10 Things University Admissions Teams

Are Looking For


Education Editor, St. Jude’s Academy

University admissions teams aren’t always just looking for high grades. Getting into a prestigious program, especially a high-ranked commerce, engineering or science program typically requires more work from the applicant. Supplementary essays and extended applications provide the admissions team with a clearer picture of the person behind the transcript.


1. Extracurriculars

Extracurriculars are important. They are important along a student’s journey for building fundamental skills and gaining a variety of interests, however, they are also important for a student when it comes time to sell themselves to an admissions team. Being able to advocate for one’s own skills, using extracurricular experience for practical examples, is something that is definitely appreciated and sought after.


2. Breadth

Along with extracurriculars, admissions teams are looking for well-roundedness. For a student, immersing yourself in a wide range of curriculum subjects as well as extracurriculars is one of the best things you can do for your future. Admissions teams want a student that is experienced, versatile and eager to work hard in multiple disciplines. This student stands out from other candidates in that their involvement shows an enthusiasm to learn and experience as much as possible.


3. Work or volunteer experience

Involvement outside the school environment demonstrates to the admissions team that an applicant has already begun practicing putting their theoretical knowledge to the test in a real-world situation. Work or volunteer experience that gives the student transferable skills is especially impressive, as it shows the university that the student is dedicated, even outside of academia, to furthering themselves in their anticipated career path however they can, and early on.


4. Passion

Being involved is one thing, but communicating a genuine passion behind the involvement is seen as something special to admissions teams. They are looking for candidates who are excited to pursue a particular field, have enjoyed the work they have already put in and are eager to gain more experience and knowledge in a field-intensive program. Application processes with supplementary essays or long-answer responses provide an applicant with the opportunity to rave about their passions and hobbies and advertise their ongoing enthusiasm to learn, be involved in extracurriculars and gain invaluable skills through work experience. Applicants might assume that a long list of involvement is impressive on its own, but passion and dedication is often what shines through and resonates the most with admissions teams.


5. Originality

Sometimes an application process requires a portfolio instead of or along with supplementary written responses. Students are given the chance to craft a unique representation of them as a student through a portfolio or personal essay. Standing out amongst thousands of other applicants through an original, honest response is something that universities are looking for when they’re sifting through applicants with the same averages and similar extracurricular involvement. Often, being original and showing some personality in your application is what can impress admissions teams the most.


6. Independence

Some high schools “spoon feed” their students and don’t prepare them for the responsibility and expectations of university. Admissions teams know this, and they want students that are adequately prepared and capable of tackling their studies self-sufficiently. Naturally, graduates of high school who demonstrate independence and a sense of responsibility for their academic life appear as ideal candidates for university.


7. Teamwork

Being able to cooperatively work in a team is a lifelong skill that shouldn’t go underestimated when considering university application. Even though independence is a crucial characteristic in a candidate, teamwork is practical and necessary. Productive contributors in a team are valuable candidates, because they participate in a group environment, listen to others and work with others to form collaborative solutions.


8. Leadership

When a student’s involvement showcases leadership skills they become a stand-up applicant who is likely confident in their abilities and self-advocating. Starting a club at school, for example, strikes admissions teams positively because self-starters are invested in their own interests and work, and truly ready to take on responsibility and speak up.


9. Communication

Good communication, both written and oral, is something that universities are looking out for. Applications that appear sloppy with grammar and punctuation errors aren’t winning any points, and oftentimes video responses are included in an application process, where applicants should speak confidently, clearly and efficiently. Being able to communicate well not only means that a student can communicate their own strengths well, but university admissions teams want students who pay attention to details, proofread their work and understand the importance of fundamental communication.


10. Hard work

Lastly, candidates who demonstrate good work ethic and perseverance are sought after by admissions teams. While most, if not every, student with high grades studies and puts in effort for school, not every high-achiever demonstrates hard work in other areas of their life. Using examples of challenges you have overcome in your supplementary responses portrays to the admissions team that you are dedicated and you persevere when things get hard. For many new undergrads, university is a shock to their system in terms of difficulty and expectations. Hard work is a necessary characteristic in a potential student, and definitely something that admissions teams are looking for.


Gradually obtaining experience, getting involved in extracurriculars, and building fundamental skills can be crucial for applying to prestigious programs. Applying to university can be a stressful time, but understanding the expectations for a strong candidate beforehand can help in preparing your application with confidence.


St. Jude’s Academy (JK-Grade 12) is the leading private university preparatory and IB School (PYP, MYP, DP) in Mississauga. Our faculty are world leaders in IB education, providing fundamental skills. Phys. Ed, Arts and language specialists nurture the whole student which ensures 100% of our graduates are accepted into their chosen university. Supported by faculty and parents, our students are inspired to confidently make their mark in the world. Visit us at stjudesacademy.com.