With many students already back to school here in Singapore, and back-to-school season hovering right around the corner in North America, university career fairs have begun, marking the beginning of the university application season. In the past 2 weeks, I’ve already attended 2 such fairs here in Singapore, focused on studying abroad, at the top schools in Australia, Canada, the U.K., and U.S. Judging by the crowds, competition is going to be tough, no matter where you plan to go, or where in the world you’re applying from. To get you started and on your way, here are a few things you should keep in mind:
At Kwantum Leap, we firmly believe that in order to make the best choice for yourself, you must be as informed as possible. You know yourself best, so our job isn’t to help you make your choices. It’s to help you gather all the important information you need, so when you do have to make those tough choices, you’re making informed ones. With that philosophy in mind, if you’re planning on applying to university, college, or a graduate program like an MBA this year, but haven’t started, now’s the time!
1) Know Yourself
- Although this may seem too obvious, understanding what you’re passionate about, what you’re best at, and motivates you are some of the keys to laying the foundation in finding the perfect school for you. This can be pretty overwhelming at times, and frankly, there are many people in there 30s and 40s still trying to figure that out.
- One good tip: start backwards. Start by taking note of the things you don’t like, and use a process of elimination to narrow down choices.
2) Know the Schools
- With over tens of thousands of schools all across the world to choose from, it’s no surprise that just thinking about getting started with the application process can be daunting. However, if you’ve already spent some time “knowing yourself”, you will have begun to narrow down the choices significantly. Published school rankings can be a quick way to understand who the top schools are in your areas of interest, but it should never, by any means, be your definitive source.
- University fairs, where large groups of schools are in the same place at one time, are another great source for establishing your list of potential schools. To best make use of your time there, you should do your homework in advance. (more to come about this in a future post)
- Know which schools will be attending. Try to have a brief look at their websites to get a quick understanding of what the offerings are like. There’s nothing more embarrassing than asking a school how their science programs are, if they only offer liberal arts.
- Don’t use your time just to go around and collect as many booklets & brochures as you can get. All that information, including the brochures, are available on the school’s website.
3) Know the Deadlines
- There’s nothing worse than finding out that the application deadline for your dream school is tomorrow, or even worse, has passed. Go to the school website, find out the deadlines, and mark your calendar. Then, set interim deadlines for yourself, ahead of the actual one. For example, if a school’s application deadline is Dec 1st, you will most likely want to tell any one writing a recommendation for you that their letter is due at least 1 week before (to allow for any delays or mailing time). With that in mind, you will also typically want to give a recommender at least 2 months notice. So that means near the end of September, you will have had to decide whom you should approach, and then make the actual the request.
- Know the application process and admission requirements for each individual school. While the U.K. simply has one common application that can be sent to your set of interested schools, in the U.S. each school has their own individual process and timelines, just different enough from each other to trip you up if you’re not careful.
- Australia starts their 1st semester in February, so application deadlines are typically in October, while deadlines for U.S. schools fall in January/February.