Are there guidelines for reference letters?

Foreign Students's picture

Effective references typically come from past teachers or, if you haven't studied for a while, from a current or recent employer. Your referees should not be friends or family, and they should write their letters in English. A strong letter will defend your suitability for the course to which you are applying, drawing from concrete examples of your performance in class or at work.

The referee should be able to comment on your teamwork, leadership, communication and other skills relevant to the course. In case you select a former teacher as your referee, do not necessarily look for teachers that gave you the best grades. Sometimes a stronger letter will come from a teacher that graded you more harshly, but got to know you better as a person and observed how you matured academically.

How do I write an effective personal statement?

Foreign Students's picture

The key word here is "personal". Why do YOU want to study this course? What past academic or professional experience makes YOU the perfect candidate? Stand out from the rest using a concise, detailed and example-rich style of writing.

Also, mention any relevant academic research, past work, cultural background, language skills, and professors you would like to work with. Demonstrate knowledge of the institution and its environment, check spelling and grammar, and have close friends and relatives read your draft to make sure it reflects your natural voice. Practice makes perfect, so be ready to write a few drafts before you achieve the desired result.  

How can I distinguish myself as an applicant?

Foreign Students's picture

Strong applicants not only have an excellent academic record, but they also have gone above and beyond. This could involve conducting academic research, writing an excellent thesis, presenting works at academic conferences or taking courses at a level higher than expected. Obtaining recommendation letters from professors that know you well and can comment not only on your academic performance but also on you character and activities outside of the classroom is also a great way to stand out.

An application can also be enhanced by leadership and professional experience, whether through internships, community work or part-time positions. If you have a unique cultural, academic or personal background, make sure you reflect it in your personal statement as well. The secret is to make the admissions officer remember you even after he or she has read thousand of applications.

How should I decide where to apply?

Foreign Students's picture

Where you will study will largely determine where you will live, and so it is an important decision that should incorporate both academic and non-academic considerations. In terms of academics, your list of schools can be based on a number of factors such as the availability of courses of interest, presence of professors with whom you would like to work, research opportunities, job placement rates, and extracurricular opportunities such as study abroad programs.

It is also important to be realistic and apply to schools where you have a good chance of getting accepted, even if you also apply to more selective institutions. Aside from academics, you should also consider factors of personal importance such as financial aid, accommodation, safety, and job opportunities.  

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