Top universities in the UK, US, and Australia are highly selective. There are many factors to consider when preparing for your applications. Academic performance, scores on standardized tests, personal essays and statements, extracurricular activities, and academic interviews are key attributes that schools consider. Here are answers to the most common questions on University Admissions!
What is the difference between a UK, US, and Australia education?
The popular destinations for tertiary education include the UK, USA, Singapore, and Australia.
US universities offer a more liberal education and students are not required to declare a major in the first year. Universities in the UK require you to declare your major upon application. Increasingly- the UK is a popular destination for Engineering, Computer Science, alongside traditional courses like Law, Medicine, Economics, and Finance.
On the other hand, the US offers many options for the Arts, Engineering, Sciences, and Computing. However, Law and Medicine are only offered as postgraduate courses.
Many Australian universities offer foundational courses(diploma) for popular subjects like Medicine or Business. After the foundational year, students can enter their desired course in the same university. This is useful for students who do not meet the grades requirement for various courses after their A levels or IB exams.
How do schools evaluate candidates
A. Admission Requirements
Universities in the United Kingdom (UK) follow the traditional rigorous Commonwealth system. Students declare their majors and are highly motivated to deep dive into a specialised learning environment. Prior to application, students should already have engagements with the course of study through extra-curricular activities or research. Students also have to submit a 4000 character essay to 5 schools of their choice.
The main selection factors, in addition to academic potential, are a student’s interest in and dedication to their target course, capacity for independent learning, and an ability to think critically. The personal statement, references, interview, and possibly admissions exams are used to illustrate the above.
To show how they have developed interests in the selected course, students may utilise supercurriculars (course-relevant extracurriculars, such as readings, or essay coursework) in the personal statement.
US universities also require you to submit individual supplemental essays to each school, alongside the main personal essay. I.e. if you apply for 10 schools, you submit 1 main essay and up to 10 individual essays for each school. Admissions officers look at each student’s academic performance and consider these. How has the student performed in school over the few years? Was there any progressive improvements? What are the students strengths? Extracurriculars show how a candidate spends his or her time beyond the classroom and potential to make an impact in college. They also show how students are able to challenge themselves to go beyond and above coursework and assignments to pursue their interests.
Universities in Australia follow the UK Commonwealth system. Students will have to declare their majors. Foundational years are often accepted.
B. Academic Requirements
UK, US and Australia
For IB candidates completing their IB Exams in May and November, Predicted Grades of the Mid-year Exams are typically used as the final exam grades are out only after the date of application. Unless you are intending to do a gap year. Teachers may occasionally give arbitrary predicted grades. Hence it is absolutely crucial to be on good terms with your teachers. Grades are crucial for top tier universities such as Oxbridge applications. A bad mid-year exam performance may essentially mean a gap year to try for Oxbridge next year with better grades. The cutoff requirements for AP/SATS are usually more stringent.
C. Character Referee Letter
You will need one teacher recommendation that speaks to your academic abilities. This would ideally be someone who has taught you recently (in year 5/ 6 or JC1/2) and willing to speak well about you. This is usually the form tutor or the core subject tutor. It is absolutely critical to be liked by your character referee so that they will write well about you.
Referees should read these guidelines:
The UCAS requirements will be 4000 characters, 47 lines.
Australia: Letters are not compulsory, except for Medicine.
D. Resume (Academics and Non Academic Portfolio)
Students will need to submit a one-page resume, otherwise known as a CV. This should include their breadth of activities, both academic and non-academic.
Examples include Research attachments, internships, fundraising events, honor roll, olympiads and science competitions.
E. Specialised Tests
Certain UK courses will require pre-entry specialised tests to determine shortlisting for a further interview. Examples include LNAT for Oxford, Cambridge Law test for Cambridge/ Physics and Maths Assessment Test for Physics, Engineering, BMAT for medicine, TSA for PPE. This is usually in the first week of November. This requires preparation for at least 3-6months. QC mentors can help in these aspects.
Most competitive US courses will require SAT 1 tests, International students should aim to score near perfect scores for subject APs. SAT 2 has been phased out. International students may need to take TOEFL tests if English was not their native language. TOEFL waiver can be done if you have studied 3 years of English with a predicted IB grade of 5. Due to COVID, many universities have also made SAT optional.
One may need to take the ISAT and UCAT (for medical, dental and clinical sciences).
F. Admission Essays
UK UCAS Personal Statement:
The UCAS Personal statement has a limit of 4000 characters, 47 lines. It is extremely important to form a good impression through the personal statement. It will aid candidates to be shortlisted for further interviews or entry into their desired course. QC mentors will help in brainstorming, writing and guidance in all aspects to formulate a mature essay deserving of entry. The depth of passion and command of the subject for example, will be key.
US Commonapps and Supplementary Essays:
Application will require multiple essays, including the main Commonapps and unique Supplementary Essays for each college. It is extremely important to form a good impression through the personal statement. It will aid candidates to be shortlisted for further interviews or entry into their desired course. QC mentors will help in brainstorming, writing and guidance in all aspects to formulate a mature essay deserving of entry. The depth of passion and command of the subject for example, will be key.
Some UK universities will require interviews, depending on the course. Oxbridge are the most notorious with 2-3 interviews that will test both depth and breadth in relevant topics. We can provide interview practice if needed.
Some US universities will require interviews, depending on the course. The local alumni interview on their behalf. Performing well would help in the admissions. QC mentors can help prepare for these interviews.
20th September – Submit UCAS for Cambridge/Oxford, if you wish to be interviewed in Singapore
15th October – Submit UCAS, if you wish to be interviewed at Cambridge/Oxford (ie: flyover to UK for interview. Temporarily because of COVID, this is now online)
15th October – Submit UCAS, for all other Medical, Veterinary Medicine / Science and Dentistry applications for all other universities.
1st Week November- Sit for Specialised tests (BMAT, LNAT, TSA for example)
1st Week Dec -Sit for Interview At Cambridge/Oxford – usually 2 rounds
15th January – Submit UCAS for all other courses (other than Oxbridge, Medicine, Dentistry, Vet)
January- The Commonapp essay prompt is released every January. Ranging from 250-650 words, one can start preparing early.
May- SAT 1 is normally taken in May during the holidays. However one may choose to do earlier in the preceding October, December or March. We recommend taking twice at least, in case the first score is not good. This is the same for SAT 2. SAT 2 may not be compulsory for certain universities.
June- The Supplementary essays prompt is released every June on the university application page and Commonapps. Word limit is variable 50 to 250 words and there can be 1-2 essays
1 November- Early Decision. This application deadline is for students with perfect grades and clarity on which university they wish to commit to. Withdrawing from the school that has accepted would result in a blacklist.
December- Some students may get shortlisted for interviews with the alumni. It would be helpful to do well in these interviews.
1-5 January- Regular Decision. This is for the normal application deadline.
Australia has significant variability in school start and application dates. The typical school start dates are Feb, July, and November intakes. This differs significantly from school to school and one will need to check each specific school. The application deadline windows are Oct-Nov for Feb intake and April-May for July intake.
QC guides a diverse range of global applicants in unlocking their potential to enter their dream and target schools in the UK each year. We offer a range of courses ranging from Portfolio preparation, Academic interview training, to Personal statement writing programmes. We enjoy a strong record of admissions success with international clientele from Malaysia, Korea, China, Philippines, Thailand, Singapore, and beyond. Find out more about our programmes here.