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How an original application can get you into a top university

Applying to universities or business schools can be a nerve-wracking experience when so much depends on the outcome. In a crowded and highly competitive field, what’s the best way to stand out?

How an original application can get you into a top university
Photo: Getty Images

By trying an unconventional application, you could give yourself a better chance to present your authentic self – and the chance to fully utilise today’s digital media. In partnership with ESCP Business School, The Local finds out more about the potential advantages of choosing to be different.

Interested in an international career in business? Find out more about ESCP Business School – and take this four-minute quiz to see if its Bachelor in Management (BSc) could be right for you

Put yourself in your candidacy

Anyone hoping to study at a top university or business school needs to demonstrate personal qualities, as well as a high level of academic achievement. In many applications – for jobs as well as further studies – the personal statement is your main chance to really stand out.

Charlotte Hillig, Head of Undergraduate Studies for the ESCP Bachelor in Management (BSc), says a personal statement should “present to us the character, passions, and aspirations of the young candidates in a genuine way”. Many applicants write their letters to try to please recruiters – and in doing so they fail to reveal who they really are, she warns. 

This is not a trap that Jad Zammarieh is in danger of falling into. The Lebanese student won a place on ESCP’s Bachelor in Management (BSc) after submitting one of the most original applications you could ever see.

Not content with a bold personal statement, he shared a collection of short films, poems, drawings, essays and even a video clip of a musical he wrote and directed.

“I really like to write, so I didn’t want to make a conventional application,” he says. “When a jury reads a lot of letters that look similar and then sees new ideas and a different perspective, that can make the difference.”

Jad received an answer from ESCP in under a week and was invited for an interview. “The interviewer told me he really liked my creative approach,” he recalls. “He asked me to explain a bit more about the musical I had written.” 

Jad says he raised $1,500 by staging the play, which he donated to an orphanage in Lebanon. So, what is his key advice to students now preparing applications? “Put yourself in your candidacy,” he says.

Take this four-minute quiz to see if the Bachelor in Management (BSc) could be right for you – then find out how to apply this summer (deadlines are in July or August depending on your country of residence)

Photos: Jad Zammarieh and one of his drawings

The digital dividend: make use of links and more

Depending on what you’re applying for (and the culture of the relevant country), you need to be careful to make your application the right length. How can you give an informative and engaging account of yourself – without any risk of it being so long that nobody wants to read it?

Fortunately, the digital world offers new ways to go about this. Jad, for example, created a blog page using WordPress with all his creative projects and simply shared the link.

“Sometimes in a letter you need to write so many things but still be concise,” he says. 

“Giving a link or even a QR code for something that can be seen online can speak a million words. We’ve all learned a lot about digital tools during the pandemic. It’s really not that complicated and it’s a good way to present yourself.” 

Build your personal brand

Whatever you’re applying for – in work or study – you need a growing awareness of your personal brand. Think you don’t have one? Think again.

According to Sofia Baldissera, a career advisor at ESCP who helps students on the BSc with their career choices, everyone with any online accounts has a personal brand. She offers three key tips: 

  1. Find out who you are – authenticity is key. Ask yourself (or your friends!) about your values, purpose and personal traits.
  2. Update and polish your online profiles – make sure they’re consistent with the authentic image of yourself you want to get across. 
  3. Get networking – whether in-person or online, networking events and career fairs are another chance to let your personality shine. 

Jad, who is now doing an internship at a music start-up in Berlin, says his unconventional style has also worked in other applications. It helped him through the first round of applications for an internship at a major gaming company (before applications were stopped due to the pandemic) and to secure a position on his upcoming Master’s.

Be your authentic self at ESCP

Students on ESCP’s Bachelor in Management (BSc) get to live in a different European capital during each of their three years of study – Jad studied in Paris, Turin and Berlin. Many have international backgrounds and are bilingual or multilingual. 

Applications to start in September this year are open until July or August; the exact date depends on the recruiting campus according to your country of residence. The prestigious business school is seeking highly-motivated candidates with an interest in different cultures, new ways of working and diverse points of view.

What will the future hold for Jad? He would love to work in the art or film world. He also says the style of learning at ESCP gave him constant opportunities to be “creative and innovative”.

“I think that’s more important in business than other fields,” he says. “If you follow the same rules and conventions you won’t create something new.”

Take this 4-minute quiz to find out if the Bachelor in Management (BSc) at ESCP could be right for you. Applications are open until July or August depending on your country of residence – find out more about applications and admissions

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HEALTH

Norway shuts all schools and universities to fight coronavirus pandemic

Norway is closing all schools, kindergartens, and universities to slow the spread of coronavirus, in what Prime Minister Erna Solberg has called "the most far-reaching measures we have ever had in peacetime in Norway". (Paywall free).

Norway shuts all schools and universities to fight coronavirus pandemic
The law department at Oslo University. Photo: Wikimedia Commons
“All the country's kindergartens, schools, primary schools, secondary schools, technical colleges and universities are to be closed,” Solberg confirmed at a press conference held at her cabinet office on Thursday, according to a report by state broadcaster NRK
 
The measures, laid out in detail on the website of Norway's Health Ministry, will apply from 6pm on Thursday and remain in force until March 26. 
 
They also include a provision requiring everyone who has arrived in Norway from anywhere apart from the Nordic countries since February 27 to enter into compulsory quarantine in their homes, whether or not they are displaying any symptoms. 
 
Solberg said that though difficult, the measures were necessary to slow the spread of coronavirus. 
 
“We are in a difficult time, both for Norway and for the world,” she said, according to the VG newspaper. “The drastic measures we are now taking are in the hope of stopping the virus. We are doing this in solidarity with the elderly, the chronically ill, and others who are particularly at risk of developing a serious illness. We must protect ourselves to protect others.” 
 
She warned employees faced with unexpected childcare demands not to call on elderly relatives for help. “We must remind you who we should most be looking out for. We should therefore not hand over childcare to grandparents who are in the risk category.” 
 
Erna Solberg delivered the address at her cabinet offices. Photo: Norwegian Government
 
Camilla Stoltenberg, Division Director at the Norwegian Institute of Public Health, estimated at the briefing that between 22,000 and 30,000 people would be hospitalised as a result of infection, with up to 7,600 requiring intensive treatment.
 
The measures announced include: 
 
  • Closure of all schools, kindergartens and universities.
  • A provision requiring primary schools and kindergartens to stay partially open in order to look after the children of key personnel in healthcare, transport and other critical social functions.  
  • Cultural events, sports events, gyms and businesses offering hairdressing, skincare, massage, body care and tattooing are all banned. Swimming pools will be closed.
  • Buffet restaurants are banned. Other restaurants, bars and cafés must ensure guests are kept at least one metre from one another.
  • A requirement for everyone arriving in Norway from outside the Nordic to enter quarantine, regardless of whether they have symptoms or not. This is retroactive to 27 February.
  • Restrictions on visitors to all the country's health facilities and the introduction of access control.
  • People are asked not to visit institutions housing vulnerable groups (old people's home, psychiatric hospitals, prisons etc).
  • Healthcare professionals working with patients are banned from travelling abroad.
Shops will continue to be open as normal, and the Ministry of Health advised people to shop normally and not seek to  hoard food.
 
The transport system will continue operating as normal, but people are encouraged to avoid unnecessary travel. 
 
Shortly after the press conference, King Harald V of Norway issued a statement saying that the Royal House was suspending all official engagements until Easter. 

“Our country is in a serious situation that affects individuals and society as a whole. It is crucial that we all participate in the national effort to avoid exposing ourselves or others to infection,” the release read. 

 
“It is therefore important that we all follow recommendations and orders from the authorities. We must contribute what we can to prevent the spread of the virus, and I would especially like to thank health professionals all over the country who are doing their utmost to remedy the developments. We all hope that the situation will soon turn around.” 

This article will be updated as more information becomes available.

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