Tips for top varsities

Overseas Education | Lisa Kao 16 Jul 2019

The university of Oxford, Harvard University, University of Cambridge and Stanford University are some of the top universities in the world where students dream to be enrolled.

Every year there is fierce competition among applicants fighting for a place in the ivory towers.

"The acceptance rate for the University of Oxford is around 17 percent," said Jeffrey Hui, producer-in-chief of Metro Education Plus, and founder of Dr Phoenix Education.

"Some may think that it is not that hard. But considering that local students can have only five choices for their UCAS application, the real acceptance rate have to be divided by two."

Hui said because of great competition, academic results are not only a requirement but the entrance ticket for these universities. "Having three As in the British A-level exam is the basic requirement."

With all students having excellent academic results, interviews and personal statements and reference letters become critical in choosing students.

At the 26th Hong Kong International Education and Careers Expo, Hui, who has a background in marketing and education, gave six tips to students on writing personal statements. "Early preparation is the key," he said.

First, the statement has to show genuine interest in the subject, with strong supporting proof. Showing an interest since an early age, or inspired by a particular incident would help.

"Don't say that my family studied that topic, but instead use that comes from your own experience," said Hui.

"For example, during form four, you went on a trip to Ethiopia and saw the kids there did not receive education, so you wanted to bring education to those in need."

Second, curiosity about the subject should be shown through achievement beyond school. The education program producer suggested students show their interest through reading related books - "five classic and two newer books to show related interests. Do not make it up, because the interviewers will know during interviews."

Making use of summer time to read is a way for the young students to truly understand the context of the book.

Third, show that you have a long-term interest in the subject.

"Do not write about your business program when you are aiming for medicine," said Hui, adding that it is important to show you are pursuing the subject in a long and continuous way.

"What have you done in the past three to five years to reach the goal? Either to have visited the 10 greatest architectural sites or to create a project if you are aiming for architecture."

Fourth, show you have the potential to master the subject, showing you have the traits that are necessary.

"If you want to be a doctor, you have to be caring and have strong analytical skills, you have to bring that out with your extracurricular activities."

Enrolled as a masters of studies in social innovation at the University of Cambridge, Hui illustrated the point with his own experience.

"The masters is about reaching the 17 United Nations goals on sustainable development, so what would I show? The fact that I am a chairman of an NGO, I organize a charity, and I run a social enterprise."

Fifth, the point which Hui stressed is most important of all, is to initiate something new.

"To start a new association related to the subject, to initiate a debate or to film a documentary about social problems would be some examples."

He believes that it would not be a hard task for students today to film something, as they are already familiar with doing so. "It would be better proof if the video could be sent with the personal statement."

Lastly, to present your academic ability. "Public exam results is the basic requirement that everyone has. To further show your ability, having awards and scholarships would help."

He added that a teacher's recommendation is also essential. "Perform better in school to receive better comments from teachers."

Hui said showing a contribution to the school could make a student further stand out from the crowd.

"When students are applying for a school, they are thinking of what they can take from the school." Thus, the other way around would make a student different.

The six pillars are just the first step to finish the personal statement. Interviews still await.

The Cambridge graduate expects there will be less fierce competition for British university places because of Brexit.

"The European students no longer enjoy the local tuition fees as Britain has quit the European Union, and might prefer studying back in their own countries," he said.

And the British currency is falling. It is perfect timing for students from Hong Kong to study in the country.

"I am diagnosed with developmental dyslexia, but I can enter the University of Cambridge, so I believe that all of the students who are all smarter than me could too."

Hui urged students to get prepared early, even starting in junior forms at secondary schools.

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