Lesson 28: Do Your Research

Did you know that there are strict deadlines you should respect when applying to top universities? For example, for 2021 entry, applications for Oxford and Cambridge should be submitted on or before 15 October 2020. Did you know that the deadlines for most top US universities are the 1st (or 2nd) January 2021? Do you know how the application process works for each university? Do you know what tests you need to do before you submit your applications? Do you know how much it costs to apply to your dream universities? Do you know that universities ask for letters of recommendations from your teachers? Do you know how to write personal statements and essay(s) as part of your applications? Above all, do you know that it can take a lot of time to prepare decent university applications? I can go on and on about the things you need to know.


So, the best time to start thinking about applying to University is NOW!

Don’t wait till your HSC exams are over because it’s probably going to be too late. Moreover, it can be overwhelming at first because there is so much information that you need to absorb. Thus, the sooner you start, the less daunting the process will be.


The purpose of this topic is not to tell you all the information you need. Everything is already out there, on the internet. Instead, the goal is to act as a starting point for your university applications. The first thing you need to do is research. Lots and lots of it. Here is a suggested framework you could use:


Research universities from different countries.


There are 195 countries in the world today (2020), according to the U.N. definition and classification. Do you want to apply to universities from all of them? Of course not! So, your first step could be to make a shortlist of countries you want to study in. Ideally, it will be best if you aim to study in one of the top universities in the world. At the time of writing, according to TopUniversities.com, 10 out of the Top 20 Universities in the world are from the United States, 5 from the UK, 2 from Singapore, 2 from Switzerland and 1 from China. While you should consider university rankings when making your shortlist of universities, don’t limit yourself to that. Consider other factors such as culture, tuition fees, accommodation fees, length of study, future job prospects and student satisfaction. Also, you should be aware that different websites rank universities differently, so have a look at multiple sites before deciding where to apply to.


Perform in-depth research on all universities that made your shortlist.


Now that you have identified your target universities, it’s time to learn as much as you can about them. Why? Because you want to know things like:


  • Whether they offer the degree or subjects you are interested in or not.

  • Whether they have a campus or not.

  • Whether they are located in an urban or rural area.

  • How big they are.

  • What types of societies or sports clubs they have to offer.

  • and many more.


The best place to get most of the information you need is on their websites. So, dig around as much as you can. Moreover, watch YouTube videos about your target universities to get a feel of them. This will help keep you motivated during the (possibly lengthy) application process. Furthermore, try to make contact with students (especially Mauritians) who attend those institutions. You want to gain as much information as possible so that you may make informed decisions later down the line.


Perform in-depth research about the application process of each university.


Now that you have enough information about the places you want to study in, you need to figure out how to get in! In other words, you need to figure out how to ace the university applications. Each country has its own way of accepting applications. Sometimes, different universities in the same region might have different application processes. So


You need to understand the application process for all your target universities.

Ideally, you need to understand them as soon as possible, so that you have enough time to prepare for them. The sooner you get your head around these things, the less stress you’ll have in the end. Plus, you’ll likely develop better applications if you give yourself enough time to do them. Better applications mean more chances of getting in your dream universities.


Application processes can be subject to slight changes or variations. So, it will be best if you do your own research to find out what the latest procedures are. Here is a broad overview of the application processes for the UK and the US.


United Kingdom


You need to use the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) website to apply for British Universities. They’ve got all the information you need to know on their website, so you should definitely do as much research as you can there. From my own experience, here are some tips I’d like to share with you:


  • The application deadline will be well before you get your HSC results. So, you’ll need to send in forecast results instead. For this reason, I recommend you make a special effort to get good results for your mock exams. Teachers are likely to base themselves on your mock exam results when forecasting your final results.

  • You’ll need to ask a teacher to be your referee. He/she will need to write something about you directly on UCAS. So, I recommend you choose a teacher who knows you well. Moreover, they are unlikely to know everything about you. Therefore, you should tell them a little bit about yourself, for example, the extracurricular activities, whether at school or outside. Finally, give them plenty of time to write the reference. It’s not something that should be rushed.

  • Check if you need to sit an English proficiency test such as the IELTS or TOEFL.

United States of America


The application process for US universities is very different compared to the UK. Top UK. universities (with a few exceptions) are mostly interested in your grades. However, the application process of US universities is more holistic and is much more competitive. This means that you’ll need more than good grades and a few extracurricular activities to get in. For instance, these days, everybody is doing Model United Nations (MUN) and Duke of Edinburg’s Award (DofE). So, you’ll need to do more than that do differentiate yourself from the competition.

For U.S. applications, the Common App is the most widely used platform for applications. You’ll also need to sit the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) and possibly two SAT subject tests. These are administered through College Board. SATs are not easy, so you’ll need to put some time and effort to prepare for them. Khan Academy is an excellent starting point to study and practice for the SAT, so make sure you spend enough time there.

Top US universities are notoriously hard to get in, so make sure you do as much research as you can on the universities and the application processes. For instance, you could look at incoming class profiles for top universities to understand what they look for in their applicants.

Obviously, you should also investigate the application processes of universities from other countries too. Most, if not all information can be found online, so start as soon as possible.


To sum up, regardless of how much time you have left before your HSC exams, the Key Takeaway is:


It’s never too early to start preparing for university applications!


Do you have any questions or comments? Post them below!


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