Checkup: Admission Preparedness

Test Prep Books

New teachers, new friends, and maybe even a fresh new pair of shoes. School is back in session.

After a wonderful summer in Toronto, we’re now fully in back to school mode, too. And what do many educators like? We like lists. So we’re starting the new academic year with two checklists: one for seniors and another for juniors.

We hope this will help jump start your year.




  1. Create an applicant profile(s)

  2. Students applying to undergraduate programs in the United States generally apply using one of three standard applications. These are: Common Application; Coalition for Access, Affordability, and Success; and Universal College Application. While it may be possible to apply to individual universities, using one of these applications makes it easy to apply to several schools. To maximize your time, you should consider which applications are used by the universities on your list. In Canada, where education is under provincial jurisdiction, similar application systems are available for universities in Alberta, British Columbia, and Ontario. If you’re applying to UK universities, you’ll need to register with UCAS.

  3. Work on your personal statement(s)

  4. Universities are interested to learn more about you. Personal statements, also known as college essays, are your best opportunity to introduce yourself to admissions committees. Use these to provide information not contained in other parts of your application. To help you get started, you are provided essay prompts. Visit each of the above application systems to review available essay prompts and to find out more about essay guidelines. If your preferred universities do not subscribe to any of these applications, you will need to visit institutional websites to find out more about each university’s essay requirements. In the Canadian setting, prompts are available either on university admission web pages or are provided shortly after you apply.

  5. Retake standardized tests

  6. If you are not pleased with the score on any standardized tests you recently took, consider retaking the test as soon as possible. Of course, if you have not yet taken required tests, you will need to register as soon as possible. Registration deadlines are often well in advance of test dates. Remember test dates – as well as space – may be limited in your area. Click on the following links to check registration deadlines and test dates for the ACT, SAT, IELTS, and TOEFL.

  7. Get organized

  8. Confirm the admission requirements for each of your preferred universities. Create a requirements and deadlines checklist for each university. Set personal milestones. You’ll need to check the list often, and check off items as you complete them. The list is only useful if you use it. Pro tip: Enter reminders on your mobile device for each milestone. You can also use this checklist we’ve created.

  9. Paying for your studies

  10. Paying tuition fees is likely the last thing on your mind. It is, however, very likely that your parents are already considering it. Be sure to speak with them about the expected cost of your studies. The Ontario Student Assistance Program has a very useful Aid Estimator. Students interested in American universities should use the Expected Family Contribution Calculator.

    A Final Reminder to Seniors

    University applications are composed of various elements, and some universities may have slightly different requirements. While some elements of your application are submitted by others (for example, your school counselor), you are responsible for ensuring requests are processed and that all required documents arrive on time. This is your application. Own it.




    1. Meet with your guidance counselor

    2. You need to ensure that you wisely choose your courses. Remember that universities will want to see that you’ve taken rigorous courses. So while you may be tempted to take the foot off the pedal, you really should be doing the opposite. Your achievement in your course work is an indicator of your preparation for university level work.

    3. Stay involved in extra-curricular activities

    4. Extra-curricular activities are a great way to develop “soft skills” and to gain valuable experience. Universities are interested to know how you spend your time outside of class. Your activities outside of class tell universities a lot about the kind of person you are. When it comes to extra-curricular activities, it does not matter what you do but why you do it and what you learn as a result. Also, the quality of your involvement is more important than the quantity of activities. Try things that interest you but focus on those that are special to you.

    5. Plan to take standardized tests (if necessary)

    6. Most standardized tests are valid for several years. This is a good time for you to determine which test better suits your style. Take sample tests of the SAT and ACT. This will help you determine which one feels better, and to find out in which you perform your best. Do the same for the TOFEL and IELTS.

    7. Research academic programs

    8. Take time to think about what it is that you want to study. You still have some time to make a final decision but it’s a good idea to have some goals in mind. At the core of our educational consulting are a career-style interview and an aptitudes and interests assessment. These tools help us get a more precise sense of what academic programs the student may want to pursue.

      VerveSmith helps students find schools, universities, and programs that match their aspirations, and to develop an admissions application strategy. To learn how we can help help, contact us.

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