So you're on the school's chess team, the debating team and you are a provincial swimmer - these all look good on your university applications right? Not really! These are all pretty common extracurriculars for an international admissions officer. What will look great however, is an application that shows that you have really differentiated yourself, an application so different that the Admissions Officer would not have seen anyone like you before.
International universities want a diverse student body and look for students that are individually different but together, form a diverse and talented campus. Your peculiarities are what top Institutions find appealing! So let your quirks be the difference, even if your friends laugh at you!
If you are a swimmer with the ability to become South Africa’s next gold medalist, great! This will differentiate you! But most people, especially teenagers, love the idea of being an Olympic medalist but are not prepared to put in the 10,000 hours to make it. If you are not in the 0.00027% of athletes that are good enough to make the Olympic team, you need to start differentiating yourself in other ways. Don't merely spend time giving back to your community in the same way your parents did 30 years ago. You need to spend time thinking out of the box and come up with new and exciting methods.
Here are some extracurricular idea's that will help you shine:
- Start a Business:
Want to start your own business someday? Don’t wait until after your degree to start the initiative! Having experience and your own view of running a business will make your application intriguing. This will show leadership, drive, creativity and how you solved a need and shared it with the world!
- Social Media:
Are you Arty: Why not create a website and use social media to start selling your work online and give a portion to charity. An alternative to this would be to teach art classes, film and edit the classed and then start a YouTube channel dedicated to teaching artistic techniques.
Are Video Games your thing? Use this to your advantage! The important thing to remember here is to take your hobbies out of the house and into the world. As our world moves deeper into a digital era, opportunities lie in your hobbies, so why not create a drive where people donate outdated gaming consoles to underprivileged children and set up classes to teach them how to use it.
- Book Club:
Are languages and writing your be all and end all? Why not show your passion by starting a book club and encouraging others to find the joy in reading too. Once a book has been read, collect and donate them to needy schools. Once per week, hold a reading workshop at the schools and invest your time in furthering the lives of others.
Any unique hobby and passion can be turned into a remarkable story of how you changed someone else’s life. Do not be afraid to put yourself out there and make your mark! Your commitment to sharing your passion with your community and understanding that its more than just a hobby, will make you a remarkable candidate.
Being offered a scholarship to study overseas is a privilege that not many get to experience. Winning a scholarship is not easy; in most cases, it takes years of preparation and sacrifices to obtain such opportunities. Studying abroad should be something you are passionate about; so passionate it resonates across your university application. Prestigious institutions want students who are committed to a variety of interests and passions. To ensure that you demonstrate these attributes, we have compiled a list that students should consider before applying:
A resume is the American format of a CV and is fast becoming popular in other nations too. A resume is a short history of a person's academic and professional attributes. The reader can find a lot about a person just from a glance. Items to include are; your personal and contact details, academics and test scores (i.e. GPA, ACT, SAT), academic awards, extracurricular activities, community service, hobbies, special skills, work experience etc. Being able to "Twitterise" and articulate these points in a short amount of time is critical to success. A resume is one page long, do not exceed this.
Achieving top academic marks is just as essential for athletes looking to win sports scholarships, as it is for students seeking to earn academic scholarships. Fair enough, academic students are required to get at least a 3.8 GPA and 1450 on the SAT; however, institutions also require a good academic standing for their athletes who need to take the correct NCAA subjects, have a 2.3 GPA and a SAT score of around 1250. At the end of the day, all students are there to study, and academics come first.
3) References and Recommendations
For the college admissions committee, reading a student's reference is an opportunity to view them from an objective standpoint. They want to understand the impact you have made on an independent third party and hear their thoughts on you. If your degree focus is on a specific area of study, it would be beneficial to request recommendations from teachers whose subjects are parallel to your choice. It is important to request references long in advance, to ensure the writers have enough time to write credible recommendations. Remember recommendation letters can be time-consuming, so don't be afraid to write down a few key points they can expand upon. This will save writers time, and it will ensure they remember your best attributes.
Most top institutions require an application essay as part of the admissions criteria. Your essay should be a brief, but very personal, look into who you are and what sets you apart from the thousands of other applicants. Do not fall into the trap of listing your accomplishments and ensure you understand the crux of the question. To learn more about essay writing, read our blog on; "How To Perfect Your College Application Essay": https://www.aspireatlantic.com/blog/college-essays-being-the-u-in-unique
International institutions want passionate students on their campus. Being a sports star or a top academic is not enough, they want to see a fire within you for "other" things. Having extracurriculars such as an interest in; music, the arts and a passion for helping the community are great ways to demonstrate that you are passionate. Don't waste your holiday in front of the TV, spend that time gaining work experience, interning, volunteering or even taking online courses acquiring more knowledge. Show that you are different by turning a hobby into a passion and make an impact on society!
6) Video/Times and Community Service
If you are seeking a sports scholarship, it is vital to film all your matches and record your personal best times, depending on the sport. These are crucial for the coaches to ensure that your athletic ability is suitable. If you are seeking an academic scholarship, community service is vital for your application. Institutions try to ensure they accept well-rounded students who show a passion for this world and its improvement.
Interviews are quite common among top international institutions, and you should try scheduling one as soon as possible. Interviews serve a dual purpose, the Institution has the opportunity to learn more about you, and you get to learn more about the school and see if its the right fit for you. Scheduling an interview also serves an essential function as colleges look at a students Demonstrated Interest. By expressing interest and having a desire to meet with a decision maker, you demonstrate that the institution is a high priority for you.
8) Getting Help
By following the steps above, you are setting yourself apart from many other international students who merely apply and hope. However, following these steps and compiling a top application can be overwhelming. Here at Aspire Atlantic, we make it our business to help and support you with your application. Applications to study overseas on a scholarship shouldn’t be a stress: If you’ve got passion and drive, we can help you achieve your dreams.
When you read autobiographies, the author intends for his life story to grip you; being so captivating that you never want to stop reading until there are no more pages. Think back to a book you couldn’t put down - one where sleep didn’t matter because knowing how the story ended was more exciting than sleep. Or maybe you don’t like books, but you were captivated by the story of a TV series. If show's such as the Game of Thrones, Friends or The Walking Dead didn’t have captivating storylines, they wouldn’t be three of the most loved shows of all time. To be successful, they have to hook their audience and make them want more at the end of each show.
How You Should View Your College Essays.
College essays are a piece of writing that can potentially change your life, and the excitement of that should stir a desire in you to knock it out of the park! Colleges across the USA receive thousands of admission essays every year, and it is an overwhelming job for the admissions officers to read all of them. If you can write a powerful essay that is captivating, descriptive and emotionally engaging for the reader, you will stand out from the crowd. Admission officers have to suffer through thousands of monotonous and self-indulging essays that do more harm to a student's application than good. You should see your application essay as an incredible opportunity to be a breath of fresh air for the admissions officers and aim to get them on your side during the process.
How To Ensure Your Essay Is Unique:
1. Understand The Topic
Ensure you understand the crux of what the College is expecting from your essay. Once you are confident you can answer the question, start to formulate how you will get your point across.
Be aware to not add slang or jargon to your essay as the understanding of certain words may not be interpreted as intended. Secondly, stay clear of humour: some people may not understand your jokes while others may take offence by them; therefore, it is advisable to refrain from humour.
3. Be Smart
Don’t only talk about your achievements, even if you are a sports recruit. Let your CV or Resumé do that. At the end of the day, these are Educational Institutions, and they are curious about what makes you tick. Dig into your passions and experience; it is more than just describing what you did, but ultimately your essay should describe why you did it, why it interested you and how it impacted your life and development. Remember, people are emotional creatures, Admissions Officers are no different. If you can connect on an emotional level, you will make a lasting impression.
4. Write, Re-write; Check, Double-check.
Start with a brainstorming session where you write points and ideas you would like to convey in your essay. Decide on one main topic which will set the theme and tone. Once you are confident in your ideas and topic, start to compose the first draft. From your first draft, ask yourself: does it flow logically? Does it reveal something unique about you? Is the story emotive and captivating? Revise your essay until you are confident in the story.
5. Have Someone Check Your Essay
Outside perspective is always insightful to ensure your sentence structure and grammar are of top form. However, be cautious that the person doesn’t edit it in such a way that your perspective is lost.
6. Length: Less is More.
This essay is basically you marketing yourself to the College, and a key to good marketing is being short, sweet and to the point. Be concise; a short sentence will grip your reader quicker than one which runs over four lines. Admissions officers read thousands of essays; if yours is too long, it might run the risk of being boring.
College essays shouldn't be overwhelming. Like all good things in life, you need to dedicate time to it. “No one can tell your story, so tell it yourself. No one can write your story, so write it yourself.”
To all students, both in our programme and out, we wish you the best of luck in your upcoming application essays. Good luck!
Author: Sharan Singh
College sports in the United States is extremely popular and in many cases competes with professional sports for prime time broadcasting and print coverage. The average USA university funds over twenty different sports, and with over 4000 institutions, there are approximately 500,000 student-athletes that compete in college sports each year!
South Africa has a proud history of producing world-class athletes, and many of them have used the USA college route to catapult themselves onto the global arena. Below we have put together our Top 5 picks of SA's Homegrown Athletes who studied in the USA.
Top 5 Homegrown Athletes:
5. Robyn Moodaly
South African Women’s Football Team regular Robyn Moodaly was born in East London. She grew up playing football, describing it as, "being in my genes". Robin grew up playing in the boy's teams as there were no girls teams nearby but eventually moved to Johannesburg in order to continue playing at the top level. While attending high school at the Tuks's High-Performance Centre, Moodaly came to the attention of the South African football selectors who drafted her into the national Under–17 squad. In 2013, Moodaly left SA to join AIB College of Business in Des Moines, Iowa, where she trained with the college soccer team but was unable to play due to eligibility restrictions. She was, however, able to get some game time with the Colorado Rush women's team where she played in two fixtures. Robyn is currently studying and competing at the University of Northwestern Ohio
4. Roxanne Barker
Roxanne is the South African Women’s National Team goalkeeper. She was born in Pietermaritzburg and started her soccer career at Durban Ladies FC. Her talent didn't go unnoticed, and she was recruited by the women's soccer coach at Pepperdine University in California. During her college career, she achieved a Four-Time NCAA Division 1 WCC selection and was named to the LA Soccer News Women’s College Player of the Week Team. After completing her studies, Barker was selected by Portland Thorns FC in the 2013 NWSL College Draft. To date, Roxanne has represented South Africa 28 times and currently plays professionally for SC Heerenveen Vrouwen in the Netherlands.
3. Dominique Scott- Efurd
Dominique is the South African 3,000m national record holder and five-time NCAA 5,000m and 10,000m champion. She matriculated from Rhenish Girls High School in Stellenbosch and left to study and run track at the University of Arkansas in the fall of 2011. While attending Arkansas, her abilities soared, winning the NCAA Championship five times and she showed her incredible talent by switching to Cross Country and winning the 2013 SEC Cross Country Championships. Most recently she broke her own SA record for the 3000m in New York when she came third in a time of 8 minutes 41.18 seconds. After the race, Scott said: “Hard Work Makes The Dream Work – Even though I missed the win by 0.08 seconds it was a very special evening to see the hard work pay off! Never let the words of others stop you from believing in yourself!”
2. Kevin Anderson
Kevin is currently the darling of SA Men's tennis, having recently reached the Wimbledon men's final in 2018! He was born in Johannesburg South Africa and attended St. Stithians High School. After completing his matric, he was offered a scholarship to play tennis at the University of Illinois, Urbana Champaign, where he was named All-American every year he was on campus! Kevin is currently ranked as the world No. 5 in men's singles.
1. Ryk Neethling
Ryk is a Bloemfontein native and possibly South Africa’s most famous athlete to have studied and competed in the USA. Ryk attended high school at Grey College, where he excelled in swimming and earned a place in the South African national swimming team in the 1996 Summer Olympics.
Immediately following the 96 Games, Ryk transferred to The University of Arizona where he further cemented his swimming reputation, by earning numerous awards and accolades. He was the nine-time NCAA National Champion, the Arizona Athlete of the Year and the PAC-10 Athlete of the Year for four consecutive years, and he was also named the University of Arizona Athlete of the Century!
Ryk currently holds the South African record in the 200m, 400m, 800m and 1500m freestyle events. Ryk also held the world record in the 4×100m freestyle relay and 100m individual medley.
There you have it, that is our pick of the Top 5 South African Athlete's who have used their abilities not only to win themselves scholarships to some of the worlds best universities but to catapult themselves onto the international sports stage and make our nation proud! Whilst taking up these exciting opportunities, these athletes have no doubt benefited from these experiences in other ways such as having the opportunity to explore new cultures, make new friends, discover new career prospects and gain vital life experiences.
These athletes are all proof of the success that can be achieved by exploring different paths, and we challenge you to be the next homegrown hero for South Africa!
So you’ve been accepted to study in the USA, that’s amazing! The USA is a fantastic place to be, especially over the holidays. Americans celebrate a few different holidays compared to the rest of the world, and as a foreigner, you will learn to love and appreciate them almost just as much as the Americans do. American holidays are a time when you can indulge, have fun and get a taste of the American culture you travelled so far to explore. Here are some of the best American holidays.
It’s that time of the year again, the 4th of July. This holiday is high on the list of favourite holidays for Americans. On the 4th of July 1776, the Declaration of Independence was signed, and the birth of the USA as an independent nation arose. This is the day America claimed independence from Britain and became a democratic country.
Today, the 4th of July celebrations usually involves friends and family getting together for parades, cookouts (with lots of red, white and blue themed snacks), swimming, and an array of beautiful fireworks to end the night off. When attending one of these gatherings, it’s important to bring a dish to share. A salad, dessert, or even a special dish from your home country to share your culture. Whatever you do, make sure to add a bit of American spirit to your day, and have fun!
On October 31st all the ghouls and goblins come out to play, and the dead walk the earth. Just kidding, but Halloween in America is huge and a lot of fun! Kids go door to door dressed as their favourite princess or superhero, collecting different chocolates and candies from houses in their neighbourhood. Halloween isn’t just for the little ones though, even parents get to have some fun! Many employers have costume contests and Halloween parties for the adults! As for college kids, students dress up in different costumes for a night out on the town, as many bars hold competitions for the best dressed.
While all of this sounds fun, it’s not just the costume contests, candy, and parties that make Halloween so great, but also the days leading up to it! Many cities and small towns have festivals where they close down streets and allow vendors to open up shops selling caramel apples, taffy, funnel cakes, and trinkets. There are also different activities that you can partake in such as; haunted hayrides, corn mazes, visiting cider mills, or even head into a pumpkin patch and find the perfect pumpkin to carve.
If you’re more of a homebody, don’t worry! October is also full of fun Halloween movies leading up to the 13 days of Halloween! Young or old, Halloween in America is for everyone! So take advantage and enjoy this fun holiday, and all the days leading up to it!
Oh boy, nothing says ‘American holiday’ quite like Thanksgiving. The beautiful decorations, all of the food, family, and of course American football to end off the day. Thanksgiving is probably the most loved family-oriented holiday, and for some, it may even top Christmas.
Thanksgiving falls on the 4th week of November, where relatives travel from all over to gather into one house to be with family and give thanks for all that they have. The Thanksgiving dinner typically involves turkey, mashed potatoes & gravy, stuffing, green bean casserole, yams, candied sweet potatoes (sweet potatoes topped with brown sugar and marshmallows... Don’t be afraid! I promise it’s delicious)
After dinner, everyone makes their way into the Living Room with their full bellies to enjoy some American football. As an international student, you’ll most likely be invited to one of these gatherings from a friend. American families will welcome you with open arms because “the more the merrier”.
If you are not joining a family Thanksgiving, why not throw your own “Friendsgiving” which is just the friend's version of Thanksgiving. Get together, eat traditional meals, and give thanks for your fantastic opportunity to be able to study in this unique county.
Christmas is huge in the States and may be celebrated a little differently to back home. The day after Thanksgiving finishes, decorations come off, and Christmas decorations go up. Everything from homes, restaurants, malls, and city centres are all decked out with giant Christmas trees, garlands, white lights, and red ribbons; and not to forget all of the Christmas music being played everywhere you go; and I mean everywhere (let’s just say you get your Christmas music fix early).
Depending on where you are studying, many parts of America experience cold weather, so you may get to enjoy that beautiful white Christmas everyone dreams of, and what many people associate Christmas with. The Christmas celebration isn’t too different from what you’d typically expect. The family, gifts, and dinner; however, because America is so diverse, depending on their cultural background, the meal could be completely different. For example, some Italian families go all out with pasta and lasagna!
Although many of these holidays have become hugely commercialized, and people sometimes get caught up in all of the decorations, and commotion, the end is all worth it. These holidays do one thing, they bring everyone together! So If you’re into new traditions, cultures, dressing up, and having a lot of fun, America is the place for you!
All blogs are written by former student-athletes. If you would like to learn more, please leave a comment below and the author will respond to your questions.