The university admissions process is a long and complicated process; it is a rollercoaster ride full of highs and lows, rejections and successes, tears and joy. The experience has left me with some lessons I have learned which I will share here in order to help underclassmen about to embark on their journey.
How to pick a school?
When I was applying to university, I was told to apply to the school that ranked the highest in my major of choice. This however would not be a helpful piece of advice for me or anyone else in the situation that I was in–i.e. someone still debating between multiple majors. Instead, what I ended up doing (and what I believe is the right thing to do) is to apply to multiple schools that are decent at all the majors that you are considering so that your options are kept open in case you do not want to stick with the major you picked upon admission. Once you have received all your offers, then make the choice about exactly which school to attend based on your most recent choice of major and the culture/location of the school.
Should you trust services that help you with writing essays and preparing for interviews?
During the application season, you are likely to be contacted by agencies that claim to be able to help you with getting into the school of your choice. Some of these organizations really do provide helpful service to students who are for example unsure about how to package themselves, while others, in plain words, are just a waste of money. If you find yourself in a dilemma when deciding whether to use these services, ask yourself the following questions to help making the decision:
- What do the services promise? Do they claim to have ‘insider knowledge’ that allegedly no one other than the admissions committee should have? If yes, are they bluffing about how much they know, or are they obtaining the information unethically and/or unlawfully?
- Are they helping you to make your application unique / a standout, or are they trying to make you follow a format that they claim to have successfully sent hundreds of other applicants to prestigious schools? Remember what schools are looking for–individuals with an independent and determined voice–does the service you are getting help enhance your uniqueness, or hinder it?
How to portray yourself in your essays and/or interviews?
Bear in mind what qualities the schools value the most: students are self-motivated and purposeful, who are not just applying to schools and/or programs simply because their parents/teachers forced them to. Therefore, it is crucial to show the schools what has driven your passions and pursuits both in academics and in life as clearly as possible. Give your accomplishments, choices and interests a cohesive story personal to you – Why have you done what you have done? What does playing chess, joining the business council, being a member of the swim team, and doing Model United Nations mean to you?
How to deal with rejections?
Sometimes life is similar to shooting in the dark–you do not know how many successful hits you will get. The admissions process is just like that. There will be successful hits that make you overjoyed, but most likely there will also be misses that make your heart ache.
If you are rejected by a school or company, the best advice I can give is not to take it personally, and to not see it as the end. Perhaps you do not meet the requirements – that is OK. Life is a long journey; you still have plenty of time to develop the skills you lack now. Perhaps you are a competitive applicant who just happens not to be the type of person they are looking for – in that case, you would be better off in an organization where your skills and personality are valued. Give yourself time for the ache to pass; if it does not, try reminding yourself that rejections are redirections to better beginnings. Good luck!