It has been over a year since I applied to university, but I remember the sleepless nights, the stress, and the anxiety as clear as day. It seems like yesterday that I was on the phone with friends who are a few years older than me, asking for last-minute advice and hoping to increase my chances of securing an offer. And now, it is my turn to pass on what I have learned to underclassmen. Here are the two most important pieces of advice I would give to anyone asking for my help:
Tip #1: Predict what the questions will be and practice writing/ verbally answering them!
Some universities like to conduct timed interviews and essay tests without knowing the questions in advance. Having to come up with a coherent answer in a very short time frame is extremely challenging, especially if you are aware of how very significant it is that you do, which is why I highly recommend that you try to predict what questions you are likely going to see, and practice answering them at least 1 week before you do the actual thing.
There are many ways for you to come up with a list of questions to prepare for. You can ask older students who currently attend the institutions you are interested in about the types of questions you should expect. You can also try to think of what questions you have been asked before while doing a job interview or applying for executive positions at a school club. If you struggle with the above, here are a few common types of questions that many universities have asked their applicants regardless of the programs they are applying to:
- Leadership. Have you had leadership experience? What is your understanding of leadership? What is your strategy as a leader? What qualities do you think leaders should possess?
- Teamwork/collaboration. Have you ever worked in a team? What is your role in a team? Are you able to resolve team conflicts? What do you think are some helpful ways to run a team?
- Resilience. How do you handle struggles? Can you break a big problem into small steps and tackle the small tasks one by one? Can you gain anything from your struggles–do you walk away with a better understanding of yourself or those around you?
Tip #2: Do not try to guess what you think other people want to read
Whenever I am giving someone advice on a university application, this question is bound to come up: “What do admissions officers want me to say?”. The answer to that question is simple–there is no particular answer that they are looking for.
Consider this reasonably: each university is taking in thousands of students every year; it is simply impossible for all of them to give the same answer because no two people think exactly the same. Conversely, suppose they expect people to all give similar responses. In that case, there is no need to have an essay or an interview section in the first place–why bother if this process cannot help them differentiate the applicants?
The whole point of having these questions is for the university to have a peek into your personality. What do you believe in? How do you think? How do you approach different things in life? Giving generic answers will not help them get to know you; instead, it will make them believe you are evasive and trying too hard to please. Do not give off this vibe. Show them who you truly are, and you will often be awarded for your honesty.