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Essential tips for university applicants: how and where to apply

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By Ray Robertson

First, decide exactly which undergraduate course you want to study. Take into account the job you see yourself doing in the future, but also what interests you in the here and now. If you take a strong personal interest in selecting your course, you will usually find something that matches up with your passions, capabilities, plans for the future and personality.

Do some research and find out which universities excel at the course you want to take. Once you’ve picked a few, take a good look at each university to see which might suit you best. Your focus needs to be not just on what the university can offer academically but how well it caters to the whole-student experience. This includes extracurricular activities, on-campus facilities and the social side of university life.

You can learn a lot about a university by exploring its website and asking older friends about their first-hand experiences as undergraduates. Teachers and admissions counsellors will also be able to advise you, but, if at all possible, arrange to visit the campuses that interest you the most.

Discuss your budget with your parents and investigate financial aid – many universities offer merit and non-merit-based scholarships. Three years’ overseas study is expensive, and not your only option.Consider that the University of Hong Kong (HKU) is ranked 25th in the world, and Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST)  comes in 37th (according to QS World University Rankings, 2019). These universities also offer student exchange programmes in many subjects, which would allow you to spend some time studying overseas.

Apply to universities both within and slightly above your grade reach. Aim high but at the same time provide yourself with a safety net, by applying to a couple of universities where you are almost certain to be accepted. Note that highly ranked universities are the most difficult to get into; popular, well-regarded courses generate more competition too.

Establish good relationships with the teachers who will be providing you with recommendations – what they have to say about you can be the deciding factor that wins you a place at your university of choice.

Think about what admissions tutors are actually looking for. Your grades and scores are important to them but so is your personality, as outlined in your Personal Statement/Individual Essay. Universities are interested in students who are passionate about their chosen subject and will excel in class. They are also looking to enrol well-rounded individuals who are likely to give back to the university through their extracurricular activities.

Lastly, start writing your Personal Statement/ Individual Essay early. By putting a lot of thought into your application, you can make sure that you have presented yourself to best advantage. Schedule time for redrafting your essays. Be ahead of the game – it pays off

Photo by Anastasiya Gepp- www.pexels.com

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