The aim of this page is to shed some light on the British selection process for UWC candidates, because I knew that the selection process was definitely something I was nervous about, and something that I didn’t get much information on before hand. This is the story of my application process.There will probably be some tips and what not throughout too for the potential applicant 🙂
*Just please, please note that this page is about the BRITISH selection process, and contains information about the BRITISH way of doing it. Also note that this is the story of MY application in 2013,-14, meaning that things might have changed slightly since then*
PART 1: THE ONLINE APPLICATION
I think the biggest bit of advice anyone gave me before I applied came from a good friend of mine. When I told her my intentions, she was immensely supportive, but asked me if that’s what I really wanted. “It’s easy to get caught up in being so happy for you… I just want to make sure it’s what actually want, not what you think you should do.” This made me really think about why I wanted to go, and I think anyone who wants to apply should think about this. It’s so easy to be pressured into making the wrong decision. Luckily, I knew I wanted to apply, and had plenty of support from my parents, so when the applications opened, I was ready to get stuck in.
The UWC GB application process uses a website (here’s the link) to do the questionnaire. You basically fill in your personal details, contact details, and then there are about 6 essay-type (500 words or thereabout) questions you answer. You also need to find a community and academic reference.
The great thing about using a website to do your application, was that you could save it and revise as and when you wanted to, so if you’re fussy, like me, you can take your time over it. I agonised over my answers for such a long time, and I got practically everyone I knew to read it after with a fine tooth comb, to pick out grammatical errors and silly mistakes. It took a long time to complete, and to prepare the references I asked my youth council leader and my geography teacher to write them for me, and they were awesome!
Here are some tips for when you write your application! You’re welcome 🙂
- BE HONEST- Yes, it sounds boring, yes it sounds like it should be taken for granted that you’d be honest, but seriously, honesty is the best policy. If you write about how you’ve saved the amazon rainforest with a spoon, it would make an interesting read, granted, but they’ll see right through you. Just be happy with who you are, because what you’ve achieved, is incredible.
- BE PASSIONATE- Be totally psyched about who you are – when you’re reading 300+ applications, passion will make yours stand out from the others.
- BE YOURSELF- Be an individual in 300+ figures, because that’s what they’re looking for – be proud of who you are.
- BE METICULOUS- with your spelling, because bad grammar is a big no no!
I didn’t have the smoothest of rides when it came to the application process. I’d clicked the submit button once I was ready to give in my application, and I was sure that it had actually been submitted- I’d had the email to confirm it. So- I waited. And waited. And waited, And carried on waiting until the 23rd December when I was supposed to hear back from them. Except I didn’t hear back from them. The Facebook group I’d joined for GB applicants was exploding with “I made its!” and “I didn’t make it :(” messages- but I still hadn’t had the email. Or any email in fact. I knew something was wrong. My parents were in Cardiff for the weekend before Christmas. I broke down in tears on the phone to mum and dad- it felt as if the entire dream had just been snatched away from me. In 15 minutes, I wrote the best email of my life to the selections committee, explaining that I had sent in my application, but for some reason I didn’t have an email. I took this to mean that the site must have malfunctioned, and sent these emails out to loads of email addresses on the website. I swear to god, I only had an interview because I irritated them so much! Anyways, I was over Mo-Anna’s house the next day, scoffing Dominoes pizza, when the phone rang- with an unknown number. Answering it cautiously, it turned out to be someone from the national committee, with the news that they were very sorry for the mix up, and that they were delighted to offer me an interview! YESS!!!!! Needless to say, that made my Christmas.
PART 2: THE INTERVIEW
The next step was to attend a day long interview in Atlantic College in the first week of January. All through Christmas, I was worrying about my interview, although I really needn’t have. I was finalising college choices, googling blogs to read, and trying to pick out a sensible outfit to wear. I live about 40-60 minutes away from the college, depending on traffic, so I was lucky that I didn’t need to travel very far. Finally, the interview day swung around, and I was incredibly nervous- honestly, the most scared I have EVER been. All I had been told was to expect some interviews and some discussions and games, and that it was a relaxed, informal environment. I also knew to prepare an aural presentation about something important to me, and to speak for less than 5 mins on it. Going in blind was an understatement.
When I arrived at the college, I was ushered into a room with all the other applicants, for some welcome games and introductions. Let me spare you some confusion: UWC is HUGE on games- and some of them are pretty fun! We were then split into little interview groups of about 6 or 7 people, and had to stay in these groups all day. I felt really lucky in that my group was so lovely and friendly. First, we had our interviews, then some discussions, then lunch (FISH AND CHIPS!!), followed by more discussions, team exercises and lastly, the dreaded presentations. Thank god we only had to present to our groups!
By the end of the day, I was exhausted. Believe me, I was so tired, I fell asleep in the car. Before we left, we sat in on one last presentation, and then filled in the forms to say which colleges we would want to go to. Instead of writing which college you’d want to go to, we had to cross off the colleges we didn’t want to attend. For me, that was any large school, and Waterford because of the term dates. Everywhere else I was happy to go, but my top 3 were easily Pearson UWC of the Pacific in Canada, UWC-USA in New Mexico, and Li Po Chun UWC of Hong Kong.
I specifically didn’t go into detail with what the day entailed, because I think the element of surprise was really important. Below are some more tips!
- RELAX! Take a deep breath and smile. Nerves are good, they show you care.
- DO YOUR PRESENTATION ON SOMETHING YOU’RE PASSIONATE ABOUT- 5 mins is a long time to sit in silence. If you enjoy talking about it, there won’t be many awkward silences.
- MAKE AN EFFORT TO GET TO KNOW YOUR GROUP- They must be pretty spectacular to be there with you 🙂
PART 3: THE WAITING GAME
I had to go through a bit of an obstacle course to get my letter. I was skiing in Barvaria at the time, and I knew it had arrived when my parents airily said that there had been no mail. It was a bit too indifferent, know what I mean? 28 hours on a coach later, I eventually met my parents in the middle of Birmingham New Street Train Station, where they were attending a campervan show. They handed me the tiny blue envelope, and I opened it quickly.
Unfortunatley, we are unable to nominate you for a place at a UWC this year. This does not mean that you have failed in any way… If you would like for your name to be retained on a waiting list for any last minute vacancies…
I could literally feel my heart break. I didn’t really care that I was in the middle of a very busy train station, I cried my eyes out. I couldn’t believe it. I think a lot of it was tiredness, because I hadn’t slept for 28 hours, and had been stuck on a cramped coach that smelled funny. It hurt like hell though. Mum had already opened the letter, so she knew and had already put me on the waiting list. Now all we had to do was wait. Bearing in mind, this was February half term. March came and went in a haze of irritating Facebook dings saying “I’m in Atlantic!” or “I’m in Singapore!”. April dissolved into rain, and I was seriously considering giving up. I’d already been to the local college for an open evening, and it looked okay. I was starting to feel a bit more positive about not going.
Of course, of of that changed with a simple email on May 1st. I’d been offered a place at Li Po Chun- one of my top 3 choices! 😀 Sometimes, it really is worth just hanging in there- trust me.
There’s not much to say about waiting- except that it’s not the end of the world if you’re wait listed. I met someone who’d been offered a place a month before she was due to leave!
Well, I really hope this has been useful to someone! If you have any specific questions, you can comment or email me- I’d love to answer them!