The basics
THE UK: Applying to University

What an admissions officer looks for w/ Doncaster College

Writing a university application

‘What do I say in my application?’ or ‘What does an admissions officer need to know?’ are  just some questions we thought you be asking yourself. So being the nice people we are, we thought we would go straight to the source to find out. We spoke to Matt Oliver, International Liaison Officer at Doncaster College, to understand what an admission officer is thinking when reading applications.


Distinguish yourself

For a moment, imagine what it is like for an admissions officer to read not just your application, but hundreds or thousands each year. After a while, most will start to look the same; another reason to ensure you stand out. The last thing you want to do is bore the person reading your application (especially if someone else has slightly better grades). You want them to be excited to meet you. While having the required grades is necessary, Matt emphasises personality and character; that his team look out for a ‘well-rounded individual’ too. It is in the interests of the professors to teach students who can engage them; after all, they will have to read their work for three years.


Provide correct information

Because an admissions officer has to look through so many applications in a short space of time, you have to make an impression on them quickly – choose quality over quantity. For Matt, ‘the best applications, forms and personal statements are the ones that give me all of the information needed, are clear and concise, and give me enough to show me that person is keen and interested in studying the course with us’. It might be useful to make a checklist of things you have to or want to, include. Do not assume that they will put aside time to look up something which you have left out. You risk them passing on your application if it will be a problem or time-consuming for them to deal with. Admissions officers are very nice generally, but they have a tough job. Ensure all information you supply is correct, including references, to help them – you’ll put them in a good mood if you do this.



While on the subject, if you were wondering whether references are checked or not, Matt confirms that they are: ‘We read them and take them into account alongside the grades, but if grades are not sufficient an academic reference would not change a decision.’ So don’t fake them, or give information that is outdated, believing it won’t matter. This might be tempting for those applying abroad who think there is little chance they will be checked. Matt warns that his department check for “fake colleges” using the UKBA and UKCISA websites, as well as enquiring directly with them over the phoneSo remember: it does matter. Plus, if there is one place left between you and someone else, your reference may be the deciding factor.


Why this university or location?

Consider what it is about this particular country or university, which will benefit your learning of this subject. What will studying this abroad offer you that studying at home will not. Matt notes that ‘some are often very short and only indicate a desire to be in the UK’ with ‘very little reference to interest in the course or what they would like to achieve following completion of the course’. An admissions officer will NOT want to give you a three year holiday to go sight-seeing in that country. Make a link between the course and the place. Does the location or university have a rich history related to the subject? Perhaps there is a notable figure in the subject you are interested in, who graduated at this institution as well? You should always research the university beforehand to show initiative, and that you have made an effort.


We already have tips on how to write a personal statement. Keep it open in another tab or window to refer to, while you write yours.

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About Author

Writing a university application

Paul Ellett is the editor for Hotcourses Abroad. His role is to plan, produce and share editorial, videos, infographics, eBooks and any other content to inform prospective and current international students about their study abroad experience. When he's not thinking about student visas in Sweden and application deadlines, Paul is an avid fan of comedy podcasts and Nicolas Cage films.

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