Advice Column, Education, Tween & Teen

When to start applying at universities abroad

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Matric students who want to study in the United States and United Kingdom next year need to start preparing their applications now. With global admission trends showing a record increase in applicants for the class of 2025, students competing for places at top universities abroad will be facing a tough admissions environment. 

“When it comes to applying to top universities, there’s no such thing as being too prepared. Ideally, you should give your application at least an 18-month lead time, but matrics who are only starting to think about their applications now, still have a chance of gaining admission – provided they stick to deadlines,” says Rebecca Pretorius, Country Manager at Crimson Education, a global mentorship company, which focuses on building the candidacy of high school students wanting to study at top-ranked universities in the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Europe, Australia and New Zealand.

According to data collected by Crimson Education, the 2020/2021 admissions season saw applications to universities increase by 30%. In the US, new standardised test policies meant that SAT(Scholastic Aptitude Test), and ACT (American College Testing) scores were not required for even Ivy-league schools, resulting in a huge jump in application numbers. At the same time, universities saw a 7% drop in admission rates overall, due to the number of students who had deferred their offers as a result of COVID-19 in the previous year. With the extension of test-optional policies at top universities, turbulent admissions are predicted to persist into the 2021/2022 admissions cycle.

With applications for international universities opening as early as August, students need to be mindful that the application process for studying abroad takes up a lot of time. “A key component of the application process is deciding which universities to apply to. In between juggling Grade 12 exams and activities, and making decisions about courses, majors, and future careers, students will also need to sit for admissions tests, write personal statements, supplementary essays, and in some cases activity lists,” says Pretorius. 

Pretorius breaks down an admissions roadmap for US/UK admissions in 2022, for those who haven’t started yet: 

  1. May 2021 – Familiarise yourself with the application process and research the universities you want to apply to. You should have a good idea of the various, course, accommodation deadlines, and fee requirements.
  2. July 2021 – Finalise your course and university choices and start your personal statement and essay writing. Secure your letters of recommendation from your teachers. 
  3. June to September 2021 – Register and prepare for standardised admission tests including the SAT, the ACT for the US, the BMAT (BioMedical Admissions Test) for UK Medicine courses, and LNAT (Law National Aptitude Test) for applications to UK Law, among others.
  4. October 2021 to November 2021 – Submit applications to Oxford/Cambridge and UK medicine courses, and Early Action/Early Decision applications for US universities. 
  5. December 2021 to January 2022 – Submit your Regular Decision applications by 1 to 15 January. Prepare for personal/video interviews which take place between January and March. 
  6. December 2021 to April 2022 – Get your results! Once you’ve received your offer from a university, get the paperwork ready, apply for your student visa, book your flights, and you’re off!

Through a team mentorship model, Crimson connects learners with admission strategists and tutors to assist them with the complex application process for overseas universities. In 2021, over 800 Crimson students received offers to the top 10 UK universities, with over 2 200 receiving offers to the top 50 US universities. Crimson offers regular online workshops and webinars to provide local students with information on how to apply internationally. For more information, visit www.crimsoneducation.org/za.

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