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How to apply successfully to university Add to ...

DO PAY ATTENTION TO YOUR GRADES

Admission into most universities, especially for students applying from high school, is determined by grades, usually Grade 12 marks. But some schools also take into account Grade 11 scores. "If you don't have a strong academic history, it's going to be tough," says Luke Seamone, acting associate registrar, recruitment and admissions at Mount Allison University in Sackville, New Brunswick. However, if your grades have taken a temporary downturn because of a personal setback, be sure to explain yourself. "There are always exceptional circumstances," says Michael Bluhm, associate director of undergraduate admissions at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. "We've always got options to look at things on a case-by-case basis."

DO MIND THE DETAILS

Missing a deadline or omitting key documents can delay an application or derail it altogether, says Roger Côté, associate vice-president, enrolment and student services, at Concordia University in Montreal. Allow yourself plenty of time to request transcripts and be aware of deadlines. Be sure to research requirements not just for the school but for specific programs, he says. Some limited enrolment programs may require students to submit portfolios or book auditions. Once your application is submitted, track its progress. If you have a question, call. "Don't just click submit and sit back," warns UBC's Bluhm. "Missing a step could be critical to an admission decision."

DON'T LEAVE OUT PREVIOUS POSTSECONDARY EXPERIENCE

Regardless of how stellar or spotty your academic record, if you have previously attended another university or college, however briefly, you must declare it and provide transcripts. Not doing so is considered "a pretty serious application offence," according to Richard Levin, Registrar at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario.

DO GO THE EXTRA STEP

If possible, include one or two reference letters with your application, says Seamone. Some students also include portfolios, scrapbooks, videos or slide-show presentations. But unless you are specifically requested to do so, none of these are critical. Some universities or programs also give students an option to complete a supplementary application. If you have the option, fill out the supplementary form. Take some time to do "some soul searching" before answering the questions and avoid pat answers and be sincere. Also avoid long lists of extracurricular activities whose obvious intent is to impress admissions officers. "Follow your interests and be honest about those things," advises UBC's Bluhm.

DON'T FORGET TO APPLY FOR SCHOLARSHIPS

Your extracurricular and volunteer involvement will play a crucial role in scholarship applications. Take the time to research scholarship opportunities on university and other online sites, including globecampus.ca/money-finder. McMaster's Levin says "there's actually a lot of scholarship money out there that goes unclaimed."

DO BE AWARE OF YOUR ONLINE PRESENCE

University admissions officers say they don't check prospective students' Facebook pages, Twitter feeds, or other social media sites. But, advises McMaster's Levin, keep in mind that these sites are public. "If there are things you don't want the public to know, then you shouldn't be posting them on Facebook, or at least ensure that your privacy settings are where they need to be," he says. Social media sites can leave a "permanent footprint that anyone can see," adds UBC's Bluhm; not just university administrators but potential employers, too.

DO PLAN A CAMPUS VISIT

"Different places fit different students and it's really hard to know from a website or a brochure or even a campus rep what's going to work for you," says McMaster's Levin. "You need to go to the campus and the town and see if you feel comfortable there." Check university websites for regularly scheduled campus tours or book one online.

DON'T ASK YOUR PARENTS TO CALL THE SCHOOL

Privacy rules usually bar schools from discussing applications with anyone other than the student. And that includes parents. If you have a question, make the call yourself.

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