
In the case of particularly eminent international universities, this can mean competing with hundreds of other bright young minds from all over the world.
How to successfully get into the university of your dreams? Here are eight tips to ensure your application truly stands out from the crowd.
1. Apply for the right number of universities
Quality over quantity is the rule here. Most university application procedures are complex and time-consuming, so only apply to places you would be happy to attend for the next few years.
Most students usually apply to about five to eight universities at a time. A popular practice is to send applications to one or two top ‘dream’ choices, and a few other acceptable universities as backup.
2. Research your courses
Find out everything you can about your desired courses. These include costs, teaching approaches, accreditation, and so on.
Also look up information like the university’s location, living costs and student culture. If going abroad, read up on the intricacies of living in a particular country.
Tailor your applications specifically for each course you are applying for. Each application should demonstrate that you have a clear understanding of the unique benefits of a particular pathway, and are enthusiastic about how it could support your future goals.
If aiming for a particular university, try to talk to its students or alumni, or admission advisors. Attend university open days if possible: many local universities are holding them around now.
3. Write a strong personal statement
Most university applications will require you to write a personal statement. This is a short, reflective piece of writing explaining why you would make an excellent candidate for your course.
A good personal statement should:
- reflect your personality,
- demonstrate your passion for your planned course,
- highlight your skills, achievements, and experiences,
- explain how this course will help you achieve your dreams.
You will probably need to write several drafts of this, so start early, and keep polishing your statement until it shines!
4. Prepare for tests and interviews
Many universities will require you to undergo follow-up tests or interviews, often to demonstrate your language proficiency.
For tests, look up past papers and practise answering them, preferably under timed conditions. For interviews, do the usual: show up on time, dress professionally, and express yourself clearly. Find out the type of questions usually asked and prepare for them accordingly.
5. Prepare impressive letters of recommendation
Often, a university will require an applicant to send in a letter of recommendation. These are usually from employers, teachers, counsellors, or anyone the applicant has previously worked or volunteered with.
When preparing these, choose people who know you well, and would have positive things to say about you.
Brief your referees on what they should emphasise: this would usually be experiences that are related to the course you are applying to. And don’t forget to give them enough time in advance to write their letters.
6. Pay attention to deadlines
There’s nothing more frustrating than having crafted the best, most polished application possible, only to discover you have missed the last day to send it in.
So always keep track of deadlines. Record them in a journal, or set phone reminders. And start on your applications as early as possible. Don’t wait until the absolute last minute, only to discover the application is more complicated than expected.
7. Believe in yourself
Applying to a particularly renowned or prestigious university may be intimidating. ‘Why would such an eminent place accept someone like me’, you may think.
But remember: you have nothing to lose by applying. Aim high and give your dream course a try, even if it may feel like a longshot. You never know how things will turn out!
8. Double-check your applications before sending them
This may sound like an obvious tip, but it is one worth repeating. Always read through everything one final time before sending your application out.
Typos may not doom you, but could result in university representatives developing a bad impression of you.
Incomplete or incorrect applications may result in unnecessary delays or complications for admission.
Be especially careful when using templates. One particularly common (and painful) mistake is forgetting to change the name of the universities you are writing to.
All the best to all your university applications!