University Applications and Admissions: Expert Advice | Top Universities

University Applications and Admissions: Expert Advice

By Staff Writer

Updated February 21, 2021 Updated February 21, 2021

So, you’ve done the research, you’re pretty confident that you’re going to get the grades you need, and you’ve finally concluded that studying abroad is right for you.

Congratulations: you’ve made one of the biggest – and hopefully most rewarding – decisions you’ll ever have to make in your life. Now all you need to do is get into the university of your choice...

Of course, this can be a very daunting experience. But fear not: if you keep your wits about you, then there’s no need for this to be any more than an administrative hassle!

To make the whole process a lot easier, TopUniversities.com asks admissions staff to share their advice on how to make university applications as painless as possible.

Choosing where to apply

Given the amount of time each application can take up, it’s important to think carefully about where you really want to apply.

Caroline Berry, International Officer at the University of Leicester, UK, advises students to begin preparations as early as possible: “As well as searching on the internet and checking the web pages of individual institutions, speaking to family, friends and teachers who have studied [overseas] is always a good place to start, and a way of narrowing down choices,” she advises.

“As well as choosing a course, students need to consider many other elements, including the type of environment they would like to live in, location, transport links, availability of accommodation, cost of living, options for financing studies through institutional scholarships and, of course, the type of institution they prefer.”

Stuart Schmill, Dean of Admissions at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), US, echoes this sentiment, emphasizing the importance of looking at the different degree structures on offer: “The key thing for an applicant to understand is the kind of educational environment that will best suit how they like to learn.

"Universities in different countries – or even in the same country – are very different in their styles and methods; some are very focused on a specific course of study, while others are more broad-based in their offerings."

He adds, “Culture is important. Students want to find the environment that best matches the way they like to learn.”

In the opinion of Pieke Hoekstra of Delft University of Technology, Netherlands, it’s best to focus on institutions rather than countries. However, Miranda Cheng, Director of the Centre for International Experience at the University of Toronto, Canada, says looking at the host country’s immigration policy should also play a part in your decision, particularly if you’re planning to work there during or after your degree.

Schmill points out the importance of having “a realistic understanding of what it will cost, and how [you] will pay for it” – there’s no sense, after all, in going through the entire application procedure if you find at the end that you just can’t afford it.

Getting started with university applications

Once you’ve weighed up all the factors and carefully made your decision, it’s time for the really fun part: applying.

Though this might seem obvious, ensure you take care over this. You don’t want to miss out simply because you forgot to submit the required evidence or applied too late.

“Students should check entry requirements and deadlines before applying to make sure that they have the best possible chance of gaining a place on their chosen course,” Berry confirms.

“If they are unsure whether their qualifications are acceptable, they might like to contact the admissions office or international office in their chosen institution to check before submitting a full application.”

She emphasizes the importance of applying in good time: “Students should try to make an application as early as possible as this will give them plenty of time to make all the necessary arrangements for a move abroad, including organizing their finances, applying for scholarships and obtaining a student visa.”

Plus, as Cheng adds, if you’re ever unsure about anything, ask!

Writing your personal statement

Of course, it is extremely unlikely that you will be the only person applying to your course, and Peter Dunn of Warwick University, UK, warns that – especially at top universities – the competition is likely to be stiff.

“Almost all applicants who apply to top universities will have high predicted grades that will meet the university’s academic requirements, so any other personal information on the form is a very important way in which you can impress the selectors.”

Your personal statement, he continues, is your main chance to convey this: “The person reading your application form will want to know in what ways you ‘connect’ with your chosen subject. They will look for motivated students who can articulate their aims and have the potential to succeed on the course.”

Though work experience and extracurricular activities certainly play a part in this – especially when you can show how they are relevant – you should not allow them to dominate your statement, Dunn says.

“Remember that you are applying for an academic course of study, and the limited space available to you for your personal statement should predominantly focus on this.”

Berry agrees: “Admissions tutors are most impressed when students can demonstrate a real understanding and commitment to their chosen subject area and show that they have considered its relevance to their future career choice.”

Schmill adds that presenting yourself as someone who will contribute to the campus community will work in your favor.

University application mistakes to avoid

So what are common mistakes people make during their applications?

“It makes an admissions tutor’s job more difficult if applicants do not provide enough information with regards to their qualifications,” Berry says.

“In the case of those applying with overseas qualifications, students shouldn’t attempt to translate theirs into [another system] – it’s always better to state the original name of the qualification gained.”

Schmill emphasizes the importance of paying attention: “It is important to fulfil all of the requirements that a university lays out. Make sure you take all the tests that you need to, have your interviews, and if an application asks you to answer a particular question, answer that and not some other question that you would prefer to answer.”

Bear all this in mind, and you’ll stand as good a chance as anyone. But, remember, if you don’t get in, it’s not the end of the world.

“It’s important to bear in mind that admissions tutors have a student’s best interests at heart when considering applications and will only make offers to those who they believe can be successful on their chosen course,” Berry says.

For this reason alone, it is worth applying to more than one university, because even if you don’t get into your first choice, Schmill concludes, “a university education is what you make of it – so you can have a terrific experience wherever you end up.”

This article was originally published in March 2012 and has since been updated in November 2019.  

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This article was originally published in October 2012 . It was last updated in February 2021

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Posted By GABRIEL CHEGHE
Wed, 10/16/2013 - 10:58

Comment

Sir / Madam,
I hold a BA in English Language / Literature and would like to go in for a Masters,s degree course in Linguistics.
How do I apply? Looking forward to reading from you at your earliest convenience.

Posted By GABRIEL CHEGHE
Wed, 10/16/2013 - 11:02

Comment

L hold a BA in English Language / Linguistics and would like to go in for a Master's degree in a South African university . How do I apply? Looking forward to hearing from you at your earliest convenience.

Posted By Agbaje Hammed
Fri, 11/29/2013 - 14:58

Comment

Requirement of getting a student visa and residence permit in Malta

* Student Visa Form
* Application fee
* 2 passport size photograph
* Valid return ticket
* Bank Statement
* Proof of Accommodation
* Valid Passport
* Letter of Acceptance
* Full Travel Insurance
* Statement Declaring paid deposit

Posted By Joseph Okugbaye
Sat, 11/30/2013 - 19:32

Comment

My son David was admitted to Madonna University in Nigeria ( after scoring very good grades at his the West African Secondary School Examinations) to read Medicine & Surgery in 2011. The course was initially planned to take 8 years to complete. At the end of his 1st year the School authority informed all the students in his class that they will now have to spend 12 years to graduate not because he is doing bad in academics ( in fact his GPA for year one was 3.8) but the school over admitted students beyond their approved quota by the Nigerian Medical & Dental council. I now want him to transfer to the Near East University in Cyprus to continue the course. I want to know where he will start from in this School because at present he has completed most of his year 2 work and ready to write the year 2 examinations. How many years will he spend to graduate if he continue to perform well in this School.
Thanks
Joseph Okugbaye

Posted By Tafadzwa Gotora
Wed, 12/18/2013 - 13:06

Comment

I want to study aeronautic engineering but unfortunately there is no university that offers the programme in my country Zimbabwe so I will have to study abroad.The problem is that I am orphaned and I can't afford the costs of studying abroad therefore I will need financial aid.I have a strong affinity for this field and I am very competent.I have just finished my Advanced level examinations and I would like to start applying.What can I do?

Posted By fatima Najib Khoury
Wed, 01/08/2014 - 08:11

Comment

Hi, I want to study sociology/ international relations in university of Toronto, I have a job now at a printing press but that is just something am doing for now, i am a single mum I have 2 beautiful boys.IWant to study aboard because our educational system here in Nigeria is not stable,I want to finish school on time to be able to get a better job and to give my boys a better life. please advice me on how to apply and how the finances will look like,I have a place to stay not far from the university of toronto so that wouldn't be included. Thank You.

In reply to by [email protected]

Posted By tukurah serah
Thu, 07/03/2014 - 22:01

Comment

I have a first degree in sociology, I want to do my masters in human resource management, in any university in Seoul korea, I want to resume school soonest. Pls advice

Posted By Michael Essel
Sat, 01/18/2014 - 14:48

Comment

Hi. I have a brother whose dream is to be a medical doctor. He completed with a Barchelor's Degree in Zoology, from the University of Ghana, Legon. He is a bit fraustrated now because of the sudden change his course of study by the Biological Science Department. How do i get information on enrolling him in a medical school schorlaship abroad? Will be glad if anyone can help us out now. Thanks

Posted By nader behtash
Mon, 01/27/2014 - 10:30

Comment

Dear Mr/Ms
I live with my family in Iran.
i am Petroleum engineer and my husband is nurse
My son is 14 years studying gifted school in Iran .
My daughter is finishing high school
We want to read your university course in Canada ,Greece or USA
what can i do?
thanks a lot
nader behtash

In reply to by [email protected]

Posted By Laura Bridgestock
Mon, 03/10/2014 - 09:37

Comment

Hi Munaa. The application process varies depending on the university, the country and the type of course you're interested in. If you know which country you want to study in, our country guides have some information about the application process: https://www.topuniversities.com/where-to-study

Hope this is helpful as a starting point!

In reply to by [email protected]

Posted By Laura Bridgestock
Wed, 04/09/2014 - 09:19

Comment

Hi Henry. This depends on which country you are studying in. In some cases (like the UK), there's a centralized application system, where you can apply for multiple courses at different universities in one go. In other cases you need to apply directly to each university, usually via an online application system.

Laura

In reply to by MOHAMMEDBABA.N…

In reply to by [email protected]

Posted By Laura Bridgestock
Mon, 05/19/2014 - 09:16

Comment

Hi Pelenjo. The application process varies depending on which country you want to study in - you may need to apply directly to each university, or via a centralized application system. For more, check out the information in our country guides: https://www.topuniversities.com/where-to-study

Hope this helps!

Posted By Ian Nsibande
Tue, 06/03/2014 - 11:26

Comment

Good day. I am Ian Nsibande from Swaziland. I kindly request your assistance. I would love to study MSc Programme and Project Management in Ireland. I have a B-Tech degree in Agriculture (from South Africa) and an Advanced Diploma in Project Management (from ICM in the UK).

In reply to by [email protected]

Posted By Laura Bridgestock
Tue, 06/03/2014 - 12:13

Comment

Hi Ian. We have a guide to studying abroad in Ireland, here: https://www.topuniversities.com/where-to-study/europe/ireland/guide

Hopefully this will provide some useful information.

Posted By JOSEPH CHAVULA
Sat, 06/14/2014 - 11:08

Comment

Hai, am interested to obtain further qualifications in building construction /architecture. i have a college -Academy of Drafting Techniques in which i teach talented youths who can not access tertiary training. i also have a Consultancy firm in which i do design works particularly for those who can not afford high and exorbitant fees; such churches, orphaned groups etc. and the less preveraged. i also have a mandate from the government Ministry of education to undertake talent motivation lessons at all Technical high schools for school leavers in order for them to have an insight of the future careers. I have HND from Tadoa Ando Academy -Japan, Dip. in Construction Management from U.K.

In reply to by [email protected]

Posted By Laura Bridgestock
Sun, 06/15/2014 - 10:58

Comment

Hi Joseph. Sounds like you have lots of great plans! Which university (or universities) are you interested in applying to? Depending on the country, you'll either need to apply directly to each university (usually using an online application system) or using a national centralized system that allows you to apply to more than one institution at the same time.

Posted By fred ohifuemeh
Thu, 06/26/2014 - 13:30

Comment

I WOULD LIKE TO APPLY FOR MBA IN BUSINESS FINANCE IN ANY OF THESE UNIVERSITIES IN CANADA ,UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA , ALBERTA UNIVERSITY ,MAC MASTER UNIVERSITY WESTERN ONTARIO, UNIVERSITY OF WATERLOO , YORK UNIVERSITY , QUEEN'S UNIVERSITY .HOW CAN I GET APPLICATION FORMS FROM THESE SCHOOLS I HAVE LISTED ABOVE

In reply to by [email protected]

Posted By Laura Tucker
Thu, 06/26/2014 - 14:52

Comment

Hi Fred,

What you'll need to do first is visit each of these university's websites and search for your specific program. There you'll find all the details you need regarding applications and usually there's an email address for any other queries you might have.

The University of British Columbia's Full-time MBA program is listed here at Sauder.ubc.ca with all the relevant information. Hopefully this starts you off on the right foot!

For more information about MBA specializations and the world rankings of leading business schools, visit our sister site TopMBA.com

Best of luck,

Laura

 

Posted By JOHN GARIBA
Sat, 07/05/2014 - 14:21

Comment

It has been my dream of studying in the UK, i have finished high school and i am studying civil engineering in Wa Polytechnic a 3-year programme (HND) and i am in my final year but want an admission in one of the universities in the UK next year for my master's, i don't know if i have met the requirements and if yes how do i start?

Posted By Pradeep Kumar
Tue, 07/08/2014 - 21:49

Comment

hello,i have completed my BE in mechanical engineering degree from VTU university,which is one of the toughest in here inturn i got only 53% aggregate in my overall degree as i was sick for one and a half year and had around 20 backlogs in my engineering life but i came up nd don't have even a single backlog in my last three semesters which is most tough in my university,i want to do my post graduate MS from Germany in machine design from a good college m sure i ll get a good score in GRE but i wanna ask u is that my past performance will make any problem in getting my student visa for Germany?????,,,because for applying for any university and getting enrollment in any university may take around INR 1,50,000 before applying for visa, plz tell me is there any risk of not getting the visa to study in Germany??plz reply me,thank you:)

Posted By mona re
Wed, 07/23/2014 - 20:24

Comment

Hello
I am PhD student of Sport Managements, University of Tehran, Tehran, Iran(one of the high-ranked, well-known university of Iran). I would like to apply for a six-month attendance at one of the top university of Canada, USA, Australia or New Zealand as scholars to add to my experience. please help me.

In reply to by [email protected]

Posted By Laura Bridgestock
Thu, 07/24/2014 - 09:38

Comment

Hi Mona. If you want to identify the top universities in those countries, you could use the latest edition of the QS World University Rankings and filter the list by location: https://www.topuniversities.com/university-rankings/world-university-rankings/2013

We also have guides to studying abroad in all of those destinations, which you'll find here: https://www.topuniversities.com/where-to-study

Hope this helps you get started!

Posted By mohamed mahamuud
Mon, 08/04/2014 - 11:48

Comment

hi iam mohamed ali i have finished high school in mogadishu in 2013 - 2014
I WOULD LIKE TO join this university I need help on how i can get welfare
this is my deepth life
my father was dead in 1994 at civil war
my mother marriege an other man that man kicks me my home

at last I hope to eccept my application plz and plz try to help me

Posted By Martha Chong
Mon, 08/11/2014 - 05:45

Comment

QUIEN ESCRIBE ES LA MAMA DE UN CHICO SUPER INTELIGENTE QUE LE GUSTA INVESTIGAR , YY POR RAZONES ECONOMICAS NO PUEDE ESTUDIAR SU GRAN SUEÑO ES ESTUDIAR MEDICINA, AHORA ESTA TRABAJANDO Y ME DA PENA VER COMO ALGIEN QUE TIENE EL POTENCIAL NO PUEDA ESTUDIAR POR RAZONES ECONOMICAS E ENTRADO A DIFERENTES MEDIOS HABER SI CONSIGO UNA BECA PARA EL , SI ALGUNA UNIVERSIDAD DE CUALQUIER PARTE DEL MUNDO LEE ESTA NOTA ESCRIBIRME A que dios le bendiga por darse el tiempo de leer, y mas si mi llamado tiene eco gracias le escribo desde PERU

Posted By TONOYA SHAHID
Tue, 08/19/2014 - 07:17

Comment

HI I AM TONOYA SHAHID FROM BANGLADESH AND COMPLETED MY B.SC ENGINEERING IN TEXTILE INGENEERING.I HAVE AMBITION FOR MASTER'S DEGREE IN CANADA,UK,USA,AUSTRALIA OR SOUTH AFRICA. I NEED YOUR ASSISTANCE ON HOW TO APPLY.

In reply to by [email protected]

Posted By Laura Bridgestock
Tue, 08/19/2014 - 12:21

Comment

Hi Tonoya. For information about how to apply to universities in each of those countries, check out our dedicated country guides: https://www.topuniversities.com/where-to-study

Also, stay tuned for the new edition of the QS Top Grad School Guide - this will be available for free download shortly, and is full of advice on graduate admissions. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter to get it first.

Best of luck!

Posted By Monir Mohamed
Mon, 08/25/2014 - 21:15

Comment

Dear
My name Monir mohamed
I am working as technical manager in oil industry with Halliburton in Qatar
My daughter is holding American diploma ( she completed grade-12 in American school in Doha)
She likes to study dentistry abroad for BSC DEGREE IN DENTISTRY. In English language
Would you please advise
Which country you advise me to apply

Thank you

Posted By Hayssam Azy
Tue, 09/16/2014 - 11:24

Comment

I've got my phd from University of savoie-france. Now I'm searching for a postdoc in the domaine civil engineering. Can anybody help me to guide for obtaining a postdoc or experimental stage .
thank you for your reply.
hayssam izazy

Posted By Amrit Bhusal
Thu, 09/18/2014 - 14:22

Comment

Hi, I am from Nepal. I want to study Physics, undergraduate, as I enjoy it the most. I want to study in EU and America in full scholarship. Can anyone please help me? It would means very much fot me Thank you.

In reply to by versatileright…

Posted By Laura Bridgestock
Fri, 09/19/2014 - 09:58

Comment

Hi Amrit. We have a list of scholarships to study in the US here, and a list of scholarships to study in Europe, here. Take a look and see which ones you might be able to apply for! Good luck, and let us know if there's anything else we can help with.

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