A Big Sister’s Guide For Applying to Postsecondary School

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applying to postsecondary schools, woman on laptop outside
Photo by Christin Hume on Unsplash

University! The word strikes fear into the hearts of youth everywhere. All around me, my peers are either applying or are stressed out about applying. And that’s completely understandable. It is a stressful time. There are exams to take, essays to write, and life to manage. So how do you fit applying to postsecondary schools into all of that?

Word to the wise: it’s not as hard as it seems. At first, it can feel overwhelming but everyone around you is in the same boat. So, where do you begin?

Step 1: Research

This seems like a given, but there are a few things to consider when researching universities. There are a few reasons why I consider this the most difficult step, but I mainly just chalk it up to fear and procrastination.

So, where do you find information about universities? There may be an event at your school where local universities provide the info. You can also talk to older people around you. If you want every option, however, the best way to find them is by using Google. Just make sure that you know what you’re looking for. While the Internet is an amazing tower of knowledge, it’s easy to drown in the search results.

I suggest choosing three to five universities, just to be secure.

Here are some things to consider when you’re choosing schools to apply to:

  • Where do you want to go to school? Abroad? Small town? Big city? International fees are something to consider as well.
  • Logistics such as tuition, housing, and meal plans. Do you have money saved up? Are you working part-time while studying? Does the school offer housing and is it guaranteed for first-year students? Does the school offer financial aid and/or scholarships?
  • Decide what you want your university experience to be like. Do you like parties? A studious environment? Small, intimate classes, or seas of students that you can get lost in?
  • What’s the student life like? Read reviews that aren’t on the school’s website. If you’re more dedicated, you can try contacting a student who goes to the school to hear their two cents worth.
  • Consider your courses. You don’t need to know for sure what you want to do, but a general idea (such as whether you want to go into sciences or arts) will help you narrow down your options.
  • Extra tip: start your research early. You won’t know the answers to these questions right away, and that is totally okay. Give yourself lots of time to consider your future, instead of making all of the decisions right before a deadline.

Step 2: Actually Apply

You know those three to five schools I suggested you take note of? This is where they come back into the game! First, take a moment to congratulate yourself on choosing them — the scariest part is officially over.

So, take the night off. You researched and you’ve got a plan. Then, when you’re ready, jump into the second portion of university hell: actually applying.

Here’s the unfortunate part. You do need to pay for applications, but those are to cover the cost of the admission process. There are people going through university applications as you’re reading this article… probably, and they need to get paid.

The application process will vary from school to school, which might get a little frustrating. Something to keep in mind is that, depending on which country the school is in, they might ask for different things. For example, schools in the United States might focus on personal essays to really delve into who you are. Canadian schools focus more on academic achievements, and schools in the UK will ask about extracurriculars and motivations.

With that being said, here are tips for the application process:

  • Save your information for the student portal. This is a given, but make sure that you have your university usernames and passwords in a place that is easily accessible. You don’t want to add unnecessary stress to an already stressful process. So, just keep your passwords where you can see them.
  • Save! If you stop halfway through an application to go to bed, watch Netflix — or whatever it is crazy teenagers do — then hit that save button! It would be horrible to have to start over again because you closed your laptop too soon.
  • Have somebody go over it. Usually, at the end of university applications, there’s a review page. Have a parent or friend read over what you’ve written (that goes double if you’ve had to write an essay). When you’ve been staring at a page so long, you might miss something.
  • Keep track of those deadlines. Write them in big bold letters on your calendar. You don’t want to miss a submission date because you forgot about it. Whether you’re submitting early applications or not, make sure you have those dates memorized.
  • Stop putting it off. This is probably the hardest part, sitting down and doing it. I would suggest setting some sort of goal for yourself. Something like, “I’m going to send in an application on Saturday.” This can be hard because aghhh future is a scary thing that you don’t want to think about! But, hey, once you get through with it, it’s over. And that’s something to look forward to.
  • Extra tip! If you’re having trouble motivating yourself to do anything remotely university-related, do it with other people. Grab a handful of your friends, sit down at the dining room table with your laptops and a bowl of snacks, and do your research and applications together.

In conclusion, applying to universities can be a difficult point in anyone’s life. In the end, after the rush of deadlines and papers and crying in the school bathroom, you’ll have finished your applications. Then you’ll just be waiting to see the results. Take applying to postsecondary one step at a time. Take a deep breath and dive right in. There is absolutely nothing to worry about. You’ve got this!