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University Application Guide

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There are a lot of people who, even in their second year of IB, are directionless in terms of university applications. This post will aim to give you an insight into applying to Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Singapore, United Kingdom and the United States.

Australia

Canada

Finland

New Zealand

Singapore

United Kingdom

United States

Standardised tests

English Language tests

This is a community project, and if anybody has anything to add please feel free to. The section on Canada is particularly lacking since I don't know a lot about studying there and since we do have a lot of Canadian members (or a Canadian invasion rather), someone could oblige in filling it up? Maybe even add more countries.

Do remember that everything said above is subject to change at any time. Any jokes made were not intended to offend any member of any country. If you are offended, then that's just the way it is, maybe loosen up a little?

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Australia

With additions from Ruan Chun Xian

Important point: For everyone in the Northern Hemisphere who is looking to attend a university in Australia, do remember that it is in the Southern Hemisphere which means that their academic year begins in January and ends in December, unlike the Northern Hemisphere where it begins in September. Summer here is in between December and February unlike June to August.

How to apply to, and choose, a university: If you are a local student, you have to apply through the Universities Admissions Centre (UAC). Local students include anybody and everybody who has studied in Australia (onshore students). If you complete the IB in Australia you have to apply through UAC, regardless of your nationality. All other students have to apply directly to the university. A list of universities in Australia can be found here. You can apply to universities directly through their websites or send in a paper application. Charges for applications range and can cost up to AUD100. If you do apply online, it can be a bit cheaper. If you can somehow give the application into a university representative (such as at an education fair) in person, they may waive this application fee. This site has rankings of Australian universities. Group of 8 Universities are highly ranked and research intensive. Entry requirements vary by university.

IDP Australia: This is an education agent designed to help students find information and aid them with applications to study in Australia. IDP has offices in many different countries and may be able to guide students on application process with information specifically relevant to them. You can find their website here.

Post Application: Once you apply, you will be asked to provide either predicted grades or a certified copy of your diploma. They will also ask for your transcript, a copy of your passport and proof of your English Language ability (IELTS in essential for visa application later on, however universities accept both TOEFL and IELTS). How to prove your English Language ability and other English tests are discussed later on in the guide. After you have mailed that in, universities can provide a decision on your application, usually about two weeks after receipt of all necessary documents. Should you be successful, you need to then provide a deposit to secure your place and then apply for a visa from your local Australian Embassy.

The time needed for visa application to be approved varies according to your nationality, and can take up to 2-3 months, so plan your time accordingly. To apply for a visa you will have to take the IELTS test with a satisfactory score (6.0 overall for undergraduate studies). TOEFL is not accepted as a substitute. Additionally, you will have to provide proof of your ability to finance yourself through the duration of your degree. This can either mean evidence of income (your parents/family or other sponsors) and other related documents. Before visa is granted, a thorough medical check is also required.

Accommodation: With the large influx of international students in major Australian universities, the system of accommodation is a bit strange at best. You will not be guaranteed accommodation of any kind on campus or with the university upon being accepted. Some universities such as USyd, UNSW and UMelb have collegiate style residences where everything is provided for but these are often much more expensive than off campus accommodation. Universities also have flats which they let out to students, and they are self-catered i.e. you need to cook for yourself. However, both residential colleges and universities flats are often extremely limited in number and require you to apply months in advance, which may hinder you getting a place as a first year. The good news is, you can usually apply before you get acceptance from the university, so that just in case you get accepted, you have a chance to live on campus.

Alternative accommodation solutions include staying with a host family, or rent an apartment with room mates. Costs can vary, depending on the city and suburb within that city. Sydney and Melbourne are by far considered the most expensive. The most expensive of Sydney colleges can cost AUD440 a week and flats can be from about AUD150 upwards, which may or may not include facilities bills (gas, electricity, water, internet). Universities will have accommodation offices which lists properties for rent, people looking for room mates etc. that can help you in your search for accommodation. Otherwise, there should be posters/leaflets/flyers posted around university notice boards.

The start of semester rush for accommodation can be quite intimidating and it is advised that you arrive in Australia at least a week before you need to, to look for permanent accommodation. You should arrange for temporary accommodation while you search, usually cheapest solutions are in hostels or with friends or relatives. Some university may help international students in arranging temporary accommodation, at a small fee. It is best that you contact your university's accommodation offices as soon as possible to find out what services are available.

Additional information: Since most major Australian universities finance on international students fee, most likely you will be paying full fees. Local students (permanent residents or Australian/NZ nationals) are legible for financial aids but international students are not. Scholarships are also very rare at undergraduate level, often only available once you've commenced study. There are a few (emphasis on few) government scholarship/grants (such as AusAid) but they are extremely limited and competitive, and sometimes are only available at certain universities. They will, most likely, not cover full fees, but only a fraction of it.

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Canada - With some additions by Irene

How to apply to, and choose, a university: This list of universities will give you some direction in choosing the university as well as the place that you would want to study in. This wikipedia entry has a list of the research centric universities in Canada. Unfortunately, the ranking list which is published by Macleans is a paid resource. Universities have a range of specialities. Ask around and read old forum topics to gain an insight as to which universities excel in certain subjects. University of Toronto, University of York, Queen's University in Ontario, as well as the Richard Ivey School of Business at the University of Western Ontario have particularly good Business programs. In Ontario, you need to go through the OUAC while in other provinces you should be able to apply to universities directly through the universities. Unlike Canada's neighbour, you do not need to do any standardised tests but you may be asked to provide English Language tests to prove your English capabilities.

Post Application: Some programs would ask for a supplemental application which consists of additional essays and information about yourself. You would have to fill these out and return them to the faculty so that your application can progress further. Universities will also ask for your transcript, which usually needs to be sealed and sent by your school. Again, universities would ask for proof of your English capability if you are not from an English speaking country. Once you send in your forms, which usually needs to be done by a set date, most universities will respond to you within a couple of months or on a set date.

Accommodation: Depends entirely on the university. Generally, first years stay in single sex residence halls or dorms with other students on campus. The number of roommates can range from zero (single room) to three depending on the institution. Generally, most rooms are either single or double. After the first year, students usually move out to private accommodation and rent a house/apartment with friends. Some universities will force you to buy meal plans to cover your meals. Most Ontario universities cost in the range of CAD5,000 - 9,000. The cost obviously depends on the quality of the residence.

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New Zealand

Important point: For everyone in the Northern Hemisphere who is looking to attend a university in New Zealand, do remember that it is in the Southern Hemisphere which means that their academic year begins in January and ends in December, unlike the Northern Hemisphere where it begins in September. Summer here is in between December and February unlike June to August.

How to apply to, and choose, a university: Being a tiny country, there aren't a lot of universities to choose from. They are listed here. The top ranked university is the University of Auckland, followed by the University of Otago and then others. New Zealand is a popular choice with international students. There are a number of reasons for this, universities are usually easy to get into but that does not mean that they are any worse off than their competitive entry counterparts. Another reason is the romanticisation caused by the immensely popular Lord of the Rings trilogy movies. As a result a lot of exchange students choose to go to New Zealand and take in the natural beauty of the country Universities are free to apply to, so apply everywhere if you like. Entry requirements are loose, and low. With only 27 points to get into some programmes, but that does not mean that an acceptance is in the bag.

Post Application: You would need to provide an academic transcript, as well as your IB diploma scores to confirm your admission and get an unconditional offer. As always, international students from non English speaking countries would need to provide proof of their English language abilities. They would also ask for your passport copies for visa purposes. If you are successful, which you usually are, you will then proceed to get a student visa.

Accommodation: University accommodation is provided, and there are a lot of private companies that also provide for study bedrooms. University accommodation is popular, and is in the form of halls of residence. It is usually catered unless you go for a university flat, where in you can be self catered. Do bear in mind, that the majority of first year undergraduate students end up in catered halls of residence. Accommodation can cost in the ball park of NZD200 per week.

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Singapore

How to apply to, and choose, a university: There are only 3 major universities in the tiny island nation of Singapore. The oldest, National University of Singapore (NUS). The scientific, Nanyang Technological University (NTU). And the newest, as well as the flashiest but it is only a business and law university, Singapore Management University (SMU). NUS is the highest ranked university, and NTU is the second highest. SMU is too new to have a proper meaningful rank, but it is a well regarded university in terms of business with Investment Banks hiring directly from the campus. You would have to apply directly to the university, as there is no central application system. IB entry requirements are a closely guarded secret of the universities, and there is no fixed entry requirement. Students that have been predicted 39 have been rejected. So it's a bit of a lottery. You might need to provide a SAT score, and this will also help in proving your capability in English. There are also rumours of universities rejecting all males under the age of 21 since Singaporean men usually enter university at that age after completing their compulsory 2 year National Service conscription. There also other smaller scale institutes that provide degrees such as SIM, or the TLC group that awards degrees from Monash in Australia. Or Stansfield college that awards degrees from LSE. These 'educational organisations' are second rate and not worth putting your international dollars into.

Post Application: You would need to send in a copy of a recommendation, a transcript as well as your predicted grades or diploma. You should hear back soon, depending on the university. Getting a student visa should be an easy job. You can even come to Singapore as a visitor and change your visa to a student visa from within the country.

Accommodation: The universities provide accommodation for you to stay in. Usually double rooms with a room mate, and campus food courts to dine in. Or you can stay in private accommodation with other room mates.

Additional information: You can apply to the Singapore government to cover your fees and living costs, and in return they will give slap you with a working bond which says that you must work in Singapore for a number of years after Graduating. You can also apply to the Ministry of Education (MOE) to pay for your expenses. In return you shall have to be a teacher in a Singaporean school for a set amount of time post graduation.

Useful forum discussion link 1

Useful forum discussion link 2

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United Kingdom

How to apply to, and choose, a university: All applications to study in the UK as an undergraduate go through UCAS. Through UCAS, you can apply to 5 universities for a grand total of £17 (as of 2009). A list of universities can be found here, and the most comprehensive British ranking tables can be found here. The Times Good University guide is very helpful in the sense that it also gives you the ranking by subject. Once you sift through these listings and finalise your 5 universities, you will then need to create an account on UCAS. Do remember that every university has different entry requirements, with some courses requiring interviews.

You can apply to UCAS as an individual or through your school. If your school is in the UK, or a lot of your school's students attend the UK, your school will create your account for you. Be sure to ask your academic adviser before you make your own individual account. The last date to submit this application is the 15th of January. If you are applying to Oxbridge, Medicine, Dentistry, Veterinary Medicine or Veterinary Science, the last date to apply is the 15th of October. If you are applying to interview overseas, the last date is the 20th of September. You also need to submit a Supplementary Application Questionnaire if you are applying to Cambridge by the 31st of October. More information on Oxbridge applications can be had here.

You are going to need to draft a Personal Statement, a how to guide, and samples, can be found here. You will also need to get a teacher or an adviser or your principal, basically whoever knows you best, to write your reference which should ideally be true and a fair representation of you as a character and maybe your achievements at school. The reference should also detail your predicted grades, or your actual grades.

Post Application:

Once you send them off, universities should reply to you by the 1st of May. You can check your replies on Track. The earliest replies can had in 1 week depending on the university. After you receive all your offers, you nominate one of them as your Firm, and another as an Insurance. The idea behind this, is that the firm is the university that you really want to go to, and the Insurance is the second best university with a lower offer usually should you not get into your first choice. Furthermore, you should inform your IBC that they should request the IBO to send a copy of your results to UCAS (make sure you give them your UCAS ID!). After results day, if you meet your offer, the status should change to 'unconditional'. If you do not meet either Firm or Insurance offers, you should call up the universities and plead your case. If that fails, you can go through Clearing and find universities that have places left and ask them to take you in.

Accommodation: First year university students are usually guaranteed accommodation on campus, with some universities guaranteeing accommodation to international students for all 3 years of University. Accommodation can be catered, self-catered, en-suite or non en-suite. You also have the choice of single sex or mixed flats. You usually apply for accommodation around June, or it can be later depending on the university. You will only find out where you will live after you get your unconditional offer.

More information on the UCAS form can be found in Bio-Aqua's very useful thread here.

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United States

Post by sweetnsimple786

How to apply to, and choose, a university: First of all, the words ‘college’ and ‘university’ are often interchangeable. Technically, a university is made up of multiple colleges, and each college is a school—of engineering, business, etc.

If you’re a US citizen or permanent resident of the US, then you’ll fill out a domestic application. If you’re Canadian or Mexican, some universities require you to fill out an international student application, while others let you fill out the regular application. Read the international students section of the university’s admissions portion of its website to find out which is the case.

There are many factors to consider when choosing universities to apply to. The most common are the campus location [Do you mind a rural setting? An urban one? Is the weather okay with you? Etc], cost per year [including room and board, which is like rent and food, tuition, book money, and spending money], financial aid [in the form of work-study in the form of a job on campus, grants, scholarships, and loans], the quality of the program you’re interested in, and the faculty-to-student ratio. Most if not all of these factors are discussed on the university’s webpage. Just browse through its contents, including the FAQs—they tend to have some insightful information!

300+ universities are partners of the CommonApp. Instead of filling out the biographical sections of 10 different applications, you can do it just once online at this website for any colleges that affiliate with it. The unis agree to use this application, so the essay portion is the same as well. However, many colleges have their own supplements to the CommonApp. It’s worth using the CommonApp if two or more unis you’ll be applying to accept the CommonApp. When you register, make sure all information you entire is typo-free. It’s hard to change it once you’ve entered it initially. [This is only for the registration part.]

If your uni doesn’t accept the CommonApp, then you’ll need to send in a separate application which the uni will provide either online or as a hardcopy. Usual requirements include but are not limited to the SAT or ACT [with the optional writing section], letter of recommendation from teachers and/or counselors, an official transcript [mid-year report] with grades and school information. If you apply for financial aid, then you need to complete a FAFSA [it opens in January of each year and is due in February. It requires your parents’ tax forms and takes a while to complete.] and/or CSS Profile

If you’re an international applicant, the uni will have a separate form it wants you to fill out. Some universities are need-blind, meaning they don’t care whether or not you need financial aid. In fact the admissions officers reading your application won’t know if you’re planning on applying for aid unless you mention it in your application. On the other hand, some colleges may defer you if you’re on the borderline and need aid. Many top colleges like Harvard and MIT and Amherst pledge to pay for you if you show the need, if you’re international or not. There are colleges like Stanford that will pay for you if you’re a domestic applicant, but if you’re an international student, they do not extend the same policy. They do however offer different extents of aid—just not a full ride. [Note: A ‘full ride’ is when a college pays for your tuition and other expenses, typically for all four years of your undergraduate study.]

IB and US Universities: Several universities offer credits for HL IB courses. However, the majority do not. To top tier colleges, a student who has done the IB program portrays diligence, intellectual curiosity, and a rigorous work ethic. IB could be the reason a potential “wait-listed” applicant is accepted. However, IB won’t be a saving grace. The key word with colleges is “well-rounded.” Show that you can balance extracurricular activities with school work and demonstrate passion in both, and you’ll be a strong candidate. You should go to the university’s website to find its stance on IB credit.

One last thing… Unlike universities in the UK and other nations, you do not have to pick a course of study to apply to a US university. Some colleges like that you know what you want to do, but most don’t care. They know the average student will change his or her mind at least once and transfer courses. Therefore, most of the time, when you apply to a university in the US, you have access to all programs/majors/departments. And often you don’t have to declare a major until the end of your freshman [1st] or sophomore [2nd] year. [Note: junior and senior years refer to the 3rd and 4th years, respectively.]

Aboo's addendum: List of universities and Rank of universities

Post Application: Once you submit your application, make sure you follow up by applying for financial aid on time if you qualify. Colleges will notify you around March if you’ve been accepted, wait-listed, or deferred. If you’re wait-listed, there is a chance that you may be accepted on a later date [some time after May]. Let the college know if you still want to be considered. Also, one of the requirements is a mid-year report [transcript] of your grades, with a follow-up after the year has ended. Counselors will need to mail the university the final transcript. If you’re accepted into the college, but you make terrible grades after you submit your application, the college has the right to reject you.

Accommodation: You usually have the choice to live on campus in a dorm, off campus in a house or apartment that you rent or own, or commute to the college. Some unis require their freshman [first year students] to live in a dorm. You usually fill out a survey so that the uni can find you a compatible roommate. [The survey might ask if you’re a messy or loud person or if you stay up late. Things like that.] Usually, you commute if you live at home and can drive to the campus in 30-45 minutes or less.

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Standardised tests

To apply to most universities in the US, you will need to do the SATs or the ACT. They come in two different flavours, SAT I and SAT II. The SAT I is compulsory for most universities while Ivy League universities require 2 or more SAT IIs to judge your application. You can take the SAT tests from Collegeboard. I call it the Stupid American Test, but there you go. You need to gain admission to most universities in America and also to some other universities around the world. Do remember that you get some points for writing your name right, so don't do that wrong!

If you apply for medicine in the UK or Australia or NZ, you will need to do the BMAT, and for many UK Medical Schools will also be expected to do the UKCAT. If you choose to do Law in the UK, you will have to do the LNAT

The Thinking Skills Assessment (or TSA) is a test that is required by Oxbridge for some of its courses.

A lot of the above-mentioned tests are discussed in great detail in Bio-Aqua's useful thread located here.

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English Language tests

If you are an international student, these tests can make or break you. Universities require these tests so that they can ascertain your capabilities in the glorious, and senseless, English Language. IB Students who study English A1 or even A2 can demonstrate that their English is fine for university study. You will usually need to be predicted, or achieve, a 5 so that Universities are assured of your abilities.

Undergraduate Law students may need to show a higher level of English ability.

Universities in the UK may also be satisfied with a C level pass in English Language at the GCSE level. Some universities may also accept a high SAT I score in the Reading component as sufficient proof.

If for some reason your university is not satisfied by all that proof, or you are applying for an Australian student visa, then you will need to take an English Language test. The two most common language tests are:

IELTS: More common in the Commonwealth (UK, NZ, Australia and South Africa).

TOEFL: This is more common in the US. Mainly because it was started there.

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Hi,

 

Since applications for Australian universities are happening now I just thought I'd let you know that there is a little error in the Australian section. You only apply through UAC (local students) if you are planning on going to a university in New South Wales or ACT. For Victorian universities you need to apply through VTAC (Victorian Tertiary Admissions Centre), for Western Australia TISC (Tertiary Institutions Service Centre), for Queensland QTAC (Queensland Tertiary Admissions Centre), for South Australia and the Northern Territory SATAC (South Australian Tertiary Admissions Centre). There is only one university in Tasmania and I think you apply directly to the university.

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