I applied to university after receiving my A-Level results, during my gap year. I wanted to give myself more time to work on my applications without revising for exams. Applying to university as an international student, meant that I looked to study in various places such as Singapore, Hong Kong and the UK. It was a long and overwhelming process, with countries requiring alternative documents and having drastically different application processes.
This blog will focus on my experience applying to UK universities. I will include tips to streamline the process, especially if you’re applying independently.
Starting your personal statement
The main thing to keep in mind when writing your personal statement is to “show, don’t tell”. You need to show the admissions officers why you want to study your chosen course. Simply saying that you’re passionate about your subject, isn’t enough. Instead of stating your passion, you should use examples to illustrate your interest more effectively. For instance, when I applied to study English at York, I included a few books that I had read and highlighted themes that intrigued me. I made sure to draw upon connections between a couple of them, such as how reading one poem led me to discovering a novel. I also included my experience of working at a literary festival and other related extracurricular activities that highlighted my interest.
Make your statement ‘personal’ to you
Everyone’s personal statement will be different, and yours will be “personal” to you. If you are lost for ideas, try having a look at what others have submitted for their university applications for inspiration. The online forum The Student Room has an entire archive of personal statements that students have used to apply to university. Universities also have pages that provide guidance on what they’re looking for in personal statements, and you can have a look at York’s here.
Another top tip, is to bear in mind that the first draft won’t be your final version! The best personal statement won’t magically appear after you first type it out. Personally I had six different drafts (and I know people who have had more), and it took quite a lot of fine-tuning before I got to a point where I was satisfied with it. So don’t worry if you’re unhappy with your first draft, you’ll get there.
When you do feel ready, have people read through your personal statement. Whether it’s family, friends or your old teachers who can give a more objective opinion. It’s useful to have another pair of eyes to look over what you’ve written, and provide a fresh perspective on grammar and sentence structure. You don’t necessarily need to apply everyone’s feedback and there can be such a thing as too many eyes, with conflicting opinions confusing you and adding additional stress.
Don’t be Afraid to Ask Questions
Whether you’re applying through your college or independently, don’t be afraid to ask questions or look for help. Contacting the universities you’re interested in is a good way of getting clarification on things you’re confused about. Right now York, and many other universities, have UniBuddy. This is an app which allows you to chat with current students (both home and international). I didn’t have this when I applied to York, but I managed to get into contact with current international students through the Student Voices blog.
Also, don’t be afraid to contact your department. They will be there for you throughout your university experience, before, during and after you leave. After I received decisions from all the universities I applied to, the English department at York contacted me. They asked if I wanted to do an online Skype chat with the departments admissions officer. This was really helpful and gave me the chance to ask the pressing questions I had, as well as dispel any academic-related worries. It was instrumental in helping me make the final decision to accept my place at York.
The application process doesn’t just end once you send off your UCAS application and have received your offers. Asking questions can help you a lot in the long run, whether it’s to decide on your firm and insurance, or familiarise yourself with your future university.
Applying to university from a different continent, meant that I couldn’t go to the Open Days due to travel costs. As such, the internet was my one and only resource. I watched vlogs from students on YouTube, some from people studying at York and others by people studying my subject at other universities. It was a fun and useful way to gain insight into what it’s like studying in the UK. Student vloggers are great at covering various aspects of student life. York has its own vlog channel too, which you can check out here.
When applying to university, you’re bound to have lots to keep track of, such as application and scholarship deadlines. If you’re an international student, you’ll have your visa application and additional English-langauge requirements (if applicable) to consider. When I applied, I used Dropbox and Google Drive to organise all my documents and have backups of them. I also had a word document with a list of deadlines and things to do for each application. This made the stressful process easier to manage, as I applied to nine universities across three countries. I had an extensive list of documents to prepare for my UK visa application as well.
After you apply for university, you’re definitely going to see your email inbox fill up. I use Gmail which has a labelling function that allows you to categorise your emails. I used the colour codes to sort out the emails related to each application. This meant I could find any important emails and information easily.
These sound like super simple organisation tips, but they were really effective. I don’t think my application process would’ve gone as well if I hadn’t done them.
The next chapter
Applying to university can be a daunting task, but it’s worth it for the feeling of accomplishment when you receive your offers. It’s a stepping stone to the next chapter in your life. Even though the initial process is stress-inducing, it will all pay off in the end!
Read more blogs about why our students chose York.