Freunde, es ist soweit! Mein erster deutscher Blogpost, eigentlich schon lange überfällig. Ich habe jetzt schon das Gefühl, dass ich nicht mehr normal auf Deutsch schreiben kann, weil ich seit so langer Zeit nur noch auf Englisch schreibe, also bitte seid nachsichtig. Heute geht es …
Application processes differ depending on where you are from, but it is a truth universally acknowledged that getting into UWC is not easy. Rejection definitely isn’t easy to deal with either, so if you have decided that you want to apply for a second time- …
I have promised to do this for way too long now and never actually got around to it- but since I’m at home in lockdown and college doesn’t start until August, I’m finally writing up my tips for all things regarding the UWC application, interview and selection weekend. I think, since I got rejected the first time I applied and I went through the whole process twice, I probably have at least some useful insights to share. !DISCLAIMER! Remember that these are all based on my own experience going through the Austrian selection process- the one in your country might be different. These are all things I wish someone had told me before starting/during the application process, so I really hope that you’ll find some of these helpful😊
1. THE WRITTEN APPLICATION
Your first step towards your greater goal of attending a UWC! It may seem daunting, but this is the one thing in this whole process that you have complete control over, so really you should take full advantage of that fact! You can spend as little or as much time as you like writing and tweaking your application and have family or friends help you. Interviews, selection weekends, group activities etc. is where other people come in, but this step is under your control, so don’t stress yourself out too much! 😊 Here are my top tips for the written application.
1. Get your letters of recommendation early
Take it from someone who left it until it was almost too late. It doesn’t feel good to have to (politely) stress out your teacher/whoever is writing you a recommendation because the application submission deadline is soon, and it will definitely not make them feel any more inclined to write it for you if you’re forced to pressure them to do it quickly. Just figure out who you want to ask for recommendations as early as possible and make sure they have all the time they need to write you a great letter!
2. Don’t compare yourself to others
It’s so important to be honest with yourself. Know yourself, know how long it takes you to write an essay and how many times you might need to edit it to be satisfied. It doesn’t matter whether that one UWC youtuber said you should take 3 months to write the essays, or that maybe that one friend of yours who is really good at essay writing said they wrote them in one day. Just because you’ve read or heard somewhere that someone wrote it in 2 days doesn’t mean you should and just because you heard that someone took all summer to write them doesn’t automatically mean they’re good. Obviously, it’s easy to give the tip “Start early!” but I think it is more effective to just be realistic and honest with yourself. Personally, I wrote up my application and edited everything in the span of 1-2 weeks, and it worked for me that way. But, let’s say you tend to be a perfectionist and also want your mom, your best friend and your dad’s brother’s cousin’s daughter to read over your stuff, starting early is probably a good idea.
3. Don’t be afraid to contact your national committee
Applications vary from country to country so I can’t talk about any specifics, but generally, if there is anything at all that you are confused about, don’t be afraid to write an email to your NC! They will be happy to assist you, and there is no such thing as stupid questions (cliché but true in this instance). A personal example would be that the first time I applied, I wasn’t sure which things on the application should be answered in German and which in English, but instead of contacting my NC I just kinda did it and changed it again and after submitting was scared that I did it the wrong way. Don’t be like me! If something is unclear, ask for clarification. It will spare you a lot of stress.
4. Just send it!
Send off your application, even if you have doubts and think it may not be good enough. First of all: you have nothing to lose and everything to gain! And second of all, I assure you that everyone hitting that submission button doubts themselves at least a little bit. I sure as hell did.
So now you’ve made it to the interview- congrats! I know that this is a nerve-wracking part of the application process, but just try to see it as a way to share more about what kind of a person you are with the National Committee.
1. Be yourself
I know what you’re thinking. Wow, how cliché, thanks, never even thought about this totally obvious thing! I agree, it’s cliché, but if you take away one thing from this whole blog post it should be this. Now, this should also be taken with a grain of salt. Yes, you shouldn’t try to act any different, for example if you’re usually a bubbly person-it’s okay, you don’t have to act all serious. If you’re a naturally funny person, you could include a little (appropriate) joke here and there even though we tend to think this is an extremely formal setting (which yes it kind of is, but again this may vary from national committee to national committee). However, “be yourself” doesn’t mean “stay in your comfort zone”. As an introvert, I know it can be hard to speak up, and I’m not saying you should change and act like an extrovert. What you have to make yourself realize is that this interview is about you. These people (the number of people interviewing you will vary) are sitting there to listen to you talk and occasionally ask some questions, they are trying to find out what kind of a person you are beyond those stiff essays from the application. If you’re an introvert, it’s fine to not talk loudly or whatever, but be confident about your opinions and don’t be afraid to talk about yourself! And even if you’re not, just act like you are confident and before you know it you will feel that way too (fake it till you make it). Believe me, I know it can feel super weird to just talk about yourself, but in some ways that is the point of an interview.
2. Don’t be scared of the interviewer(s)
They aren’t trying to trip you up. They will ask questions about your essays and things you indicated on your application in order to get an idea of who you are as a person. They might challenge something you said, but just stay true to your opinion, they don’t want to hear a certain answer they want to get to know you. If they ask you to elaborate on something, you should see it as a great opportunity to talk even more about something that you obviously already like discussing, since otherwise you (hopefully) wouldn’t have chosen it for your essay! In my case, the interviewers even made a joke here and there. The whole thing isn’t quite as formal as you might think.
3. Be passionate
I kind of touched on this earlier, but again: these people are there to listen to you talk. They will ask you questions about stuff you wrote on your application to find out more about you and whether or not you are a good fit for UWC (and whether or not UWC is a good fit for you.) They want to know what kind of a person you are, what makes you get out of bed in the morning and what things light up your eyes when you talk about them. No matter what you are passionate about, make sure they know it and feel it!
4. Don’t read too much into facial expressions
Seriously, don’t. During my interviews a lot of my stress came from me overthinking the interviewer’s facial expression. You don’t know what they’re thinking! They are just listening intently or taking notes, if one of them looks bored to death don’t let it affect you or discourage you. They are there to listen and take notes and maybe think of additional questions, but during the interview there is absolutely no time for value judgements anyway. Just do your thing and try not to read into it too much.
5. Be honest
This one is kind of similar to “Be yourself”. Don’t try to psychoanalyze the interviewers to answer in a way that you think will please them. They aren’t looking for a specific answer from you, they genuinely want to know your honest thoughts. If they phrase a question weirdly and you’re like ‘okay maybe I should answer it differently…’ No, stop right there! Stay true to what you think and what you believe in. Be honest in giving your opinions. Also, be ‘honest’ (maybe that is the wrong word) in terms of your feelings. UWC is an intense experience, that can be hard to adjust to and they want to make sure to send people who they think will be able to work through that and deal with it, which means they might ask you personal or emotional questions that could strike a chord. It’s okay to be emotional in that case, I was asked a very personal question and got teary-eyed. It’s totally fine to say “This is a hard question, please give me a second to think about it” or something along the lines of that.
6. Don’t try to find out what they asked the other people
When you’re sitting there waiting for your turn and someone who just had their interview comes out, don’t ask that person what questions they were asked. The questions you get are based on what you wrote in your application, so there’s no point since they most likely won’t even ask you that question. It will only make you more nervous.
3. GROUP ACTIVITIES/SELECTION WEEKEND
1. Arrive early
Of course, being early is always a good thing for these kinds of situations, but as an introvert this truly made a big difference for me. The first time I applied, I had really bad luck and ended up arriving late to the selection weekend. Picture this: 15 year-old, very introverted me opening the door to see groups of people seated at tables, already deep in conversation with one another and since I was the only person left, once I had arrived everyone got up and the activities started straight away. This led to me being super ‘stuck in my shell’ and stressed out from the get-go. The second time I applied, I made sure to be (maybe even too) early, which enabled me to be calmer since I wasn’t stressing about having to find my way in a big city I don’t know too well, I wasn’t stressing about whether or not I’d be late and make a bad impression, and I got to be the first one to sit down at the table and then have a chill introduction and conversation with the first person who arrived after me, and then the next etc.
2. Don’t be afraid to talk in group activities
After I received my rejection the first time round, I also received an email with feedback and insight as to why I didn’t make it into the final selection. It said something along the lines of: “We often had the impression that you wanted to say something but in the end you didn’t. We know that you have opinions, and we would have loved to hear them more often.” If you are a naturally ‘charismatic’ person you probably don’t have to worry too much about this, but for my fellow quieter peeps: just dive head in! Make a conscious mental note to SAY SOMETHING, to force yourself if you have to, during group activities, to contribute in any way, don’t be scared of what the other applicants might think of what you’re saying because, frankly, they don’t matter that much. Say what you’re thinking, if you are playing a group game and you have an idea for a strategy that might work, propose it to the rest of the group! It might not work, but that’s not what matters. What’s important is that you are contributing and trying to get the whole group to succeed by providing ideas and that you can show that you can work with others. UWCs are all about sharing ideas and brainstorming together, trying new things and tweaking what doesn’t work to try and find solutions to problems. That’s what they are trying to ‘simulate’ in these group activities, so speak up when you have an idea, even if it’s just a small one.
3. “Who wants to start?”
You do! Or at least I think you should. At least once or twice. On my first selection weekend, we had activities in small groups where we would get some sort of an ethical dilemma and had to do a ranking for example. In the end we would all go around in a circle and share our ranking with the group. What happened was, everyone ended up kind of having very similar rankings and I always ended up saying mine last, so I was left pretty much awkwardly repeating what we already heard 5 times. I learned from that experience, and during my second selection weekend, when it was time to share our ranking and one of the ‘evaluators’ asked “Who wants to go first?” I just went and said “I can go!”. For people who don’t want to seem too dominant this may seem daunting, but I promise you, in practice it’s not as bad as you think. It shows you are not afraid to say what you think and you don’t need to run your rankings by the other people first.
4. Stick to your opinion
In group activities and games, it may be that you suggest something and everyone is on board right away. But, it’s also very possible that the others in the group are skeptical of your idea and quietly look at you with confused looks. If this happens, don’t despair! The worst thing to do in that situation is drop your shoulders and quietly say “But we can do something else too”. Instead, calmly try to explain what you were thinking and why this might work or how you arrived at the conclusion that this might at least be a step in the right direction compared to the last thing you all tried to do. “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.” In those games, it’s good to have everyone contribute new ideas, even if the idea itself isn’t the solution, someone else might bounce off of it and think of something new and so you will arrive at the finish line much faster. Obviously, don’t be unnecessarily stubborn and insist on your idea because you think it’s the very best- remember that it’s a group effort and you have to compromise.
Just don’t instantly give up on something you said just cause people aren’t agreeing to it right away.
MOST IMPORTANTLY: HAVE FUN!
The selection weekend is your first opportunity to experience the UWC spirit, and you will truly meet some great people there who share the same values as you. You will have great conversations over dinner, question your own beliefs over challenging discussions and just get to hang out with really interesting people. Above all, it should be an enjoyable time, and even though I was very anxious during my first application process, I still had so much fun and I hope you will too.:)
If you are rejected but you are not too old yet, APPLY AGAIN NEXT YEAR! In the Austrian system, you are allowed to apply twice.
If you are 15 and get rejected, APPLY AGAIN NEXT YEAR, and I cannot emphasise this enough. I’ve heard before that people think “Oh, if I didn’t make it this time then why should I get in next year?” but just look at me- I didn’t even get into the final selection the first time I applied. People evolve, things happen, you change. A year is a time where a lot of stuff can happen, you can collect new experiences and work on yourself, so don’t just write it off. Also, if you are applying a second time it is definitely a positive, since the National Committee will see how much you want this and how dedicated you are.
SO. This idea may seem totally over-the-top to many people reading this, but hear me out. After the call that I got accepted into UWC, there was this overwhelming euphoria that seemed to overcast everything. But when the excitement dies down and reality starts to …
I know that there are many absolutely crazy stories out there about how people got to know about the UWC movement, how the selection went and how they got in. I wouldn’t say that my story is particularly spectacular in any way, but I dare say that there have definitely been some rough patches along the way: almost forgot to send my application, going through the whole selection process twice, getting lost on the way to the selection weekend, my parents almost forgetting to send our financial disclosure to the committee in time…
So, here’s the story.
I was thirteen when I came back from my first language travel ever to Sevenoaks in England. It was my first time meeting so many people from different countries and cultures, I had made many friends and I was just blissfully happy. The first thing I told my mom when she greeted me on the airport was: “Those were the best two weeks of my life.” From that moment on, we started researching international schools.
If you’ve searched for IB-schools before you may know what I mean when I say that it’s impossible to find the United World Colleges by searching ‘IB school’ or ‘international school’ (I believe that that’s one of the biggest reasons why UWC is still “the best kept secret of education” and I really think that they should work on their publicity). So, long story short: we didn’t find anything, because regular IB-schools were out of the question due to the costs, therefore we stopped searching for the time being. However, a few months after I came back from the UK my mom was talking to the headmistress of a school in Germany at work, and once she told her that we were looking for an international school the headmistress told her about UWC.
I can still remember how I was sick in bed when my mom came back from work and excitedly told me about UWC. I instantly fell in love with the concept. Young people from all over the world living together, celebrating diversity, trying to make a difference and seeing education as something that can change the world instead of just an obligation. Buut I was still thirteen so the application was still far away.
When I was 14 I went on another language travel to England but because UWC was constantly in the back of my mind I thought that there may be something UWC related that I could take part in the next summer. And then I found the UWC short programs, more precisely the Global Leadership Forum organised by UWC USA. I’m going to try and keep the description short because this post is already getting way too long, but it’s a program that takes place on the campus of the UWC USA in Montezuma with the goal of bringing young people from all over the world together and make them leaders. I applied and got accepted into the program, so when I was 15 I spent 18 days in the summer of 2016 in New Mexico with 26 people who became like a family to me in the end. It wasn’t like my past language travels even though I met people from all over the world there too, but the thing is that it wasn’t about learning English better. We learned about problem solving, understanding each other and discussed issues in our society. Basically, those 18 days changed my life. Everyone was so accepting and supportive, we all had similar values and I am so thankful that I was able to make that experience.
That was the first time that I felt the UWC spirit.
First Try – Fail
So, little Stella got older and it was time to apply to UWC. Writing the application was kinda stressful ngl, but luckily it didn’t take me that long to write it (I also got a lot of advice from my mom, shoutout to you). Writing and submitting the application wasn’t the bad part, but the waiting was.
I just want to quickly explain the Austrian Application process as I know that it is different all over the world. There are three stages: the written application, the first selection weekend and the final selection. You can apply twice, when you’re 15 and when you’re 16. You can be rejected after each stage, so it’s not like you’re automatically invited to the selection weekend. Spoiler alert: I didn’t even get to the final round.
After waiting a little I got an e-mail saying that I was invited to the first selection weekend. I was sooo excited but also nervous because we got a task to complete and prepare for the weekend and I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to do. But I will keep myself short because I’m planning on doing a seperate post about the whole selection process.
Fast forward and long story short, the selection weekend was great but a disaster at the same time. The people I met were really great but I just felt that I wasn’t doing so well, I was way too nervous and introverted and I just kinda had a hunch that I wasn’t going to make it into the next round, especially because I was comparing myself to all of the other amazing candidates. So after more waiting, surprise surprise!
I didn’t get into the next round. I was of course disappointed but, as I said, I didn’t expect to get into the final round plus I knew that I could apply again next year.
Check out the video I made from the selection weekend for a few impressions!
I’d say that I’m a realist so I just thought to myself Okay, so I know how the selection weekend goes now, I think I know what I could have done differently, I will collect new experiences in this year so I can try my best again next year.
My second application process was a whole lot more difficult in a lot of ways. Firstly, I had to do the written application all over again and obviously I didn’t turn into a completely different person in one year, therefore a lot of my answers didn’t change and I wasn’t sure how much I can leave the same. The essays were the biggest ‘problem’ because just one of the four essay prompts had changed. (In the end I left one essay completely the same as the one from the year before). I was quite anxious because what if I wouldn’t even get invited to the first selection weekend? How sad would that be, making it the first time and already failing at the beginning stage the second time? Well, I obviously got invited to the selection weekend and it was really nice.
Once again, the people I met were amazing and we did some really cool activities, some of them were even the same as the year before. When I first got there I was extremely nervous once again but I just told myself Get your shit together, you’ve been through this already, you know how stuff’s gonna go, don’t overthink it
I was way more relaxed this weekend and I also felt like my interviews went better than the ones the year before. Well, first selection weekend done, one more to go, right? I can’t even describe my emotions after the selection weekend. Everyday people in our Whatsapp group were asking if someone already knew if they got to the final selection, my mind wouldn’t rest, it felt like I checked my E-Mails every other minute. It took approximately two weeks until the first messages started coming in, I remember it was a monday and I was at school when the first person got their e-mail. The committe didn’t really do acceptance first, rejection second (or the other way around) so I did not know what to expect if I got an e-mail. More and more messages came in, I checked my e-mails- nothing. After school and on the way to the train station I checked again, not really expecting to see anything and my heart (as well as my phone) dropped. I had only looked for a split second, but that second was enough for me to see the subject of the e-mail: UWC Selection 2017 – Feedback How could that not be a rejection e-mail?? Especially since I knew that last year only the people who did not get into the final round (e.g. me) got a feedback. I couldn’t bring myself to open the e-mail, I told my friend I’d open it at home. But in the train I just wanted to get it over with, I opened the e-mail and it said:
First of all, thank you for your interest of the UWC movement and for your commitment during the selection process! (Okay, this is a rejection…)
As you could experience during the selection weekend, many motivated candidates contributed to the UWC spirit this year. (Definitely a rejection…)
You convinced us with your motivation and potential for the UWC movement, therefore it gives me great pleasure to inform you that you are invited to the final selection round! (Oh my god.)
As I said, I want to make the whole application process a different blog post, so I won’t say too much about the final selection weekend. Out of 24 people 11 people got into the next round, we had to prepare for a group discussion and we would each have a final interview. The final round was nerve-racking as hell, but fun nevertheless.
So, now for the part that I didn’t know how to deal with: the waiting after the end selection.
At this point, after having applied twice and being through the whole nerve-racking waiting process, I just wanted to have a final answer. I had asked myself too many times than I can count if I was good enough (especially after my first application didn’t work out) or if I even deserved it. On the selection weekend you meet so many mindful, supportive, hardworking and just wonderful people who all have the same dream and I wished for every one of them to fulfill their dream. It’s hard to not compare yourself to the other candidates.
On the train ride home after the end selection I just had so many thoughts and emotions. After all these years of knowing about UWC, this could be “the end”. Tomorrow, or the day after tomorrow, I could get a rejection e-mail. But, you know, normal life continued and school … didn’t really take anyone’s mind off it 😀 Everyday we would write in the group if anyone had any news. It didn’t take long until the first three people got an acceptance call. The next day two people got rejected and the days after two more got accepted. The day after that was the last call for a while. Me and three other people “were left”, we had no idea if we got in or not and it would take almost three more weeks for me to find out that I got a scholarship for UWC Atlantic College (February 12th, 8:38pm). Which was a loong time. A very long time. God bless my mom for always saying “Wellll, you didn’t get rejected yet!” I don’t think I was ever as stressed and nervous as I was in those weeks.
What was so weird about the call was: they called my mom’s phone, and everyone else got called on their own phones, so when we were eating dinner and my mom’s phone rang. we did not expect a thing. I continued eating my pasta when I noticed my mom’s facial expression. And then I heard it through the phone: “…we have a place for Stella at UWC Atlantic College…” And then I was just DONE. I cried and cried and laughed and cried some more, I even got a really bad nose bleed because all of my blood rushed to my head out of excitement. I couldn’t really comprehend that that was really happening. I think I cried for solid 30 minutes or something, during which I called the most important people in my life to tell them the news.
Pheww, so now we got to the very end and to the current situation. If you read this far, props to you!
It still feels extremely surreal that I will be gone in August to attend my dream school. But I guess dreams do come true.