University Guidance 4 U

Top Tips

Other Top Tips

There are lots of tips and tricks you can use or should know to help you either understand how things work or help make your application great. Here are a few to get started but I will be adding more. Stay tuned.

  • Check any information you receive, regardless of where you get it from. Things change. Sometimes it is a small change that has no real effect on your application(s). But, sometimes it can be a BIG change that you need to know. All too often you will hear something from someone (parent, friend, teacher) and you will take it as truth. DO NOT!!!!! check for yourself and confirm. I see this type of thing too often and in most cases it is the applicant (you) who suffers.

  • Parents, you are not the one going to university, your child is. Happy students, tend to be successful students. I know only too well that it can be hard. You've probably made most decisions to the best of your ability for your children. It is vital that you play your part in the process. But, be mindful of your child's dreams and wishes. The aim is to give our students the best opportunity to be successful.

  • Make your decisions, then let go. Every year, I have students that struggle making the simplest of decisions. From choosing a recommender to sending an email to an admissions department. Students will ponder and ponder and procrastinate for what seems like eternity. You must make the decision and then move on to the next part of your plan. In most cases, this happens because students have not done their research or planning to the fullest ability.

  • Get feedback on anything you want and everything you need. Of course, it needs to be your work. But, it would be wise to get it checked over before you send it. And, the more times it is checked (and not by you) the better quality it will be.

  • Take criticism. This is large part relates to the last. But, you will not excel at everything. Listen very carefully to any critique you get. If someone is giving you or your work a critique, it likely means that they have spotted something that they think you should work on and can probably to better. For example, I have an amazingly bright student that did not do well on her mid-terms. She was distraught. But, revealing that she revised 6 IB subjects for all of a couple of weeks prior to the examination resulted in fairly thorough critique.

  • Be aware of the costs. Going to university can be very expensive. If funding your studies is going to be a factor in your future education, be sure to have that fairly high on your research agenda. There are numerous funding options from scholarships to loans. But the availability of that can vary greatly. However, the world is a big place and not are as expensive as the next.

  • The cost of your university education does not necessarily reflect the quality. Related to the last tip, but very much stand alone. The cost of university education can vary greatly from one country to another. More so, most countries and their universities will give you first class education. So, shop around for the best deal. Go have a look at the universities Nobel Prize winners came from, you might be surprised.

  • Create a CV. Do this as early as you can. Then add to it whenever you need to. A CV is a great way to list some of the highlights about you. Grades, awards, volunteering, jobs, hobbies and interests. All these things WILL factor in your university application at some point and it gives you a working document that you can give to any visiting university representative.

  • Be VERY wary of promises and guarantees. Far too often I hear stories from students and parents about a broken promise and failed guarantees. If someone says that they have the someone on the inside that can guarantee you a place at a 'given' university, BE CAUTIOUS. It is most likely not quite what it seems. Think of the saying "if its too good to be true.....". The British Council ethical guidelines indicated that Promises and Guarantees could be considered as fraudulent and can pursued by legal action.

  • Get professional guidance. There is a lot information out in the world but it can be tough to go through it all. Especially when you will be busy with school and life. A university guidance counsellor 'worth their salt' will give you the opportunity use the advice and guidance they give you to help you make the right choices. They may do quite a bit of hand-holding and some pushing to get you moving. But that is what they are there for. They should NOT be writing your; Essays, Statements, Application form or anything else that is for the applicant to do! However, they should be giving good critical feedback. If they are taking money from you. Make sure you know what they will be doing for you to earn it!

  • Have downtime. This is probably, one of the most important things to do. I see students that think they will work solid, all the time. Maybe they plan to catchup, do extra, chasing a grade etc, etc. Whatever the reason, many of these students will eventually struggle. You are young and you have friends that in a few short months, you probably will not see again (at least for a while). So make sure you have down time to socialise, go to the movies, do your hobbies. Not too much but, certainly not too little.

  • Do you really need to take that test? Some testing is optional. The university will let you know that. SAT/ACT are increasingly optional. So if you do not need it, why do it. Especially when you are so busy! Speak to the university and get their opinion (it will be a standard response, but you will at least hear it from them), Some tests that you think you have to do, you may not. e.g., IELTS/TOEFL. If you are at an English speaking school doing iGCSE/A-Levels/IB, you might not need to do these English proficiency tests. Your counsellor can guide you on this, but you can also call the university.

  • Check your emails. This is super frustrating. I have had students that do not check there emails. Sadly, some miss the offers, or worse have an offer removed, because the student did not respond to an email! It really happens!!! If you have applied and the university has your documents, it is likely that at some point, they will get in touch. They will certainly send some marketing your way (and why not, they want you) but every now and then, they will actually be asking you for some further information. If your not checking and you miss it, they will look elsewhere, to the students that ARE checking their emails.

  • No your deadlines. Cannot believe I have to say this but, you must know when the application deadlines are. You might have squishy deadlines at school. But, universities and their application deadlines are pretty solid. It is simple, if you miss the submission deadline, you are NOT GOING.

  • You have to commit. These 12 steps are something that you will have to commit to. Most of them are seem relatively straightforward. They are designed to increasingly compliment your route through to application, offer and acceptance at the university that is best for you. But, if you do not put in any effort, what will you expect out of it. Crap in = Crap out.

  • Grades. Your grades are probably the most important part of your application. It is fairly simple, the better they are the more choices you will have, both for universities and scholarships. Work on your high-school academics as early as you can. Definitely before your final 2 years. leaving it to the last year will be too late!

  • University rank. Don't use ranking tables as your main way to select your university choices. They are an OK place to start looking. But, most ranks do not really focus on things that are directly related to the student experience. Your, experience. What good is it being at a top 100 university, if you hate every day being there. (That happens!!). There are many other factors that you should consider that are much more important.

  • Know yourself. That sounds simple. But, do you REALLY know what you want. And equally important, do you really know what you do not want. What are you passionate about? What experiences have you had that drives you to know more? Do you like being in one environment more than another. Knowing yourself will help you make choices that are better for you.

  • Do your own research. It will be you that has to live at university for the next 3 to 4 (or more) years. Make sure you know where you are going and what it is going to be like. Equally, make sure you know everything you need to produce to make your application. It is a shame to go through the hard work of making a good application only to find out at the end that you do not even qualify to be an applicant (that happens)

  • Do you own work. You will probably have to write an essay. Maybe many! Do that work yourself and do not get someone else to do it. Universities are expecting to hear the words of a 17-18 year old (or however old you might be when your applying). They will easily spot the 'voice' of a 50 year old graduate.

  • Be honest. You will have lots of information and plenty of suggestions. You will have some idea about what you like and you will probably know what you do not like. Students, be honest with your parents and parents be honest with your children. Now is not the time to stay quiet about any of your expectations.

  • Be realistic. This is very important. When you are making your list of universities to apply to, you must be realistic about your chances of acceptance. You must put yourself into the mind of an admissions officer. If you are a solid 'B grade student, what are your chances of getting into a highly selective university that generally accepts solid 'A grade students?

  • Aim for the best, plan for the worst. Of course, you are going to want to get into the best school for you and that should always be your aim. But what if that does not happen? University applications is incredibly competitive and is increasing year on year. So it is vital that you have a plan B, and maybe even C & D.

  • Prior Planning and Preparation Prevents Poor Performance (The 6 P's). Plan your route to university. Definitely at the start of year 12 (Grade 11) but better if you start earlier than that. The process (these 12 steps to university), takes about 2 years. That's 2 years to make a good quality and well thought-out university application.

  • Get used to researching universities. There are something like 30'000 universities globally! That is a lot to choose from. A small percentage of them will attract the most applications. But, does that mean that the rest are not worth your time? Quite often, their are better choices.

  • Do not be lazy! Lazy applications stand out a mile! Most importantly, they stand out from the crowd and not in a good way. If you are lazy, and cannot be bothered to complete your application forms fully, or give well composed answers and essays. If your grammar, punctuation and spelling are sloppy, what does that say about you as a prospective university student? Do not be lazy.

  • Be in control of the things that you can be in control of. Things like; your grades, your activities, your time-management, your preparation. Stuff like that is in your control. You are NOT in control of when a university admissions officer might reply to your email. You are not in control of other people who are applying to the same university. Your are not in control of what kind of offer you might receive. Try to not worry about the things outside your control