Grade 11

Preparing to apply to universities

In this section you can:

The Expert View

Find out about the power of thinking about course and campus swapping…


Read this to get the complete picture…

A short overview

It’s semester 2 of grade 11, and you sort of know that college applications need to be done in grade 12. Plenty of time. 

NO! You need to get moving now, there is a lot to do and the sooner you start the less stressful it will be for you, and the more likely it is there will be  a successful outcome as you land in your ideal university.

Fortunately,  you start with two big advantages:

Google and your college counsellor, these are great sources of information. 

You have obviously used Google countless times and are aware that if you google something you will probably get hundreds if not thousands of hits. This can be a little bewildering when you only want to apply to half a dozen universities. Luckily, Wigsbury has provided you with a list of the most important links to help you search for universities country by country, as well providing you with the following tips.


Tips & Tricks

tip 1:

Make a spreadsheet and enter the following information

Name of course, name of university, entry requirements, deadline, tuition costs, availability of housing, opportunity to do an internship or exchange program, miscellaneous.


tip 4:

Get everything ready before the start of Grade 12

This will really take the pressure off you during the time when you will be busy with your IB work.

tip 2:

Dig into the detail!

When doing your research, always look at the university’s own website and check out the course content. You need to know which units you’re going to study in Year 1, Year 2 etc. Don’t just judge a course by its title.

tip 3:

Start very early (now!)

There are thousands of universities and courses out there and you’ll need more time than you think in order to come up with your shortlist.

tip 5:

When you have applied, keep checking!

Check your application account on the university’s website in case they post a request for further documents, or need clarification of the documents you’ve uploaded. Also check your emails every day for the same reason.

Timeline for Applications

Deadline. Research. Timeline…This is what it’s all about.

Let’s start by talking about timelines. How do you go about constructing one?

The easiest and most efficient way is to jump straight to the deadlines and then you know by what date everything must be finished. Then all you have to do is make a timeline that stretches from now until your deadline and include on it the important steps that you will have to undertake..

Clearly the deadlines and the timelines and the steps you need to take depend very largely upon which country or countries that you plan to apply to. So without further ado let’s take a look at some possible timelines country by country.

UK Universities

  • March

    Meet with your counselor, discuss plans, ask for suggestions, make a your own timeline!

  • March - August

    Research courses and familiarise yourself with the application process.

  • June - August

    Personal statement writing.

  • Deadline: October 15th

    Oxbridge, Medicine, Dentistry and Vetanary Medicine.

  • Deadline: January 15th

    Oxbridge, All the other UK universities and courses.

Some critical questions that need to be asked

Sometimes the questions are more important than the answers.

question 1:

Will I feel ready to leave home and go to university at the end of grade 12?

question 3:

Universities cost money, is this a good investment?

question 2:

What type of university environment will suit me best?

question 4:

What country should I go and study in?

US Universities

  • March

    Meet with your counselor, discuss plans, ask for suggestions, make a your own timeline!

  • March - August

    This will give you plenty of time to identify the courses you want to apply to and get your application ready to send at the beginning of grade 12.

  • June - August

    College essay writing.

  • Deadline: November 1st

    Early action and early decision applications.

  • Deadline: January 1st

    Regular admissions applications.

Action ideas

Things you can do that will make a big difference.

action 1:

Excited? Act now!

This is exciting, now you can feel that you are on your way to university. But only if you start early.


action 4:

Work out what you can afford

Last but not least, ask your parents how much they are willing to pay… and don’t waste time applying to universities you can’t afford.

action 2:

Make a list of deadlines and create a timeline

action 3:

Collect up your documentation 

Make a list of supporting documents that you need: motivation letter, personal statement, college essay, transcript, photo page of your passport etc.

Universities in the Netherlands

  • March

    Meet with your counselor, discuss plans, ask for suggestions, make a your own timeline!

  • March - August

    This will give you plenty of time to identify the courses you want to apply to and get your application ready to send at the beginning of grade 12.

  • June - August

    Write motivation letters. Prepare a CV.

  • Deadlines: December - May 1st

    Different universities, different deadlines. Check carefully.

Universities in Canada

  • March

    Meet with your counselor, discuss plans, ask for suggestions, make a your own timeline!

  • March - August

    This will give you plenty of time to identify the courses you want to apply to and get your application ready to send at the beginning of grade 12.

  • June - August

    Write motivation letters & Essays. Prepare a CV.

  • Deadlines: December - February

    Different universities, different deadlines. Check carefully.

Universities in other countries

Clearly, we cannot list the deadlines /timeline for all countries, there are simply too many. However, we can offer you some tips as most universities work in a similar fashion.

The first thing to do is identify the deadline for each university you are considering. Then check to see if you meet their admissions requirements. Next, make a list of supporting documents that you need e.g essays, motivational letters, transcripts, CV, predicted grades etc. And then start creating or gathering together all of these documents.


For most universities that are not in the countries listed above, you’ll firstly go onto the university website and create an application account. Then you do some form filling, personal details, name of course etc. And finally, you will upload supporting documents. Remember to talk to your counselor or teachers if you need references written. When the university has received all the supporting documents, they will process your application and make a decision.


Wigsbury Frequently asked questions

Quick answers to the important questions

Will I be able to find the right course/ university?

This is why it’s important to start early, to give yourself time to consider the options. But most importantly, you need to do some self-reflecting and decide what your priorities are. This will enable you to do some focused and successful research and come up with a shortlist of courses to apply to.

There is just a huge choice, how can I narrow it down? I am torn between two subjects, and I can’t decide which one to apply for?

Talk to your college counselor, he or she can discuss future career options for each subject or suggest courses where you can study both subjects. Joint degrees.

What happens if I follow this timeline and I get to the beginning of grade 12 and I still don’t know what it is I want to study?

There are several things you can do: firstly, don’t panic there are lots of students in your position and your counselor will help you resolve this problem by discussing options with you and making suggestions. Secondly, you don’t have to apply to university in grade 12, you could leave school and get a job/ take a gap year, and then apply later.


I don’t know how to go about writing my personal statement?

College essay/ motivation letter. What is it the universities want?

Wigsbury has produced modules that address these topics.

What happens if I missed the application deadline?

Don’t! This is why we recommend you start in grade 11 by identifying the deadlines and then making a timeline listing the tasks you need to achieve. Put notifications in your calendar. 

Remember, universities are looking for reliable students who are going to turn their assignments in on time. If you don’t turn your application in on time….. well, it doesn’t look good. They will simply take someone else.


I know I have lots of IAs due in the first part of grade 12, can I do my university applications later?

Unfortunately universities don’t factor IAs into the equation when setting deadlines. This is why we suggest that you get most of the research and paperwork ready over the summer before the beginning of grade 12. It will take a lot of pressure off you.

Is there anything else I should be doing, apart from selecting courses and preparing supporting documents such as a personal statement, essays etc.?

Yes, if possible, you should think about going to visit the universities on your shortlist. As you walk around the campus you can imagine yourself being a student there, or not. You’ll get a gut feeling as to whether you like the university, this is something you can’t get from the internet.

Is it useful to talk to students who are already studying at a university?

Yes,  it’s very useful, as you get the student’s perspective. Remember, university websites are marketing tools, this will enable you to get the lowdown from the student’s point of view, good and the bad. It will always be a subjective mix. If you do not know anybody at the university, there are lots of chat rooms, forums etc.

I’m busy preparing to apply to university, how many applications should I make?

You need to set some priorities: decide what you’re looking for in the course content, decide whether you want extras such as internships or exchange programs, decide where you want to live (country, campus university or big city university) and never apply to any university unless you’re seriously prepared to go there. So to answer the question more directly, usually five or six or seven is enough, providing you’ve done your research and you meet the entrance requirements.