4 Tips For Applying To Top UK & US Universities

1. You need good grades

Application 101, you need a good academic result in order to secure a seat at any highly selective university.

In the UK, you will usually apply with your achieved grades to date as well as your predicted grades for your secondary education examinations (ie, A-levels, IB (International Baccalaureate) or other exams).

US top colleges often (not always though) require other specific admissions tests e.g. SAT, ACT, AP (advanced Placement). There’s no other way but get a good score in order to make your application successful.

If you are applying to specialized subjects, you may need additional subject tests. For example UK universities require a specialized test eg. UKCAT, BMAT, LNAT for medicine, pharmacy and law respectively. Some of them even require work placement prior to applying to university as well.


2. You need more than good grades for the US

IVY Leagues, MIT, CalTech, Wellesley… prestigious US colleges and liberal art colleges are looking for the best of the best students. Good academic results just aren’t enough to give you a green light to reach them. Among hundred of thousands of academically qualified applications, only 5% are admitted to the elite institutions. They are looking for bright students who are not just good at academics but also talented in other aspects. It can be sports, music, communities, cultures… you name it, and more importantly institutions want to see how these extracurriculars shape you to be an outstanding person and how the elite education at their colleges facilitate you to be a future leader.

Don’t underestimate the power of extra-curricular even if you are applying to UK universities. They will be your ACEs when you apply to top universities e.g, Oxbridge, St. Andrews. Most of the applicants got straight As at examinations, anything extra could be a differentiator and make an impact on your application.


3. Show your interest to the institutions and/or subjects

In the UK most of the university applications go through the UCAS system. Students need to submit a personal statement, personal references – and if they have an interview,  interview responses – which highlight the students’ passion for the subject. That’s pretty much everything you can show admissions staff about your passions to the subject. Do show your passion as much as you can towards the subject

Many, especially prestigious US colleges require individual application. You do not need to decide your major of study,  but you have to show your interest to that particular college. It is very important that you explain what attracted you to a particular university, why you would be excited to go there, and what you think you would be able to contribute to the student community.

Many of the top US colleges offer interviews with local alumni as part of the admissions process. They don’t make the decision but heavily influence the decision-makers. Here it is particularly important to convincingly make the case that you are keen on the particular institution they represent, so make sure you have done your homework about what is on offer.


4. Be organized

University applications can be very complicated. It’s gonna be even more complicated if you apply to multiple schools. You need to be very organized and well-planned. We see a lot of brilliant students with failed applications, not because they are not competitive enough, but simply by making avoidable mistakes e.g. missing deadlines, 1 or 2 short essays, lack of reference etc. The applications deadlines for Oxford and Cambridge, and also for medical courses across the UK, are about one year before you want to start university. US applications often need to be in by the November before you want to start. You also need to organize sitting any additional tests, getting references, and proofreading and getting feedback on your application. It’s crucial to have a professional of admissions to strategize, plan and walk through the entire process of to make sure your application is spotless. Please find more information here.


One more thing. Be positive and maintain options

There are millions of students, but only one Harvard in the World and it’s not for everyone. Most applicants who apply to Yale and Cambridge will not get an offer from these places. Don’t put all your eggs in 1 basket. Do open more options for yourself and keep a positive mindset.

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