Get into the best universities in the world
Do you dream about studying at Oxford University, Harvard or another top university? Here are our 7 steps to get into the best universities in the world.
According to the Times Higher Education World University rankings the top ten universities in the world are:
- University of Oxford, UK
- University of Cambridge, UK
- Stanford University, USA
- Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA
- California Institute of Technology, USA
- Harvard University, USA
- Princeton University, USA
- Yale University, USA
- Imperial College London, UK
- University of Chicago, USA
Do you want to get into one of these universities, or another top university? We can help you! But first I would recommend that you read our 7 steps:
1. Before you start
Applying to the best universities takes a lot of work, and only about 5%, i.e. one out of twenty applicants, get accepted. So before you start the application process you should ask yourself why you want to study at one of these schools? Is your academic background strong enough to get accepted? Do you have the money to cover your costs for studying there?
The main reason to study at a world-class university is the status that it brings. A degree from one of these schools will stand out on your CV and help you get a good job and a successful career. But it is not the only path to a good career.
There are also a number of drawbacks that you should consider with high ranking universities:
- It is very hard to get accepted, so if your grades are not top-notch it will probably be a better decision to apply for schools that don’t rank quite as hard.
- If you get accepted you will compete with the most brilliant students from around the world every day. This can be inspiring, but it can also be challenging if you suddenly find yourself getting mediocre grades.
- Many of the best universities in the world are also some of the most expensive Some of them have scholarships or financial aid systems for poor students that can lower the tuition fee, but you will still need your own money to cover the rest of the tuition fee, your living costs, insurance, travel to the place of study and application support if needed. Universities that rank a bit lower often charge less and they might be more generous with scholarships to attract a good student.
If you still think that you have what it takes, then you should go for it! Let’s get started.
2. Apply on time and apply to many schools
Normally I advise students to focus on doing a couple of good applications instead of doing many applications of lower quality. However, when you apply for the top universities there are no shortcuts. Your application should not only be good, it has to be great. But with all the applications these schools get even great applications often get turned down. So if you really want to get into one of the best universities you should apply to many of them to increase your chances of acceptance.
Top universities often have earlier deadlines than ordinary schools. For example, the highest-ranking universities in Great Britain, like the University of Oxford, have a deadline already in the middle of October for programs starting in the fall of the following year. So you have to submit your application almost one year in advance. This means that you should start the application process about 1.5 years before you want to begin your studies, to give you enough time to find out the requirements, take the needed tests and prepare a great application.
3. Get good grades
The best is if you make up your mind to study at a world-class university already in your mid-teens, so you can stay focused in high school and achieve the great grades that you need. To get into most programs in the top universities, you would need a GPA of 4.0 or higher. And you would still need an impressive application on top of that.
4. Score well on the placement tests
If your grades are not perfect you could still save the day by getting a great score on standardized college tests such as the SAT or ACT in the US. Many universities demand that all applicants take one of these tests. If you apply for a Master program you will most likely have to take an admission test like GRE or GMAT. Study the different tests that the school accepts and pick the one that plays to your strengths, especially if you are asked to do tests focusing on a few chosen subjects.
5. Write an amazing essay
When all applicants are top students, good grades and test scores are not enough to decide who should be accepted or not. The essay is your chance to shine and make a lasting impression. Here your job is to convince the school to choose you over all the other applicants. The best way to do this is by being you. Speak from the heart. Tell them about your interests and talents, your goals and dreams. Share personal stories. Let them know why you want to study in their school and why they would want you as one of their students.
Make sure to spend a lot of time on your essay and adapt it to each application you prepare. The language should be flawless and easy to read, but also personal showing your character, so never let someone else write the essay for you. If you cannot do it yourself then you are not prepared to study at a top university. The essay should be like a good speech, it should sound spontaneous while actually being very well prepared.
6. Get great recommendations
Telling the university how great you are is one thing. But having someone else confirm it makes the message much more powerful. High ranking universities often ask for two or three letters of recommendation.
These letters should be written by teachers, coaches, employers or people in similar positions who know you well. In exceptional cases, you can ask a friend to write one of your recommendation letters, if you have been through a lot together including meaningful extracurricular activities, and this friend is prepared to put in the work to write a genuine recommendation letter showing off your good character. However, never ask your parents or other close family members to write you a recommendation letter. That will only be seen as proof that you don’t have any good references.
The important thing is that the person that writes the letter of recommendation knows you well and are willing to put in the work to write a genuine letter. A two-line letter certifying that you have worked somewhere is not a letter of recommendation. It has to include how the person knows you, what you have accomplished and examples of some of your personal traits. So it is, for example, better to ask your closest manager than the CEO of the company.
The good news is that you can use the same reference letter for all your applications. Just ask your reference to not mention the school name in the letter, or to produce multiple versions with different school names, then have them sign all the letters you need right away so you don't need to bother them again. Don’t forget to thank them for their help, and let them know if you got accepted.
7. Ask for help
So as you can see, getting into the best universities takes hard work. You can often increase your chances of success by getting help. Ask someone you trust to proofread your application and give you feedback. Don’t just ask a friend or family member who will encourage you and say that everything looks great. Ask a teacher, a guidance counselor, or some well-educated person you know to give you honest feedback that can help you improve your application.
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