So, with the summer holidays drawing to an end, and the school term quickly approaching (*insert tears of anguish*), the various university applications processes have either opened up or will open soon – and so begins the mad scramble to meet personal essay deadlines, get recommendation letters and stuff in those last few extracurriculars. So, in light of this (and as another panicked applicant myself), I’ve put together a quick list of things that’ll help you frost the metaphorical cake of your application, and hopefully calm your frazzled nerves! (Yes, my metaphors are cheesy, don’t judge me)
1. Pursuing your subject outside the classroom
While getting the grades is important, universities are also aware of the intellectual leap that the transition from highschool to college requires, and a great way to present yourself as the kind of student who will be able to cope with all that change is to show that you’ve gone that extra mile- from offering to tutor younger kids, to applying for a subject-specific writer’s position in your school newsletter (don’t have a school newsletter? Even better, you can start one!) it’s just a matter of researching what opportunities are open to you and seizing them. And if you’re running short on time, don’t worry- online courses are an easy, free and time-efficient way to demonstrate your love for your subject. Just make an account on Coursera or FutureLearn (or any of the gazillion other sites offering MOOCs) and get started!
2. Knowing your course
Researching your university and your course is super important, both to ensure that you are making the right choice for yourself, and to show the university that you have put thought into the matter and are the ideal student for them. Research your course structure, check out whether your interests align with the university’s, see whether they offer specific programs/ extra-curricular opportunities that appeal to you, and you’ll be able to justify why you think you’ll be the right fit for the course and university that you are applying to in your essays and interviews. While this might not seem that important on the surface, subtle details like this could be what distinguishes you from other applicants and proves that you are invested!
3. Be genuine. Be honest.
This might seem obvious, but don’t try to pile up unnecessary extracurriculars and bits of volunteering to make yourself seem more marketable- universities have been playing the application game for a long time and they will see right through you. Try to make sure that everything you include- your extracurriculars, your volunteering, what you write in your personal essays- genuinely reflect YOU and YOUR interests. And if they don’t, don’t include them. As teachers tirelessly love to quote, ‘quality over quantity’. And don’t stress too much about ‘standing out from the crowd’ because, let’s face it, there are inevitably going to be a bunch of other people with very similar profiles to you. The only way to really gain their attention is to allow your genuine interest in the subject to come through!
(side note: it goes without saying that you should obviously NOT lie on your application. The consequences will most definitely be nasty, and nobody wants that)
Aaand that’s all! There are obviously a whole bunch of other things you can do as well, but these are the tips I found most helpful when going through my own application process. If you’re an overthinker and a panick-er like me, I hope this has helped you- and if you’re feeling particularly overwhelmed with information, try making a document compiling all your uni research- a list of ECs, application deadlines and everything else. It certainly gave me the illusion of control and is keeping the panic at bay (for now).
So, take a deep breath. You got this. And good luck!