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Choosing your University – Getting it Right


TYV Ambassador Swathy Sanjay Sindhu shares her personal tips for choosing and securing the perfect university placement.

At the moment, I am a first-year undergraduate student doing a three-year LLB with Psychology course at the University of Southampton, on a scholarship. I’m here to tell you a few little pointers that I gathered over the past couple of years with regard to applying for university.

First Things First – Doing your Research
UAE or UK? America or Australia? The World is your Oyster!

In order to select the country in which you would like to continue your education, you have to take into consideration more than just whether the place is a popular education destination – you have to find out whether it’s the best destination for your course. I applied only to the UK, taking into consideration the fact that it is the most suitable for my preferred course. Compared to most other countries, it takes the least amount of time to complete a law degree in the UK. In a similar manner, for instance to do engineering you could consider countries with the maximum rates of placements in that particular industry.

Throw out the Rankings

As important as rankings and league tables are in terms of helping universities better themselves, these are of little use to us as students. Most often, the ranking and reputation of a university is directly proportionate to a higher fee, so be careful about that before you decide to apply to a better-known university.

Safe Haven or Crime Hotspot? What about the place?

Always do your research on the place you’re going to be staying in. Apart from the physical aspects of the accommodation, make sure the town has low crime rates, generally low expenditure rates, has an excellent social scene, is well connected to prime locations and has all the necessary establishments close by (hospitals, grocery stores, etc.). Also, conduct background research on rates of harassment, student-teacher ratios and student union effectiveness with regard to your actual university experience.

Get your Finances in Check

Try to make getting a scholarship a priority because university can be very expensive. Beyond tuition fees, there will be a lot of additional expenses that you need to take into consideration. Always ensure that the place where you will be staying has low rates in terms of everyday items. If you’re saving on tuition fees with a scholarship but spending a lot during your time at university, it makes little sense, in the context of cost-effectiveness. Textbooks, membership fees, accommodation costs, etc., are one-time expenses that you need to consider too.

Seek help, but roll up your sleeves!

There is a plethora of agencies out there that will help you with your applications to college. However, to make it that much more wholesome, I think you should be directly involved in the process. There’s so much that you learn in terms of research methods, documents such as visas, etc., when handling all the nuances of your application; this will also give you more control and a sense of confidence because you know every step you have taken to get there, in detail. Also, there have been so many students who’ve applied to college before. Get online or look around and talk to your seniors about how they went about their applications. The tiny pieces of information you’ll gather is all you need to piece together the steps to applying to uni.

No two applications are the same…

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Find out the form in which the application is to reach the university – For the UK all undergraduate applications are to be sent via; universities in the US use Common Applications and many universities also use direct emailing and postage systems. Find this out so you know in what way to prepare your applications. Ideally, this should be done at least 10 months before the end of your last year at school.

Beyond offers, grades, suggestions, career fairs, agencies and all of that, the only way to finalise the university you want to attend is satisfaction. The above mentioned are simply a few means of research that could lead to that satisfaction. College isn’t just about graduating with a degree. It’s about 3, 4, 5 or more year that are periods of the next level to building your foundations for life. Knowing that you are going to the best place FOR YOU is the way to have the most enjoyable and successful time there.

Ready to apply? Here comes the paperwork!

Documents, documents, documents!

Begin collecting all the relevant documents with regard to your application – These include but are not limited to academic reports, predicted scores, teacher recommendations, personal statements, financial documents, etc. Prepare a checklist and cross off items that you have received and highlight those that have been applied for or are being processed. Research about the relevant exams needed to apply to your course. You may wish to begin preparations for these exams at least three months before sitting them. For documents such as recommendations and personal statements, read relevant examples online. Get an initial draft reviewed by tutors and ensure that there are no mistakes in language or the facts mentioned.

Get your documents in order

Put these documents in order and send it in well before the deadline. A good estimate is 3 weeks before the deadline so that there is enough time for any changes or unaccounted-for happenings.

Getting good news – receiving offers

Once the applications have been sent, you will need to actively follow up on the status of these. You would receive most within 4 months of applying. Do check on the university websites to know when all the offers have been sent out. Make sure you contact the university directly if this deadline is just a week or less away so as to be updated on the status of your application.

Let’s go for it! Accepting your place.

Try your best to attend university for a course that you are really passionate about, as you will be spending a considerable period of your life on it. Parental pressure is real but there is always a way out of it. If you can truly assure them (and yourself) that your decision will result in only a positive outcome, then you have the right to go ahead with the decision. If things don’t go right, don’t be afraid to hit reset and take a gap year. One year of reflecting on what you want is a lot better than getting into the wrong programme and wasting money and way more years on something that will lead you nowhere.

Sometimes, despite all the planning, things could go awry. You might not get accepted into your first choice, or you might not have qualified for a scholarship. Let that go because as long as you accept the situation and choose a backup option, i.e. selecting another university or deciding you need a gap year, you will be able to take charge of your own life and future and make the best possible decisions for your circumstance.

All the best!