Step 3 - Building your university short-list

Aligning Your Interests With Your University List

Adapted from Eric J. Furda - Dean of Admissions, University of Pennsylvania

For students now familiar with connecting the Self-Assessment I’s and Assessing Universities C’s, you can now extend your thoughts to the next step.

In this phase, you need to identify up to 5 Attributes which define priority characteristics of your ideal university environment. Define your priorities around a list of attributes you want from your university experience primarily centred on the Academic program and the overall Atmosphere you would like to be part of in university. Students and parents also need to seek Alignment with their respective criteria so there are no surprises as you get further into the process. Alignment also needs to take place with the reality of Admission selectivity and Financial Aid policies (if applying to the US).

So for the 6th form approaching deadlines: 

  • What priorities did you establish for your initial university criteria; (Urban; Great History Department; Diversity of student body; Active Club Sports; access to music scene)? 
  • The first 3 Attributes may be the deal-breakers and the last two somewhat flexible. Also, push yourself; does Urban mean in a city or readily accessible by transit in less than 30 minutes? Do the faculties on my university list match up with these Attributes? 
  • Admission alignment is not adding less selective universities that don’t fit the criteria. Also don’t just start applying to more schools with single-digit admission rates and testing where you may be ‘out of range’. Be realistic.

For all students, a natural triangulation should eventually form between these Attributes with your Identity and university Assessments (where appropriate). Consistently remind yourself that you are establishing your own criteria, you have developed a sense of self through reflection and you are determining if a university is a good fit for you.

Then you can authentically tell your story in essays and interviews (if you have to complete these).

University shortlist form (UCAS and US Colleges)

Download the excel shortlist form. The form is designed to help you identify entry requirements for courses and universities.

A rough guide to how to research

Level 1 - What you want

  • for this task
    • use Unifrog
    • then use the specific university website
    • For US universities you can also use

Level 2 - What is realistic?

Make sure you add essential information to your university list.

Level 3 - Link back to your 5 attributes of a university - what you want from a university. 

Now connect with each of the universities in your short-list

When students are asked why they chose a certain university, an in-person visit is always the number one reason why. Unfortunately, you probably will not have the chance to physically visit the schools on your list in person. And no one expects you to visit. But through research, you can get as close to an in-person visit as possible.

For many universities, they track your interaction with their university. This can be essential evidence of "demonstrated interest" in a course/university. This becomes even more important if you are interviewed and/or you have to write an essay and have to answer the question "Why this university/course?".

Level 4 - Dig deeper into university acceptance rates for the course(s) you want to apply for.