4 ways to make your tertiary institution application stand out if you plan to study next year

  • The class of 2021 needs to be creative in their university applications due to the impact of Covid-19.
  • Universities may be sympathetic to circumstances due to the pandemic but this will mean increased competition.
  • A focus on your academics, demonstrating leadership, participating in online extracurricular activities and personal projects will give your application an edge.

According to an education expert, students who have set their sights on top universities, both locally and internationally, will have to be innovative to stand out and build impressive application portfolios.

Strict social distancing measures may prevent most sporting and cultural extracurricular activities, and even community engagement events you might have had planned.

If you find yourself in this position, there are ways to give your application an edge during lockdown.

READ MORE: 5 ways to make your home ready for studying if you will be writing online exams during lockdown

“Universities are looking for well-rounded candidates who can successfully manage both academic and environmental pressures. This crisis gives students an opportunity to show universities how they handle difficult situations – the ability to react smartly, efficiently, and empathetically is evidence of what they can bring to a campus and their future careers,” says Rebecca Pretorius, Country Manager for Crimson Education.

She adds, “While admissions officers will certainly be sympathetic to the extenuating circumstances of a global pandemic, the reality is that it’s only going to make admissions at top universities more competitive.”

READ MORE: From Polokwane to London: How one tweet got this law student a modelling contract in the UK 

Rebecca offers the following tips for students to improve their applications:


While you may not be able to engage as much with your teachers, your academic success remains in your hands. Students can learn more about the areas they are interested in by utilising online resources for independent subject research.

Demonstrate leadership

Show that you are quick to adapt by moving everything online. For example, if you are part of a sports team, consider building a home workout for your teammates. If you are planning an event, consider making it digital using Zoom or Google Hangouts. 

READ MORE: 'I landed a new job by sliding in the DMs, here's why you should try it' 

Find online extracurriculars

Even once schools fully reopen, strict social distancing measures will prevent most sporting and cultural extracurricular activities. You can showcase your commitment to learning outside of an academic setting by participating in online conferences, digital hackathons and virtual debates.

Personal Projects

Universities love to see students who take initiative and lead their own projects. You can start your own app, launch a non-profit or start-up company or get involved with virtual volunteering for charities. For example, you can make support phone calls to the elderly or by setting up social media pages for non-profit organisations.

Complied by Phelokazi Mbude

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