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The top seven qualities universities look for in student applicants

If you are beginning your university application, these are the most important attributes that will impress an admissions officer

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Jeremy Lewis

July 10 2024
7 qualities universities look for in student applications


1. A positive attitude towards study

Students must demonstrate that they are ready to work hard – that they’re not just applying to university for the social life but will be able to cope with the workload of their chosen course and thrive at a higher level of education.

As well as good grades, students can demonstrate this in their personal statements by mentioning personal projects they have taken on to expand their knowledge or study skills. Linking this to their intended area of university study is helpful. Showing the ability to manage your time and workload is important, too. 

2. A passion for the chosen course subject

Students must demonstrate a passion for their chosen subject. Independent extended interest in a subject that goes above and beyond what is required in the classroom, a personal achievement and extracurricular activities can all help to illustrate this. It’s beneficial for students to show how learning within and beyond the classroom links to their chosen course.

Ultimately, passion and perseverance are qualities that are highly sought after by employers, not just universities.

3. An ability to think and work independently

Many admissions officers will be looking for examples that show you are able to take responsibility for your own learning and are able to transition from school to university. 

Highlighting examples where you have worked independently or led a project at school will show that you are ready for university learning. 

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4. An ability to persevere and complete tasks

Universities are looking for indicators that students will complete their course and understand what it entails. If you are a member of a sports team, involved with any committees or school councils or even have a part-time job, it’s worth mentioning this on your personal statement. All these roles show a sense of commitment and ability to take responsibility for tasks. You can also talk about any leadership experience you have gained or contributions that you have made.

You could also include additional qualifications, such as music grades, lifeguarding or first aid courses.

5. An inquiring mind

Have you taken the initiative to read around your subject outside the classroom? Researched more about a theory you touched on in class? Talk about this in your personal statement – it not only demonstrates a curious mind but a positive attitude to study, an interest in your course and the ability to think and work independently.

6. Good written English

Make sure you check, check and check again that every word and sentence of your personal statement is spelled correctly, makes sense and is grammatically correct. Ask as many people as you can to proofread it and check that it makes sense – especially teachers who have experience helping with university applications. Admissions officers will notice mistakes, which can suggest a lack of attention and care on your part.

7. An ability to work well in groups

If you are part of a sports team, committee, club or any other group where you work with others, include this in your application to show that you are a good team player.

Many courses require group work, and universities will also want to see evidence of how you can contribute to the institution overall, whether that is being a part of the students’ union, joining a society or starting up a new club.  

This article was written in 2017 and updated in July 2024 by THE Student editor, Seeta Bhardwa.

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