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University Applications and Admissions: Expert Advice

University Applications and Admissions: Expert Advice main image

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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A university that I applied to for direct PhD sent me this mail:
The Department of Chemical Engineering has evaluated your application for admission to the Ph.D. program in Engineering. The department has recommended that admission be denied for the Ph.D. program but do recommend that you consider applying for the M.S. program. If you do wish to be considered for M.S. admission, please let me know. In addition, please let me know which term you wish to begin—Spring 2021 or Fall 2021.
However it is not clear if they want me to open a fresh application or just indicate my interest. I have sent a mail for clarification but no response. Can you decipher what this means

Hi, It sounds like they want you to indicate your interest for the MS program so that they can transfer your application. However, you should send a follow up email, expressing your interest in the course and asking what the next steps are. 

M doing B. S hons in chemistry. Now i want to take the admission in abroad universities?

For University join US &PG please reach me back i am an student advisor from one of top university India

Admissions in schools and colleges are very typical in today's era, parents and students are very frustrated about admissions process and they don't have enough knowledge to there child admitted easily. So this article helps them to get enough information of there queries. Thanks for posting. 

Nice article share about education, Education lovers will like it all and will helpful for them.Keep posting.

Hi Thank you so much for sharing the information with us. This help us a lot and will give us a knowledge to choose the best college. 

I am engineering 3rd year carry on student I have appeared for final year at the end of semester and I have taken admission in final year..I want to cancel the admission and want to readmission in next year..
how to cancel the admission and readmission..plz help me

Really thank you so much for giving us all the information about the application and admission process for PGDM. I was searching for this kind of data and points to take decisions over the PG courses. Thank you so much again.

Hello greeting,
I am asghar, currently I am doing MSC in applied physics but now I want to enroll in any robotic university for masters program . but the problem is this I have a MSC degree and their requirements are bachelor in engineering (BE) or master in engineering (ME) do someone please guide me

I'm starting my senior year of high school in five days and was a little lost on the things I need to keep in mind for when I start my college applications. This article was really helpful in the way that it addressed specific things high school graduates should do when applying to schools. Thanks so much for the tips!

Can I do masters in another subject if it is not directly associated with my stream which is biotechnology but I did take it as an additional subject in my bachelors.

Hi, I just completed my bachelor's degree and planning for Master's in Canada,
I did my graduation in biotechnology but I don't want to do Master's in biotech. So I want to know if it is possible to do masters in the subject which I studied in Bachelors but is not part of Biotechnology.

Life Ruining Apps that seems irresistibly amazing The time is the most precious thing in the world and there are many ways to waste this precious thing.

While researching and applying to colleges (and even going to college) can seem like a massive waste of time initially, the payoff of having a degree is usually well worth it, depending on your major and the type of degree you chose. College degrees can open up more opportunities more quickly than just applying to jobs you might not fully be qualified for otherwise, and the dedication and effort you put in to earning a degree doesn't hurt either.

hmm agreed

I am a student of Bachelor of science in Physics and complited BSC.I want to admit Masters in Physics any public university in malaysia.How can i do now?

does ILETS score matters while changing university in Australia ?

Thank you for advising on this critical level of university application. Indeed its not an easy task, especially if you are writing a personal statement for the first time. I found the above advise very useful when working on my personal statement.

Hello. My name is Ali. I have cgpa of 2.5 according to german grading system. In which german universities should i apply for masters? Is it possible to get admission in any TU9 university with 2.5 cgpa ?

my name is jagriti,
I have completed b.E (EC) in six years due to no of backlogs.
I have given ielts n scored 6.5 overall with no band less than 6
I have applied to many universities of melbourne but my application was rejected due to academic results
Please help me what additional thing i should do to get admission for masters in engineering.

Looking to apply to University of Waterloo/Toronto/British COlumbia in Canada for Fall 2017. Two of these universities have Dec 15th as their deadline.
I am taking my TOEFL on Sep 24th. I am doing some intense GRE preperation as well. And planning to take it on Oct 24th. So the ETS should send by score by Novemeber 8 at the worst. My friends say that is late to apply. Is that right? I was originally planning to write GRE in the first week of November. Could you please shed some light into this matter?

Hi Aslam, my situation right now is exactly as you described. I'm planning to apply for Fall 2018, and I'm planning to give IELTS and GRE by the end of October 2018. But I'm still very confused, I have heard from many people and ready in few articles that it's better to start early. So what did you do? Did you apply to these universities? Were you accepted to one of these universities? Or did you postpone it until Winter 2017?

I have completed my Bachelors(B.Tech) in Computer Science. Have 2 years of experience as a software developer. Planning do masters from UK/Ireland. I thought of applying for the colleges through a consultancy. I have heard that if I apply through a consultancy.The chances of getting scholarships deplete. Is it true ??


Sometimes two-year schools are the best bet for getting your foot in the door, but you might try emailing admissions counselors at the schools you're considering for their input. Sorry that isn't too specific, but I hope it helps :)

Hi, my name is john and I currently hold a 2:2 degree in business education. I intend to apply for one of the management course in the university of Augsburg in Germany. How possible is it, if not can you advise me on schools that would accept it.

Hi, I have completed my third yr. of BTech in civil engg. from Indian Institute Of Technology Delhi. I have a CGPA of 6.7/10. Is it possible for me to secure an admission for masters programme at Delft University of Technology or National University of Singapore ??

Hi, I am a Master's scholar from the Indian Insitute of Technology,Delhi.I am planning to apply for the 1yr Mphil in Finance at Cambridge Judge.My CGPA is 9.12.Roughtly,what is its equivalence in the Uk system,like for example to a 2:1 or a first or less than that? How are my chances of getting an offer from the University of Cmabridge?

when the applications for germany starts. Does the reputation of the university matters as currently i am student of mumbai university and as i have seen the profile of many students securing 80-85% marks from south universities. while we dont have our topper also scoring more then 80% marks.

To find when applications open, I would look on the college's website. If you don't find any information there, try emailing an admissions counselor.

Hi, I have completed my Bachelor of Commerce (Honours)- Specialisation in Finance with 66% marks from a reputed Indian University. I have also completed a diploma course of Indian Institute of Banking and Finance, Mumbai. I am working with my country's Central Bank since last 5 years. I wish to pursue the Postgraduate course- MSc. in Economics Banking and Finance offered by the University of Glasgow. In this connection, I need your guidance on the followings:
1. As I will be applying for the academic year 2016-17, what would be the various cut off dates?

2. My employer will be awarding me scholarship to pursue the above course and therefore I need to inform them in advance about the Institute/University as well as the course of study which I intend to opt for. As this involve awarding of scholarship by employer, it will be a great help if I am provided with the criterion on which the selection will be accepted as well as declined to a prospective student.

Hi Satya. For specific deadlines and admission requirements, I'd always recommend checking directly with the university itself, via email or phone. Best of luck with your application!

i am currently student of chemical engineering and expect to expect to finish my course with an average GPA of 7.3-7.5 ....the thing my GPA in 3rd and 4th year are high and the first year is a bit downside...i also have some research work and internship.
what are my chances of securing a average university in USA or Canada

Hi Aayush, this really depends on the school in question as US univerisities have wildly different entry requirements. To find out whether you meet the entry requirements of a particular school, visit their official website and check under program details - or you can also contact the admissions department directly.

To find the leading universities in US and Canada, take a look at our chemical engineering subject rankings (but bear in mind that the higher up the rankings you go, the higher the entry requirements are likely to be).

To learn more about graduate study in the US, see this article.

Good luck! L

I am a student of Bachelor of technology in Electronics and Communication Engineering. My average grade till now is 7.4 according to Indian education system. What's my chance of getting master in subjects like nanotech, bionics, vlsi design etc in top european universities?

Thank you

Hi Barnik, the grade system is a little different here but it sounds like you're on track for an upper second class degree (7 CGPA = 2:1), meaning that you're in a good position to apply to leading European university for a master's degree. (See the DAAD's guidelines for Indian students here) Entry requirements vary however depending on the reputation of the school so you'll have to check each school's website for exact information. To find leading European universities, see our ranking of the world's top electronics engineering schools (you can filter the results by country/region).

To learn more about studying in Germany at master's level, see this article. Or, for answers to general questions see our FAQ.

Good luck! 


i am 10+2 science student from india , i am talented but unfortunately got poor marks in 12th intersted to study in canada so please tell some suitable course for me in good university

Hi Prabal, as well as using our subject rankings to find leading universities for your subject, you can also find a list of leading universities in Canada here :)

i wish i could have that opportunity so that i can help my country

I am planning to have my Master's in English in chemical engineering either in TU Dortmund or TUHH(Hamburg), i have a GPA of 2.5 (german grading system).
I wanted to know if they could accept me when i apply for admission or not?
And if anyone know what is the minimum GPA needed.

Thanks in advance

Hi Abdallah, after looking on TU Dortmund's website it seems that they only accept 3.0 GPA and above (see here) . There may be exceptions to this rule if you have a strong academic record but you should contact both schools directly to see if they would like you to apply anyway. Good luck!

I have submitted an application towards studying an Msc In Minerals Engineering at TU Delft, Holland. I would greatly need funding for the Master given a positive outcome which I am certain of. I appreciate would any suggestions on where to apply for a scholarship grant or study load if that be the case. Please help

Hi Hans, you can find a list of funding opportunities on the TU Delft website itself, here, but there may also be other funds available to you such as governmental schemes (both within the Netherlands and your home country if you're an international student) and funds from external organizations such as you'll find on our list of engineering scholarships. There are also a number of Netherlands scholarships listed here. Good luck with your application! Laura

hi! my name is Hoola Alain, i am a Cameroonian who lives in Hungary, please how can i apply for a University in Oslo-Norway to come and study Bachelor's degree in Electrical and Electronic Engineering. Best regard.

Hi Hoola. For information about applying to study in Norway, visit our country guide, here: https://www.topuniversities.com/where-to-study/europe/norway/guide

hlo,i am pursuing diploma in mechanical engineering in india,and i want to continue my graduates in germany,pls provide sm information.

Hi Aman. For information about studying in Germany, take a look at our country guide, here: https://www.topuniversities.com/where-to-study/europe/germany/guide
For specific information about graduate studies, you may also be interested in attending the QS World Grad School Tour - a chance to meet universities from around the world. You can find your nearest event here: https://www.topuniversities.com/events/qs-world-grad-school-tour

I need help on how i can apply for my course.i want to pursue aerospace engineering or petroleum engineering bachelors degree in japan.How can i do?what are universities?

Hi Prabha,

To start with you might like to look at the leading universities in Japan for your faculty - here - or, more specifically, your subject  (Mechanical, Aeronautical and Manufacturing Engineering) - here - or chemical engineering - here.

From there, take a look at the school's profile or their official website to find out about entry requirements etc. in order to find out the best school to fit your qualifications and personal interests.

Good luck with your search!