Hacks you need to know to make applying to university less scary and confusing


Applying to university can seem like a confusing maze. These academics have some straightforward advice

Wong Tsui-kai |

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Applying to university is a whirlwind of paperwork, digging out old exam results, writing personal statements, and preparing for interviews.

But to actually get into university takes more than just good grades and a smooth interview. Admissions staff see all sorts of students, with all kinds of skills and knowledge. Here’s what they actually want to see.

Dr So Kwok-sang.

Dr So Kwok-sang, the Academic Registrar at Hong Kong Baptist University advises students to watch their timekeeping.

“Don’t be late and be prepared,” he said. This might seem obvious, but many forget how importance punctuality is when you’re trying to make a good impression.

“Yes, people arrive late to interviews. It really happens,” he said. “Even then, just showing up on time and rushing into an interview out of breath isn’t good enough. You should be 10-15 minutes early. Take the time to gather your thoughts and steady yourself.”

Being prepared for an interview involves several things. “Do research. Know the basic requirements,” So says, explaining that your clothes can make a difference.

“For example, a business interviewer would expect you to be more formal, clean and tidy, while an artist might expect you to express yourself more through your dress.”

He says that he’s noticed some students’ communication skills could do with a bit of polish. “Don’t read from a script, it’s obvious if you do. Be yourself. Eye contact is also very important.”

Students need to remember what kind of interview they’re in, he warns. “If you’re in a group interview, treat it like one. Be in the group. Discuss. Interact. It can’t just be you talking to the interviewer.”

Professor Leonard Cheng.

Professor Leonard Cheng Kwok-hon, President of Lingnan University says grades aren’t everything. “We have basic academic requirements, but talent and passion don’t have to be in conflict.

“There’s no reason why students can’t have both.”

Cheng adds “A talented student will have an advantage when studying, but education means benefiting students, regardless of factors like natural ability, social status and wealth.”

Cheng emphasises the importance of life outside the textbook, saying “Liberal arts prepares students for their entire life, rather than just for a job.” Your reasons for studying shouldn’t be only selfish, he adds.

The university is dedicated to serving the community, so the student needs an interest in current affairs, concern about the society, and should be a socially responsible citizen.”

Professor Linda Li.

Professor Linda Li Che-lan, of City University of Hong Kong, says grades tell a university a lot about an applicant. “All universities look at exam results as an indicator of a candidate’s academic potential.”

“Commitment, attitude, motivation and outlook” are important, she says. “We want dedication to pursuit of knowledge and integrity.”

“We want people who believe in something and have a high degree of curiosity. We want them to be persistent, diligent and not easily frustrated nor give up easily,” Li says.

“School can be hard and things aren’t perfect. You need to be able to cope with pressure.”

She suggests preparing early for university. “My advice is not for this year’s DSE students. You should start two to three years in advance.” Li claims.

“Start early; discuss your plans with family and friends. Ideally, by Form Four you should have a good idea of what and why you want to study. Your reasons and motivation for seeking an education.”

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