A passion for their subject, a positive attitude to studying and good written English are crucial to getting through university admission procedures.
The elusive list of attributes that universities look for in applicants aside from exam results has been revealed in new research.
A study involving university admission officers asked them to name the skills and attributes that they most like to see, other than qualifications and grades, when considering applications.
Good written English skills led the way, followed by a passion for the course subject and a “proven ability to think and work independently”.
The University Admissions Officers Report 2013 was commissioned by ACS International Schools and the research involved 100 admissions officers. The list of the 10 most sought after attributes, published below, is based on the percentage of respondents who ranked each area as “important” or “very important”.
Universities are also looking for a reasonable grasp of maths and evidence of positions of responsibility or leadership that the student has held.
Evidence of success after a difficult start, or by students from a difficult background is also high on the list, while work experience scrapes into the top 10 at number eight.
Elsewhere, the study found that activities such as attendance at university taster days or gifted and talented events have limited impact with just 20 per cent of admission officers looking at this detail before a decision is made, while 73 per claim they do not look at it at all.
Jeremy Lewis, head of school, ACS International Schools, said: “Students spend an age crafting their personal statements so it’s useful to see exactly which attributes really hit the mark with admission teams.
“Much seems to boil down to an ability to communicate their passion and a drive to work hard though it’s interesting to see the very strong emphasis placed on good written English, suggesting perhaps that this is not always a given.”
University admissions: Top 10 attributes
Good written English (97 per cent)
Passion for their subject (88 per cent)
Positive attitude towards study (83 per cent)
Ability to think/work independently (72 per cent)
Reasonable grasp of maths (44 per cent)
Success despite difficult start/background (35 per cent)
Have had positions of responsibility/leadership (32 per cent)
Work experience (30 per cent)
Excellence in a performing art (21 per cent)
Awareness of global/cultural differences (18 per cent)