Over the years, I have received numerous requests from high school students at each stage in their academic career to share my university application experience. After my first-hand encounter with admission processes to business schools and STEM programs, I have compiled some of the key lessons I learned. After joining Young Scholar, I would like to take this opportunity to share some advice I have been providing to my personal network with a greater network of prospective university students. Thus, it is with great enthusiasm that I offer university preparation articles through Young Scholar, with this first publication targeted towards grade 12 students undergoing the university application process.
Before University Applications
1) Create a flow chart
Lay out your top choice(s), followed by your first back-up(s), and your second back-up(s), etc. I found this useful for determining the programs to apply to and later on, for visualizing your options during the decision-making process.
2) Pursue minimal additional extra-curricular activities
This is just a word of advice for students who want more time to bump up the grades for major admission awards/scholarships or to finalize your university decisions. In my case, I recognized that my university applications highlighted activities prior to grade 12; therefore, I did not take on any new roles requiring heavy commitments.
3) Avoid reading your peers’ applications
This is just a word of advice. I found that reading others’ essays may influence how you approach an application question or your writing style as well.
4) Research, research, research
In my case, I eventually found a list of the characteristics Queen’s Commerce was looking for in candidates on their website. Your research may help you greatly in generating key words or traits to emphasize when formulating your essay responses.
During University Applications
1) Create an outline
List out all the points to mention in each paragraph of your essay response. This helps with marking down all your points while staying under the word count. In my case, I organized my paragraphs into subcategories: description of activity, my impact on the organization, and the organization’s impact on me.
2) Be sincere, be authentic, and be yourself
A lot of people might give you that tip during the application process because it’s true!
3) Have your application reviewed
Have people read over your application and give you feedback in the form of comments. This could include your parents, teachers, mentors, SAT prep course professors, etc.
4) Visit the universities
If you need that extra motivation to complete the university application, this may help.
After University Applications
1) Interview upper-year students
I found it extremely helpful to interview upper-year students about their time in my program, as it made me feel like I was reliving their experience. These interviews could either be through the phone or in-person.
2) Look into the course outlines
I found that learning about the specifics of your first-year courses, including your individual coursework, group work, midterms, and finals especially helps to visualize your day-to-day experience in the program.
3) Research some more!
Tour the universities when deciding between offers. It may be helpful to investigate any statistics regarding internships, full-time employment, graduates’ paths after graduation, etc. Touring the campuses, facilities, and residences may also help confirm or transform your decision.
…but remember to maintain the acceptance offer conditions. For students looking into maintaining their offer and/or any scholarship/major admission award offers, determine if there is a specific final average to be maintained. Some universities declare your award(s) based on your final average – I highly recommend avoiding senioritis if that is the case. Remember – it is not the end of the world if you are not attending your first-choice program. It is what you make out of the opportunity at university that matters!
Yvonne is currently a Commerce Student at Queen’s University’s Smith School of Business. She joined Young Scholar in 2017 and holds the position of project manager. Born and raised in Toronto, she achieved her ARCT in Piano Performance from the Royal Conservatory of Music. Yvonne is passionate about the performing arts, design, artistic gymnastics, and meeting new people!