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How To Get A Head Start On Applying To Universities

Maia Popa, XII A

Most of my high school years were spent being a ridiculously overachieving person, always looking for something new to sign up for, a new activity to get involved in and a new exam to expand my knowledge. Hence, when it comes to university portfolios, I’m the one to provide you with some answers to some of the burning questions you might have.

While my high school journey might be ending, I’d like to share some of the activities that not only helped me get accepted into university, but also helped me gain a better understanding of the world around me and my community.


One of the first things that many universities look for is involvement in personal projects and community volunteering. Finding a “passion project” - such as mine, “Moise’s Insight” - helps universities get a better sense of what you are passionate about and what matters the most to you. Furthermore, involvement in volunteering activities is essential; whether it be joining a local volunteering club (such as Leo Arad Maris, Change It Up, Interact Cetate / Club, or Smile) or a national NGO (such as Think Up Academy, ASAP or HerTime), showing interest in your community and having the desire to make a change can make your application more impactful. Getting involved in the school council or the county one (CJE Arad) also shows initiative, especially if you aim for a high position.

Another tip would be not to spend summers idling at home. Get some work experience, an internship or join some international summer courses!


It is safe to say that I have taken almost every exam available, thus I’m no stranger to tips and tricks for them. The most important thing would be acquiring an English Language Certificate (either Cambridge - FCE or CAE, IELTS or TOEFL), which is essential when applying to colleges abroad. A second language is highly recommended, such as French or German, or even two foreign languages, such as in my case, with French and Spanish, or some of my current/past peers, who either took up both French and German or opted for something more diverse, such as Chinese, which is highly regarded.

US universities also require you to take the SAT exam, which tests the candidate’s abilities to master skills in English and Mathematics, albeit some European top universities (in the case of Bocconi), also require it as a part of the application.

Nonetheless, my favourite exams have by far been the Advanced Placement (AP) exams. The AP exams allow you to choose from a wide range of subjects the ones that you are most interested in pursuing after high school. Topics range from Literature to Politics, from Psychology to Economics, and choosing 3-4 or more subjects emphasizes the candidate’s ability to undertake a high workload, a quality highly appreciated and necessary in the academic environment.


Whether it be taking part in the Physics National Olympiad or the Public Speaking competition, a continuous involvement in contests, as well as receiving prizes, demonstrates a competitive character and the wit necessary for getting into top universities. I would recommend partaking in as many contests related to your desired field - while you may not always win, the experience you will have gained and the resilience of continuing to participate can be both advantageous when applying to colleges, but especially in terms of personal growth and overcoming setbacks.

Finally, it is first and foremost important to take time for yourself, something that I wish someone would have told me sooner. Yes, grades are important, and yes, getting involved is good, but overdoing it can sometimes make all the effort be in vain. Remember to enjoy high school, get the most out of it, and stay true to yourself!

Should you desire to hear more about my high school journey or get some inside info and some tips and tricks from someone who has already been through what you are going through, you can always contact me at or at +40740415262. I’d be more than delighted to help!

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