Things I Wish I Knew Before Applying to University

Written by Janey, Teen Volunteer
Halifax Public Libraries' Teen Blog is written by and for teens. Discover more posts here.

It still doesn't feel real that my senior year is coming to an end and that everything is set in place for me to attend university—especially when I think about how confusing the application process was, and how lost I was.

I started applying to university back in October 2020, and went into it with absolutely no information whatsoever. With the pandemic going on, I was not able to experience a lot of the universities visiting my high school to talk about the programs they offer. However, I did have a couple of advice sessions with my guidance counsellors at school, but still found myself to be completely in the dark. I came to the realization that it was going to be up to me to just figure out all that I could, in order to prepare myself for the application process.

There are so many unknowns, that people don’t tell you about, when applying to university. So, that is why I wanted to write this blog. To share with you what I wish I had known, let others students know that they are not alone, and that it is okay to be confused.

Read the requirements

Before you get started on your application, something that is crucial to know is that there are different requirements for different programs. There are general admission requirements (certain credits need to be obtained, and above a certain grade percentage), and then there are additional prerequisites for different undergraduate degrees. These might include specific credits (like grade 12 physics for Engineering, or grade 12 chemistry for Medical Science), or they could also include another grade 12 class.

Be sure to keep an eye out for the grade requirements needed for the undergraduate degrees, which could range from 70% to 85%. Also remember, just because you reach a minimum grade requirement, does not mean you’re automatically admitted into that school. There are also additional requirements other than grades and credits, like for most Nursing programs, they require students to take the CASPer test. So, just make sure to thoroughly check out the university’s website for future undergraduate students.

Research, research, research

This might be the most painstaking part of the process, but it is so important to research any potential schools and programs you are considering. This way you will know which schools you prefer, depending on what they offer in the program of your choice. Remember to watch for important dates and deadlines for each university’s application and admission process. This really helped me to organize my time and figure out what needed to get done and when it needed to be done by. A timeline can also help with answering questions about your deadlines as different programs have different deadlines in their application process.

The application form

This might seem like the most tedious part but honestly, for me at least, was the least stressful. I found that you just had to fill out a couple of forms. However, I would strongly advise getting started on the application as soon as you possibly can so that you can take your time on it. I started the process back in November, as most deadlines were around January-March, so that I could take my time on it and make sure I had completed it without any mistakes.

Safety net

Most schools that I applied to offered the option of filling in what your second choice of program would be. For example, if you wanted to go into Nursing, you would put “Bachelors of Science (Nursing)” as your first choice, and you could put your second choice as something you would consider taking as well. This is because you could end up being rejected for your first choice, but accepted for your second choice. So, I would seriously consider what you put in as a second choice, because you could receive an acceptance letter to that program.

My thoughts

If you are totally, absolutely lost, and don’t know where to start, or if you just have a bunch of questions, I recommend checking out the university’s website as it offers a lot of information that is easily accessible. If you still have questions, try contacting the admissions office at the university, or ask your guidance counsellor at school, ask your peers, or ask current university students for advice.

Remember, you are not alone. Everyone feels lost and confused at some point in this process. I hope this has given you an idea of what you should know and expect when applying to university.

About the writer

I'm Janey Yoo and I am a teen volunteer for the Library. I’m initially a shy person but once you get to know me, I'm typically loud and talkative. A random fact about me is when I'm watching Netflix, I prefer watching movies over TV. I quickly get bored so it’s really rare for me to find a show I will watch all the way through.