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How to navigate university applications right now

If you are applying to university this year, make sure you keep up to date with any changes in the university admissions process 

    Stephen Spriggs's avatar

    Stephen Spriggs

    June 26 2020
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    While there is still a great deal of uncertainty surrounding the next academic year and universities are putting together plans for online and in-person learning, the admissions process continues as normal. Or as normal as possible! 

    The first step for any applicant is the admissions test for their subject. Most, but not all, subjects require a specialised paper or online test. The quality of most applications to top institutions such as Oxbridge is high, with top grades, excellent references, and strong personal statements. The universities use the admissions tests to help choose between well-qualified applicants from all over the world. Your mark will be considered alongside all other parts of your application and tests vary every year.

    For students looking to study in the US, some universities have announced that they will be dropping the consideration of ACT and SAT scores for a couple of years in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. So it is important to check whether your university is still considering them or not. 

    You should check the university website to make sure you are registered. Registration opens on 1 September and you will need your candidate entry number by the end of the day on 15 October for proof of entry to the test. Most students take the tests at their school or college but it must be registered as a test centre. Due to measures introduced during lockdown many applicants may need to take such tests remotely through a dedicated web portal. 

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    Having completed any admissions tests and submitted a personal statement, students will have to wait to hear if an interview is required. Oxbridge applications involve two or three interviews, and these are predominantly academic and subject-related. Expect to see a specialist in your subject and possibly a more general interview with the college admissions tutor. 

    Some courses may ask for a written paper at the same time. The current thinking is that interviews will be conducted remotely with supervised written tests. The academic departments will be in contact with students beforehand to confirm the arrangements but for now consider it as standard.

    Online interviews with modern technology should be easy to set up and many overseas candidates have always been interviewed online. Interviewers are looking for students with a passion for their subject, enthusiasm, and evidence of independent learning.

    Universities will shortlist evidently capable applicants who they feel will suit the courses and will be looking for your ability to think creatively, independently and to engage with new ideas beyond your school syllabus.

    Although some may find it hard to engage in a conversation online, make sure you have practised in advance and do not be put off by not being in the same room. If you can, complete online tests and interviews in a light and quiet space and dress appropriately for interviews.

    Like everything in the world right now this process is ever changing. Universities and Ucas are continuously posting updated via their individual websites and social media. Now more than ever applicants need to keep up to speed with developments to ensure their application is not affected by safety measures put in place.

    Read more: How to apply to some of the most international universities in the world


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