As a student on the verge of graduating from secondary school, university applications may be among your most pressing concerns. Your college degree will set many other events in your life in motion, so it’s understandable for you to worry about getting into a good program offered by a competitive school. However, knowing that your application is just one among thousands of others, how can you make yourself stand out? What can you do to increase your chances of getting accepted into the degree program and university of your choosing? 

If you come from a Singapore international high school, heed these tips to get through the application process. These should help you prepare for one of the most nerve-wracking but also one of the most fulfilling experiences you’ll go through in your student life thus far.

Learn More about Specific Programs You Want to Apply For

Before you start applying to university, do some research on existing courses for your desired career pathway and which schools offer them. It’s worth noting that there are many new course options available to students, such as those that have to do with emerging technologies. Find out which international or local tertiary educational institutions offer the degree programs you’re interested in, and try to get a feel for the schools that match your learning style. 

Narrow Down Your List of Schools

Once you’ve done your research, make a list of schools that stand out to you and write down their requirements for admission. Think carefully about how widely you want to cast your net—applying to a larger number of schools means more chances of admission, but it also means spending more money on application fees and exhausting a lot of energy on admission requirements. Speak with your parents about how many schools you can afford to apply to (especially if you want to study abroad), and come up with a shortlist based on what you’ve agreed upon.

List Down All Your Admissions Requirements and Deadlines

Next, you’ll want to get a handle on all the requirements that you have to pass, such as application forms, personal statements, and recommendation letters. Complete requirements are a big factor in your admission to a program, so you need to make sure that every application you send out has everything the admissions committee is asking for. It would be a good idea to make a checklist of requirements per school, plus a calendar that tracks each of their deadlines.

Get Recommendations from People Who Know You Best

Most universities ask for recommendation letters to attest to your academic performance and good moral character. While the exact number of recommendation letters you have to prepare depends on how many schools you’re applying to, you should expect to ask for at least two or three. Knowing that, before the requirements are due, think of people you can ask to vouch for you and to speak honestly about how you are a student. Ask your teachers, athletic coaches, club moderators, guidance counselors, or other school personnel about whether they can write a recommendation letter for you, and send them the university’s letter template if there is one. Don’t forget to thank them if they agree, and to update them about whether your application was a successful one.

Be Thoughtful, but Honest When Writing an Application Essay

Another common application requirement for university is the personal statement, which usually takes the form of a short essay. The essay serves as an opportunity for you to explain why you’d be a good fit for the specific program you’re applying for, as well as the culture of the university. Aim to write a substantial answer to what the essay is asking for, but don’t stretch the truth about your current credentials or try to exaggerate events that happened in your life. Remember that universities are not expecting to choose among perfect applicants, but among candidates with potential to thrive in their specific programs. 

Highlight the School Achievements That Matter Most to Your University Application

In your effort to stand out among other high school graduates, you may be tempted to provide a long laundry list of school achievements in your university application. However, doing this may not leave as good an impression on admissions committees as you think it will. A better approach is to showcase the credentials that actually align with your desired program, for example victories in science competitions for a STEM-related degree or participation in model United Nations (UN) activities for a degree in political science or international relations. These, along with good grades and leadership experience, will paint the best picture of you as a candidate.

Ask Your Teachers, Guidance Counselors, and Alumni for Additional Advice

Lastly, for in-depth knowledge on getting into a particular school or studying in a particular country, don’t hesitate to ask other people for advice. Your teachers and guidance counselors—who may already be familiar with the application process for your school of choice—can impart valuable insight on what will make your application stand out. You should also look for application tips from international school alumni who’ve succeeded in their applications and take a leaf or two from their books.

Final Words

Keep in mind that few students experience a perfect run when they’re applying for university, given just how competitive the field is. You should also prepare for possibilities like not getting into your first choice of school or program. Don’t be afraid to ask your teachers, parents, or peers for their input on how to deal with rejection and how to pick yourself back up again.

You can only promise your best to the institutions that you’re applying for, and you won’t know how that compares to other students until the acceptance letters start rolling in. Nonetheless, these tips should help you highlight what you’ve got going for you and thus increase your chances of realizing your dreams for higher education.

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