Student Perspective

Misconceptions About Applying to University

by Benjamin Skye | March 4, 2011 | Student Perspective 0 Comments

Over the years, I have encountered quite a number of high school students who seem to have some wrong ideas about going to university. Having gone through the process myself, I understand what some of these “misconceptions” are about university applications. Here are seven major ones…

ELI 360 made it possible for me to fulfill my lifelong dream of studying in the US.

ELI 360 made it possible for me to fulfill my lifelong dream of studying in the US.

When I was growing up in Malaysia, I always wanted really badly to study overseas after graduating from high school. Yet to be honest, I never realized throughout my elementary and high school years just how complicated going overseas would be. Looking back, I now recall some wrong ideas I had about applying to university overseas. These wrong ideas not only confused me, but also made studying in the US feel like an impossible prospect to me. However, thanks to ELI 360, I have made it to the US and am now less than 3 months away from graduating with my bachelor’s degree!

My advice to high school students wanting to study overseas – Avoid these SEVEN misconceptions like a plague…

1.I am an excellent student. I will definitely get a 100% scholarship to university.”

  • In life, nothing is a certainty. Now there are rare instances when exceptional students get full-scholarships as a result of their hard work in high school. However, these students are typically in the top 1 or 2% of their class. They are the so called “cream of the crop”. I am not trying to downplay any student’s hopes of becoming that “perfect student”, but I must say, not everyone gets a full scholarship to university. It is more likely that you and your parents will end up having to pay a certain portion of your university fees. The size of that portion will depend on the scholarship package offered by your university based on your high school grades. In other words, don’t count on getting a 100% scholarship. It is important to maintain realistic expectations and plan ahead financially.

2. “As long as I make excellent grades in high school, the scholarships will come to me. I don’t need to worry about anything else except focusing and my high school studies. ”

  • Most students in high school have this false sense of security about their chances at university. They often think that as long as they study what they are suppose to study and make A’s exam after exam, the scholarships will be right at their door-step after graduation. Truth: most students actually have to make an effort to look and apply for scholarships. In other words, scholarships are not apples falling from trees. Sometimes, it requires hard-work on the student’s part to look for scholarships available, and to submit the required materials to qualify. And even then, the competitiveness of today’s academic world means that sometimes, we don’t get every scholarship we apply for. For these reasons, it is important to always plan ahead and have back-up plans.

3. “If I don’t get a 100% scholarship, I should not go to university.”

  • Some parents tell their children that unless they get an “all-expense paid” university education, they can simply forget about going to school. These students face an either-or dilemma, usually due to bad financial planning on the family’s part or unfortunate financial circumstances. Obviously, there is something to be said about some young people who should not be in university, just by nature of their talents and gifts – not everyone is cut out to be a scholar. However, students who don’t get 100% scholarships should not give up on their dreams of furthering their education either. Some universities offer more scholarship opportunities to students the further they get in their college career. Outstanding upperclassmen are typically rewarded for being top of their class or best in their department/major. There are ways to finance a university education. All it takes is a good amount effort and foresight to plan ahead and proceed wisely.

4. “I made terrible grades in high school; I will never succeed in University.”

  • Academic failure in high school does not necessarily equate to certain failure in university. It's all about learning to make right and good choices.

    Academic failure in high school does not necessarily equate to certain failure in university. It's all about learning to make right and good choices.

    Now the teenage years can be some of the most difficult years in an individuals’ life since there are so many challenges, particularly in the emotional and psychological areas. It is a time when many changes are happening really fast. Sometimes, students who don’t cope well may see their school work negatively affected. These students who may not be deemed “successful” in their high school should not give up on pursuing a university education. Personally, I almost flunked out of high school, but as of right now, I am about to graduate from university without making a single B. I know many other individuals who share my story, and I believe high school students who didn’t do well should look to university as a second chance at academia. There is still time to redeem yourself – all you have to do is learn from your mistakes.

5. “I am still young and just recently started high school; I should not have to worry at all about university.”

  • Two words: Time flies. It is never too early to start thinking about where you want to go for university and what career path you want to follow when you are there. I am not suggesting that you will know for certain what you will want to do when you graduate from high school. In fact, most people don’t figure it out until when they are in university. Even so, you still need to give yourself time to discover your interests and talents. Most people who graduate from university typically work in a field that is unrelated to their degree. However, finding the right degree to study is important because if keeps you engaged and focused while you are in school. Think ahead. Plan early. You are never too young to start talking with your parents and your high school counselors about your career choices. Your years in high school will fly by. I promise you that.

6. “My parents know best and they will take care of where I am going to university.  I have nothing to worry about.”

  • Most teenagers often have trouble listening to their parents – except when it comes to going to university. Parents play an important role in helping their children transition to college. They provide support, not just financially, but emotionally as well.  However, students should not assume that their parents always know what is best for them. Students should be willing to respectfully communicate with their parents concerning their own interests and career goals. By keeping the lines of communication open, parents and students can develop a deeper understanding of each other. Students should be allowed to be more proactive in their choice of university and studies, with parents offering any needed advice or support. After all, even though it is the parents who will be paying for the education, it is the student themselves who will have to sit through the classes in the next 4-5 years. 

7. “All my friends are going to this foreign country and this foreign university. I should apply too. I figured that since it’s so popular, it must be a good university.”

  • Friends have a great influence on high school aged-children. Many teenagers often look to their peers for direction and guidance. Selecting a university, however, is not an area for conforming to peer pressure. Many students often make the mistake of trying to go where their high school friends are going for university in order to maintain their close friendships. This is problematic for several reasons: first, your friends and you will both change over the next few years; there is a high chance that your friendship might not be as strong as before because of differences that result from change. Second, going to university is about learning independence and meeting new people. If you are going overseas for higher education, you should be excited about the prospect of learning new cultures and meeting new people instead of focusing on keeping an old set of friends. I am not suggesting that you cut ties with your high school friends – but it is important to be mindful of the fact that these close friendships might become obstacles in your learning experience. 

Do you have any Questions? Suggestions? Alternative points of view? Do you agree or disagree with any of the statements made in this blog post? Please let us know. E-mail the author Benjamin Skye at:

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