For students at the age of 18, university is both an exciting and intimidating next step in life. Not only does it present a step towards adulthood, but it also represents the opportunity to live completely independently – a dream for some and a fear for others. However, even before arriving at university, many students begin feeling the pressure and anxiety that applying can bring, especially as they have to juggle multiple goals to be successful.
To try and lighten the load, we have put together this guide to three of the most important aspects that make up a successful application. This way, students can more easily identify what they need to focus on or where their application is weakest and improve in that area. Hopefully, it helps.
The Personal Statement
Firstly, to even get a chance at being considered by a university’s applications officer, a good personal statement is essential. A personal statement is typically around 500 words and should be written to show off the applicant’s passion, enthusiasm for their subject and something that separates them from the average student. It’s important to note that universities receive tens of thousands of applicants every year, sometimes for just a single course – if nothing leaps out as interesting, they will simply put that application in the ‘no’ pile.
The key to creating a successful personal statement is to read around the subject you’re applying for or to show independent engagement with the subject before applying. For example, if applying for an electrical engineering degree, build something and talk about it in your personal statement to show you are already engaging in the subject on your own. This will also give you plenty of background knowledge to help in interviews and, if successful, it will make your course that much easier.
Obviously, achieving the required grades for your course is the most important aspect of your application. However, grades are only important if your application is successful and you are given an offer by the university. When you are initially applying, it’s predicted grades which make the difference.
Predicted grades are usually decided by teachers but that doesn’t mean they can’t be influenced. If you feel that your predicted grades are too low or not reflective of your actual ability, speaking to teachers and asking what you can do to improve your prediction is a viable option. Often teachers will offer tests or challenges to indicate your dedication or ability. This is almost always worth having an improved prediction so ensure you put the effort in.
After succeeding from a predicted grades and personal statement perspective, the final challenge is the interview. All of the top universities make use of interviews to test the teachability, talent and attitude of their applicants, from Yale to Oxford. In fact, there are even courses set up which are dedicated to teaching how to perform well in an interview. These interview preparation days cover Oxford entry requirements like what interviewers look for, what type of questions they ask and how to show that you are the student they’re looking for.
The interview is the hardest part of the application process as it’s difficult to prepare but the key is to be honest, enthusiastic and methodical in the little preparation you can do. With the right attention to detail, an interview can be aced without a hitch.
Hopefully, this list of key considerations will have emphasised where effort should be placed for any student looking to have a successful university application. Note that even if you aren’t successful, university Is never the only option – there are plenty of other opportunities to develop, find a specialisation and build a career.