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University Applications: Top Tips

By Chloe Lane

Updated August 30, 2021 Updated August 30, 2021

With so many different choices to make, and with each decision you make having a direct impact on your future, applying to university can be quite an intimidating experience, especially if you’re thinking of studying abroad.

However, with careful planning and research, applying to university can be an exciting and rewarding experience, which will help you get into the university of your dreams!

Research the university and study program

Research the university

Choosing the right course and the right university for you may be one of the most important decisions of your life. Not only can it affect which career options are open to you after graduation, but you’ll have to spend at least three years at this institution, so it’s important to find one that you’ll be happy at.

Don’t let this scare you, however, so long as you do your research, you’ll be fine! Luckily for you, there are so many ways you can research universities.

To start with, you can find a great deal of information on the universities’ websites. Most university websites give you an overview of each course, including optional and compulsory modules, as well as information about typical career paths after graduation. The website will also most likely have information about student life, both in the university and in the surrounding area. To find out more about different courses, take a look at our course guides.

You can compare different universities using the latest QS World University Rankings® and see how the universities compare for your chosen subject using the QS World University Rankings by Subject.

You can also find out more about choosing a university here and if you’re looking for a fun way to help decide which subject to study, take our quiz to find out!

Talk to the university

Talk to the universities

If you’re looking to find out more about a particular course you’re looking to study, you might want to speak to international admissions staff and alumni, so you can build a picture of what is expected of you when you apply. You can also ask any questions that you may have about the university, as well as specific tips about applying to that course.

In order to find contact details for a university, use a search engine to find their admissions page, and you will get the option to either call them or email them.

If you’re still searching for more information, TopUniversities.com has asked admissions staff to share their advice on what they want to see from applicants. 

Have a backup

Have a backup

Although you might be desperate to go to your first-choice university, it’s a good idea to also have a backup option. In the UK, you can choose up to five courses and your universities won’t see where else you’ve applied until after you reply to any offers. If you wish to, you can even apply to more than one course at the same university. 

Try applying for a range of different universities with varying entry requirements to give yourself a better chance at being accepted into a university, regardless of your grades. Of course, make sure you’d be happy to go to any of these universities before applying.

Letters of recommendation

Letter of recommendation

If your university application asks for letters of recommendation, take some time to consider who you ask to write them. Choose teachers or other professionals who know you well, and who would be able (and willing) to talk about your strengths in detail, giving examples when needed.

The letters of recommendation should give a sense of who you are, rather than just focusing on your academic side, in order to show the university admissions officer that you are a well-rounded individual with a lot to offer the university.

Writing your personal statement

Writing your personal statement

Your personal statement is your chance to tell admissions officers exactly why it is that you want to study your chosen course, and what you’ve done so far to show your interest in the subject.

In your personal statement you should talk about why you’d be a good match for the course; use examples of things you’ve done previously which outline your skills and achievements in order to show admission officers why they should accept you onto the course.

If you’re struggling to write your personal statement, try using QS Leap – a program that gives you a 15 page personalized report to help you build your university application. You can also find out more about writing your personal statement here.

Preparation for tests

Prepare for test

If you have admissions tests as part of your application to university, it’s important to prepare for them in advance to give yourself the best possible chance of success. Become familiar with the style of questions and take a look online to find practice tests.

Most university application tests do not require a lot of extra study, however, as they will be testing skills you should already have. However, practicing the tests beforehand will familiarize yourself with their layout and get you used to the time pressure element of the tests, making you less nervous when it comes to taking them.

Scholarship applications

Applying for scholarships

If you’re looking to go to university, but are worried about costs, then you may want to apply to a scholarship. For a basic guide on how to apply to a scholarship, click here.

If you’re interested in studying abroad, you can find a list of scholarships available to study around the world here. You can also find out about more general advice on applying to scholarships here.

Be organized and meet deadlines

Be organised to meet deadlines

An incomplete university application can delay a decision and may reduce your chances of being accepted. Make sure you are aware of all deadlines and that you are prepared well ahead of time to ensure that all aspects of your application are complete. 

A good way to do this is to make a note of all your upcoming deadlines, either on a calendar or in a notebook, and look at this frequently.

Find out more about how to meet admissions deadlines here.

This article was originally published in November 2019 . It was last updated in August 2021

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Written by

As Content Editor for TopUniversities.com and TopMBA.com, Chloe creates and publishes a wide range of articles for universities and business schools across the world. Chloe has a Bachelor’s degree in Economics from the University of Reading and grew up in Leicestershire, UK. 

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