While writing my 4 applications (one of which I didn't save in a doc) probably only took less than 40 hours, the emotional burden of anticipating a decision and hypothesizing worst-case scenarios has been weighing on me from November 2019 to the time of writing this (April 2020) where I still have not confirmed where I will be attending school next year. Right now, the Uni. admissions process is like The Bachelor(ette) - try your hardest to impress and hope you're the 1 in 30 that gets picked out of all of the other equally impressive people. It's long and stressful - not to mention all the other quips I have with the concept of university itself. Shoutout to Dev Degree for trying to fix it - besides the waiting for admission, this should be what a university should be. Honorable mention to Minerva who's also doing something right. #notsponsoredbecauseIhaven'tacceptedeitheryet
I just finished applying to universities in Canada a few months ago. It was awful. I want to to my part to make sure the process is less awful for anyone who has to go through it in the future so I'm open-sourcing my applications.
As of now, I haven't been accepted into any of these programs but that's likely because of my poor grades. I think the applications are good. I'll share both for context.
Also, you should obviously get good grades if you want to go to the program you want. The point of this is to help write good applications regardless of what your grades or extracurriculars might be.
All three of my applications are fairly different styles and can serve as a good example of how to approach different types of character and achievement testing questions.
Here they are exactly as I submitted them:
- Western Ivey AEO - one of the top business schools in Canada and this application was for guaranteed entry in third year (I applied for CS as my undergrad program which didn't require a supplementary app. but if they accepted my application, I'd do 5 years and get both a Business administration and CS bachelor's degree)
- Waterloo Admission Information Form - arguably the best Canadian university for Engineering with a great co-op program (my supplementary application was for Software Engineering and Computer Science)
- Dev Degree - a program run by Shopify where you work there for 25 hours a week while getting a CS degree from a local university
And here are my grades as of April 25th, 2020:
To be a bit more helpful, here's what you should understand before you start writing:
- (Almost) every question is a chance to brag.
- Lean towards quick and snappy 2 sentence stories that clearly make you look good rather than spending an entire paragraph that only highlights one (or none) of your achievements. To avoid seeming arrogant, use words like "our team", "us", and "we" and talk about accomplishments done in groups.
- Make it easier for yourself by making a list of somewhat impressive things you've done and referencing it.
- You're writing for admissions officers, not professors.
- The people reading your applications have much less experience in the program you're applying to than teachers or other students might. Show them how you have universally good qualities like leadership, initiative, and can work hard rather than domain specific knowledge.
- If you've done research in a lab and spend an entire question writing about the intricacies of your experiment, an admissions officer likely won't understand why it's impressive. Their job is to judge how good of an alumni you'll be for the school - make it easier be showing them why.
- Tell short stories.
- Get the person reading your application to like you. For essay questions, show character development when talking about your accomplishments. Throw in a sentence or 2 about your motivations and how you changed from an event while stating what you've done to get them invested.
- The key here is to keep it concise - descriptions should be kept to 4 sentences and extraneous details about your character development should be 3 or less. Remember to interleave personal insights into your description so that you're never just droning on about just what you did.
2.1. Other Advice
This comes from a friend who received the Chancellor's Scholarship at Queen's ($36K over 4 years with the choice of any undergrad program) and was offered a $7K scholarship from visiting a professor at Western.
1. Contact a prof of the program & visit them at the uni if possible. The prof liked me and after that the school offered me a scholarship that they wouldn’t have otherwise. Works wonders.
2. Don’t . Listen. To. People. In. Your. High. School. For. Advice. On. Anything. Uni. Related!!! They probably don’t know more than you do, probably are not smarter than you and don’t always have your best interest at heart. They will view you as a competitor, even if your not applying to the same thing. High school is a competitive environment.
Thanks for reading! Let me know if you have any questions via email at [email protected] - I'd be happy to help!
And if you found this tutorial particularly useful, consider buying me a coffee ☕️.