Commandments for University/College Applicants

After messing up my university applications, I have decided to create a list for fellow UWC Dilijan students to get rid of the glooming feeling of regret, but I guess the list might be equally useful for other UWCers, as well as IB students and others who are planning to study abroad.

  1. Be aware of whether you know what you want to study or don’t.
    Focus more on liberal arts colleges if you don’t know what you want to study yet, as they offer more freedom to shape your studies in the college, and not during application. Do not neglect conventional institutions.
  2. Assess your financial situation.
    Understand how much you can spend in total for your studies abroad in a year. This would include tuition fees, other costs of attendance (textbooks etc.), living costs (accommodation, food, utilities) and other expenses which your university might ask for (e.g. health insurance). Consider how your or your guardians’ income might change in the future, as well as the stability of your currency (for instance, Turkish lira is very volatile as I speak).
  3. Decide which standardised test to take.
    It’s hard to decide whether to take ACT or SAT and it’s more of a personal preference now as both tests are pretty similar. Beware that some universities/colleges want SAT subject tests so you might as well go with SAT, but also -in my humble opinion- a better ACT result is better than a worse SAT with subject tests. The best thing to do is doing a timed practice with both and decide for yourself which one you felt more comfortable at. Lastly, whatever test you choose, take writing test as well. Talk with your university counsellor for fee waiver or financial support if 100$ is beyond your reach.
  4. Take one of the standardised tests during summer (if you are a first year).
    Having experienced how a standardised test works during summer when you have enough time will help you greatly during your second year if you decide to take another shot.
  5. Learn the financial aid terminology.
    Despite what’s written below, many financial aid solutions consider your merits and your financial situation. Check Wikipedia for more details. Also, consider your ethnical and religious background for specific scholarships.

    • Scholarship: Merit-based (i.e. depending on your academic and/or extracurricular achivements) financial aid solution that is not required to be repaid.
    • Grant: Need-based (i.e. depending on your financial situation) financial aid solution that is not required to be repaid.
    • (Student) Loan: Financial aid solution that is required to be repaid, but often has the advantage of being more flexible in terms of the payment plan (for instance, in U.K. “you start repaying when your annual income is more than the minimum amount.” [source])
    • Bursary: Need-based financial aid solution that you are required to work at the institution.
  6. Look for universities and colleges.
    • For U.S.
      Princeton Review is a great resource to see the admission as well as academic statistics of many institutions that you are planning to apply.

      • If you are looking for financial aid, stick to the Shelby-Davis partner institutions. Beware that Shelby-Davis scholarship does NOT cover all the attendance costs and varies in amount between 10 to 20 thousand U.S. dollars (depending on the number of UWCers studying in the institution, ask your counsellor for details). Also, as a rule of thumb, do NOT apply to public universities, as they often do not offer financial aid to international students (with some exceptions, such as University of Oklahoma). Check the website of the university/college to see whether they meet full demonstrated need (here is the list) or at least whether they do try (e.g. Lewis & Clark).
      • If you are not looking for financial aid, well, you have a lot more freedom! You can increase you chance a lot by applying to the schools that do not offer financial aid as many people would abstain from applying to those. Also, as a prospective customer student who will pay great amount of money to the school, you’ll often be prioritised over another student of the same academic strength as you (very few institutions can afford to be need-blind for international applicants).
    • For U.K.
      You’ll quickly realise that application process of U.K. universities are much more streamlined than U.S. which is amazing! Check search.ucas.com for finding universities and you’ll find all the details you are looking for.

      • If you are an EU citizen, you have a lot more opportunities in terms of financial aid in many different forms, such as grants, scholarships, or student loans. Make sure to check the website of the universities for details.
      • If you are not an EU citizen, well, you don’t have much chance for financial aid so try googling to discover (for instance, Cambridge offers scholarships for Syrian undergraduates).
    • For Canada
      Canada is a truly amazing country open to international students and immigrants (if you are planning to work in Canada after graduation) and it’s definitely worth considering as an alternative to U.S. (especially after Trump). universitystudy.ca might help, as well as Wikipedia.

      • If you are looking for financial aid, your best bets are Simon Fraser Major Entrance Scholarships (requires at least 31 IB points) and McGill. There might be other opportunities as well so do not forget to check!
      • If you are not looking for financial aid, well, check the list!
  7. Check universities/college throughly.
    1. Consider the staff:student ratio as well as the size of the faculty you are interested in. Check the CVs and linkedIn accounts of the professors to learn their specialisation. For instance, if you dreaming a career in video game industry, it’s obviously crucial that you will need professors who are specialised in graphics programming (and it also means they are likely to have ties with that industry and help you to get an internship/job during your studies and after graduation).
    2. Consider the facilities the school offers to undergraduate students. Most of the big research universities put more emphasis on post-graduate student more than undergraduates and beware of that in assessing a university.
    3. Consider the location of the school. The place where you’ll spend your four years is important, in the sense of entertainment, living costs, and internship opportunities as well.
    4. Check social media! Universities and colleges present themselves often in a deceitful way and the rating/confession websites are often no less deceitful as angry students write reviews for their professors and school at midnight while being frustrated with assignments. Public Instagram and facebook posts might help you to see the student life at the school more realistically (but again, people often create a different profile of themselves on social media…)

I do not know what else can be added to the list, but probably there is a ton more; feel free to comment or send me an e-mail (bora æt boramalper döt org). Hope it helps!

P.S. I applied to 4 public universities in U.S. despite the fact that I desperately need financial aid; it’s the sole reason that drove me to write this post so that others won’t suffer as much as I do right now.

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