India is a diverse land with a massive potential for a plethora of educational opportunities. India has universities and institutes that cater to myriad branches of education - technology, science, languages, history, and visual and performing arts, and many more.

Research is key if you're wanting to stand out to university admissions departments.

The first step for a university aspirant is to decide the field of study - technology or physical sciences, social sciences, or engineering. In case you are torn between two subjects, try your hand in extracurricular activities in both subjects. However, if you haven't the slightest clue, then start by building a solid academic background with life skills, general knowledge, and specific knowledge about the university you wish to apply to.

Find out if you have the necessary extracurricular activities to show in your application.

JNU University
Top universities in India, like JNU, stress on quality applications. | Source:

Research Your Preferred Institute and Location

Courses offered in Indian colleges and universities differ, even though they may have the same name. For example, a degree course in English Literature at the University of Mumbai may be different from the course stricture of a college affiliated to Delhi University. Similarly, a degree in law at the prestigious Symbiosis Institute in Pune has different modules than those that constitute an equivalent course in a college affiliated to the University of Chennai.

As students, when you send out your university or college application to Indian institutes, your first job is to research the course structure on offer. Tailor your application according to the course requirements. This will allow professors and teachers to review applications and determine why you are the best choice as a student for that college. Every college in India, be it the IIT or Delhi University, or the Christ University in Bangalore (Karnataka), has a comprehensive admissions department. Reach out to them with your course-specific questions, if you have any.

When you apply to higher education institutes, such as universities and colleges, especially those with an international repute, such as the National Institute of Technology or IIT Kanpur in Uttar Pradesh, or the All India Institute for Medical Sciences (AIIMS), it might be helpful to include any relevant work experience in your chosen field of study.

Student applications may be evaluated based on their work experience, problem-solving skills (e.g. managemnet courses), ability to innovate in real-world situations, and capacity to deal with an unforeseen emergency (e.g. medical courses).

In India, national and international students with prior work experience in a related field are more than welcome to apply at universities and colleges. Moreover, their chances of getting selected are also boosted with employment history, even if for a short period. This is because, while academic knowledge and skills related to a specific branch of engineering or technology may be learned in a classroom or in a laboratory, real-world skills can only be inculcated in a work environment and the challenges it presents.

Showcase Awards and Achievements

Indian universities and colleges, be it an engineering, management, or a medical institute, hold the achievements and awards of students in high regard. High achievers in their respective fields are believed to possess a certain level that sets those students apart from other applicants.

A university application should reflect your achievements in related fields. | Source: AxxLC from Pixabay

Students with high ranking in their schools and colleges are often considered hardworking and more devoted than their peers. Additionally, if your application is also based on high achievements in extracurricular activities, then your chances are doubled.

For example, The Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme (International Award for Young People) is a recognized fellowship in the world. It gives students the chance to explore their limits in both national and international events and activities.

Many schools and colleges in India have incorporated this Award scheme to encourage their students to aim high - higher than just academic achievement. The entire program is voluntary, giving your application the chance to showcase another facet of your personality!

Get Involved with the Top Universities

University rankings in India are based on a multitude of factors. The states compete for this recognition and the competition is quite stiff. While states like Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, and Maharashtra, are ahead in subjects related to science and technology (engineering, agricultural sciences, medical sciences), the northern states of Uttar Pradesh and the national capital, Delhi, attract students to the IIT and cosmopolitan educational institutes such as Delhi University and JNU.

Sometimes the best way to get a feel for a university is to visit and spend some time walking around the institute buildings. Pick one or two (or as many as you like) and head on over!

These universities have earned the top rank not just due to their academic excellence, but also due to their inclusive nature (e.g. JNU and Delhi University), attracting both national and international students every year. To find out more about the course and culture of these universities, speak to the current students - national or international - alumni, teachers. Ask them questions about the university space or specific advice on a course.

Follow a University Lecture Series Online

Higher education in India has received a boost with the ubiquity of online education. With universities and institutes with the highest ranking, like the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Delhi University, University of Mumbai, and JNU leading the way, there are now available many online lectures, some even for free, for interested students.

Visit the webpages of these top universities in India and follow their departmental lecture series to familiarize yourself with the course you plan to apply for. Include this experience in your university application. This will tell the reviewers that you are genuinely interested in their course.

Familiarize Yourself with the Application Process

Usually, the website of a university, irrespective of its ranking, is sufficient to find information related to the process of applying and admissions. You can also speak to your school teachers, national and international students at the university you want to apply for to gather more information on the application details.

Make sure you are clear about what information you need in your application and how you can go about putting it together. 

Make a list of documents and information that need to be included in your application. An incomplete application will be rejected straightaway. There are no second chances! Also, list out the key dates, mark them on the calendar if that works for you so that you can avoid the last-minute panic.

Make your university application stand out with a unique personal statement. | Source: Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Curate Your Personal Statement

This is important even if the reviewers don't eventually read your personal statement. Be it the social sciences, agricultural science, engineering or technology courses, universities in India, old or new, will ask you to list your reasons for applying to their university. This is your personal statement, stating why you have chosen the subject and the university. 

A personal statement should not be too lengthy nor too short that it appears abrupt. List your reasons carefully to appeal to the university requirements for that subject. For example, you can state your work experience in a management role if you are applying to a management course, or your medical residency if your course is related to the medical sciences.

Letters of Recommendation

Admission to higher education courses in India is also sometimes determined by how good your referrals are. You can get a letter of recommendation from a former school teacher, or your graduation teacher. Whoever it may be, do not rush.

Take some time to consider who you would like to write your recommendation. School teachers or college lecturers, the letter should highlight your relevant skills and strengths. A good recommendation goes a long way in helping you crack the admission process.

Organize and Revise Your Application

Management or technology courses, the top rank, or a medium university ranking, no matter which subject or universities you decide to apply for, remember to make it organized and crispAn incomplete or a hastily put together application can be the end of your admission dream.

Organize your application process such that you don't have the last-minute blues. Ensure all your documents, letters, photographs, statements, and all other requirements are in place before you start writing out the application. Once you have completed the form, remember to go back and revise each detail. Maintain a list to check off as you go about your task. Submit a well-written application and await the arrival of the mail with the admission date on it!

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Shreyanjana is an archaeologist who ironically finds the written word to be the most powerful means of storytelling. A travel buff and a photography enthusiast, she has been writing and sharing stories of all sorts ever since she can remember.