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How to handle Application Season: a Student's Advice

Choosing a university is a tough process - we talked to a student for some wonderful advice on how to tackle it step by step.
BY Achala Upendran |   05-11-2013
Sharanya Thakur  
Choosing a university is the first part of the long application process, and it’s a tough step to take. Why not take some advice from a fellow student? Sharanya Thakur is a Class 12 student at Vasant Valley school in New Delhi. She spoke with about her own current application process, test taking strategies, and, most importantly, how to stay cool in the midst of trying to find the right university for you.

Sharanya’s prospective majors include Political Science and International Relations. She plans to apply to Liberal Arts colleges in the U.S. and a few institutes in France.

  1. What kind of research are you doing to figure out the universities you want to apply to?

  2. The university websites are incredibly useful in understanding the core curriculum of the universities. Understanding the course requirements, class sizes, etc. is extremely important because you can use this information in your “Why ____ University?” essay. Secondly, I’ve realized that attending as many information sessions as possible is very helpful because you can interact with your regional admissions heads. These sessions helped me understand what the university is looking for in each student, and they also provide room for you to ask questions that cater to your situation and interests particularly.

  3. Are you sitting any standardized tests, like the TOEFL or SAT? How are you preparing for them?

  4. Yes, I have taken the SAT 1 already, and am taking my SAT Subject Tests as well as the TOEFL test soon. For the SAT 1, I took a diagnostic test in Class 11, which allowed me to understand what I needed to work on and what I was already good at. I think the trick with the SAT is to take as many practice tests as possible. I relied on books such as Kaplan, Barron’s and Princeton Review. These books provided useful strategies which helped me save time on certain questions.

  5. Are you planning to visit a career counselor or an education fair to get more ideas on where to apply?

    Don’t get confused by the many directions, trust your judgment to find the right fit for you!
  6. Although I did talk to my school counselor about the places which would be ideal for me with respect to my interests and choice of majors, I realised that the most important thing for me was to get as much information about a place so that I could decide whether it was the right fit on my own. Education fairs and information sessions on colleges helped as well. There were certain colleges that I wasn’t too interested in before I attended sessions by their representatives.

  7. How important do you think extracurricular activities are to your application?

  8. They’re extremely important. However, I’ve realized it’s not about how many extra-curricular activities you have; it’s about how they’ve impacted you and how they’ve enabled you for your college experience. My essays and personal statements all draw upon the activities I’ve engaged in and how they’ve made me go beyond the school curriculum. I think activities are important because they also give you something specific in terms of what you can contribute to life on campus and how they may affect your future goals.

  9. Finally—we know how stressful application season is. What do you do to unwind and relax? What no-stress tips can you share with our readers?

  10. The best stress-buster for me is to talk to people who are going through the same process. There are some moments of sheer despair when I’m completely overwhelmed by essays, tests and schoolwork. It really helps to talk to a friend or family member. It’s also extremely important to go out, socialize and actually have a life. It’s almost like a reward system where you allow yourself to have fun for working so hard.



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