The twenty first century student and university: what you need to consider

In today’s ever-changing world, students applying for an undergraduate degree are faced with a plethora of choices and competing interests. The competition is fierce, but at the same time, there is diversity available to a twenty first century undergraduate applicant, which did not exist before. Given this dynamic scenario, it is essential for a student to make the best of the opportunities available by finding the very best fit between the student, the university and the course.

A qualitative application to a university includes a transcript that reflects a student’s academic strengths and relevant choice of subjects. Importantly, it must be a true reflection of oneself. The essay plays a crucial role in telling a student’s story about “who they really are”. Detailed and evidence based letters of recommendation serve to enhance a student’s academic and extracurricular strengths. Academic ability is important, but so are interdisciplinary skills, passion, initiative and a true desire to be the best at what a student chooses to do.

It is here that important twenty first century skills come into play, such as establishing a balance between meeting school deadlines and putting forth a well thought out university application, which requires good planning and hard work. This means that a student needs to adhere to a timeline that they must set out for themselves. It is also important to be aware of one’s inherent strengths and passions and show case these well. Demonstrating a track-record of good self-management skills, independent learning, consistency and resilience go a long way in enhancing a student’s chances at getting into a university of their choice. Last, but not the least, are a student’s achievements and interests outside of school: universities are always looking for accomplishments that show a student is willing to stretch the boundaries of their knowledge both inside, and outside, of the classroom. This could be, for example, a student identifying a need in the community and responding through a community service project or innovating a solution. Initiative, compassion, and a genuine respect for diverse cultures and communities are crucial in today’s interconnected world.  

The key lies in focusing on inherent strengths, managing time well and choosing subjects in high school that are both reflective of a student’s academic abilities and interests, as well as being relevant to university choices. A well thought out, original application will always catch a university’s interest. They are looking for students who are constantly challenging themselves, who will actively contribute to a diverse undergraduate community, and who have a well-rounded personality with strong interpersonal skills. The student, for their part, must look beyond the rankings in a quest to find a university where they will flourish and come into their own. The right fit between a student and a university lays the foundation for professional and personal success.

Nayantara Handa
University Guidance Counsellor
The British School, New Delhi

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