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Tips for Applying to University

The Class of 2021 will be entering their final year of high school this September, and bracing themselves for a few months filled with a frenzy of applying to post-secondary institutions. As a student going into grade 12 myself, I am in this exact situation. With less than a month left for summer vacation for Canadian students and the uncertainty that looms around the return to schools (despite the province releasing their plans), it can indeed be stressful. From one applicant to another, here are some tips and advice on how to prepare for post-secondary applications!

Choosing your programs

Before applications officially open, each student needs to take some time to understand what they want to pursue in their future and start to look for prospective programs and schools from there. An ideal discipline for an individual to pursue would integrate both their passions and hobbies along with opportunities present for their skills in the working world. And with societies advancing every day, choosing a path can be difficult. However, it works to start with what interests you, and what you enjoy doing. If you enjoy doing it for fun, chances are that you will enjoy doing it for a living as well. Furthermore, it is important to allow for some variety in program selection. This tip was suggested by one of our senior advisors at R2AC - Cathy. She says that it is important to allow yourself to keep your options open, as your interests may change over time. For example, if you are looking to go into the sciences, opt to apply for fields that include health science, medical sciences, life science, general sciences, and maybe even kinesiology or nursing. This way, when it comes to making a final decision, you have a variety of options to choose from. 

Choosing your school

After deciding on which programs you are interested in, it is time to choose a school that is fit for your needs. These “needs” can vary by person, but when looking for a school, here are some things you may want to consider:

  • Proximity your home and family

  • Type of area it is located in

  • Programs and type of opportunities it offers

  • Residences

  • Overall student reviews

  • Social events and activities

  • Tuition and extra fees

It is easy to find a rating online for a school, but those are usually based on scores or outdoor lenses. The real “rating” of a school depends on what past and current students have to say about how the school has affected their education and mental wellbeing. Pre-COVID, I would have suggested that you visit your university campus to get a feel of what it is like to be there 24/7. With university tours and open houses canceled now, I would recommend that you check out virtual tours that are offered by either the university or third-party websites to at least get some sort of outlook on the campus-style.

Staying organized

When school starts, schedules for all students, especially 12th graders, will become extremely hectic. That means it is important to stay organized and on top of all the dates and submission required for your application. To do this, I created a spreadsheet containing important information about each program and school I want to apply to. This includes:

  • Prerequisites

  • Mark cut-offs

  • Tuition cost

  • Acceptance rate

  • Supplementary application and due dates

  • Application deadlines

  • Any other important links/notes

Having a centralized document containing all important information about a certain program is very helpful when applications start to roll out and allow you to keep track of all your applications as well. Don’t forget to also look for scholarships, whether it be from certain companies, organizations, or schools. Often, scholarships are left unclaimed because individuals think too many people are applying for it, or because it takes too long. Yet, many third party scholarships have similar questions, and it can be helpful to anyone to receive support towards their tuition. And if you do decide to apply to any of these, keep in mind their due dates as well!

Preparing for supplementary applications

Many competitive Canadian programs require applicants to submit supplementary information, such as writing supplements or references, on top of the regular application. When it comes to these supplements, programs often change the content and nature of these questions every year. However, it is possible to personally prepare information about yourself that could potentially help you stand out when writing these pieces. A tip provided by another one of our senior advisors, Serena, is to prepare a list of your extracurricular activities, work and volunteer experiences, and awards and achievements. The items in this list can serve as a base when creating personal statements, or simply enhance your existence supplements. She also suggests keeping a list of contact information for people you have worked for or volunteered with since universities might request this information as evidence of your experience.

Final advice

While university applications are a daunting task for many students, it’s important to remember that you have a support system that is there to help and guide you, whether that be your teachers, guidance counselors, parents, siblings, or friends. Additionally, it is crucial to get some type of exposure to university life, to ensure that you can acquire enough information about applications and universities to be able to make an informed decision when the time comes. This exposure, in the age of COVID-19, might come in the form of webinars. For instance, Race to a Cure is having a 2-day University Panel on August 15th and 16th, from 4 to 5:30 EDT. Sign-ups are currently closed, but we will be sharing snippets to our various social media pages after the fact.

Article Author: Asima Hudani

Article Editor: Olivia Ye

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