What are university admissions officers looking for?

Students who are true to themselves will make best headway at Clearing, suggests survey of admissions officers

Students applying to university through Clearing or Adjustment this year must be prepared to demonstrate their commitment to their chosen course.

Research from ACS International Schools, conducted through telephone interviews with 80 university admissions officers in the UK and 20 from the US this year, shows 92% of university admissions personnel state that they actively consider an applicant’s propensity to complete their degree when deciding whether or not to offer them a place at university.

Furthermore, 52% of officers actively consider the likelihood of applicants to contribute to the research life of the university; 43% if they have the skills to lead work and study groups; and 42% whether or not applicants are likely to study to MA or PHD level.

“Our latest report paints a picture that could not be further removed from the grab and fill frenzy so often associated with Clearing: it confirms that applicants must be well prepared, fully committed to their subject, ready to study hard, and be ready with a really strong pitch to secure a place,” said Fergus Rose, Head of Marketing and Admissions at ACS International School which commissioned the report.

Other useful pointers for applicants reflecting university admissions officers’ selection criteria include ‘a passion for their chosen subject’, ‘good written English’, and a ‘positive attitude towards study’, which top the list.  

Which attributes do university admission officers look for in addition to academic qualifications and grades?

  1. Evidence of a passion for their chosen course subject
  2. Good written English
  3. Evidence of a positive attitude towards study
  4. Evidence of an ability to think and work independently
  5. A reasonable grasp of maths
  6. Evidence of success through a difficult start or background
  7. Having held any positions of responsibility
  8. An awareness of global or cultural differences
  9. Work experience
  10. Evidence of an entrepreneurial attitude

Source: ACS International Schools, IB, IBSCA University Admissions Officers Research 2015

“A passion for your chosen subject is not just a quality highly valued by universities but, along with commitment and enthusiasm, is also highly sought after by employers,“ commented Fergus Rose.

“Our study clearly suggests that students who are true to themselves by determining now where their passions and commitments lay, will be best placed not just at Clearing but in their future life choices too.” 


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