A guide for the selection process to prepare yourself psychologically and not, by describing ours. Good luck!
Our desire to help all the potential UWCers get through the selection process is one of the reasons why we started this blog. After a few minutes of googling, the potential UWCer, that is yourself, will have certainly understood that you must undergo a long selection process to win scholarships and get into colleges. However, you can’t really find any handbook on how to deal with them. Let’s get this straight though: this “handbook” won’t be a long list of rules (there aren’t any!), instead it will be a report of our experience filled with some pieces of advice to help you face the selection the best you can. So here we go!
Everyone will tell you this: be yourself. It may seem easy but it is not. We heard that countless times before and during the selection process but we didn’t truly understand what it really meant. Now we do and we believe it’s the only useful advice we can give you. In fact, being yourself is the only compulsory quality you need to attend one of the United World Colleges: be yourself, show who you truly are, don’t pretend to be someone else you think selectors will appreciate. Since this is a tricky one indeed, we’ll just quote what’s often been told to us: “During these days, we’ll try to take off the mask you’re wearing so that you show who you really are”. Only those who succeeded in being themselves are now UWC students.
Being yourself is very important because there isn’t a precise kind of person who is suitable for UWCs. Don’t think that selectors are only looking for extravagant leaders with strong ideas and perfect grades. The person they’re looking for could be exactly you. Yes, you, as you are now, with your weaknesses and your strengths. This year, 47 of us are leaving and we’re all extremely different, each of us has something that makes them unique. One believes in witches, some love geopolitics and others want to be UN ambassadors, university professors or researchers.
However we do think that it could be quite useful for you to know how the selection carried out this year. Our most important suggestion is to stay calm and relaxed from the very beginning: anxiety will be your greatest enemy, and selectors will do their best to make you feel at ease.
So, here is a brief report of our experience.
(N.B.: the following information concerns the selection process in Italy alone, there may be some differences depending on your country, so we advise you to read carefully and extensively your national committee website.)
As you may already know, there are two rounds of selection, first at regional and then at national level. Of the 451 Italian applicants, 71 made it to the final round and 47 will soon be UWC students.
Anna, Raffaele and Elena went through the pre-selections in Milan, and so did Sofia, whereas Dario faced them in Rome. Therefore, even if the activities were all the same, each day was slightly different. We started off with an hour-long test in Italian, mathematics and general knowledge. There is no need to prepare yourself for it, as it is quite easy and it doesn’t have much influence on your overall score.
After that, we began the group activities: selectors introduced themselves and so did we (there were about 25 of us per day). Besides saying a few words about ourselves, we were asked about the happiest day of our life. Then, we were divided into small groups and we commented on newspaper articles we had just read. Being prepared to talk about the latest news can be very useful during the selection process because most of the day is focused on that. That’s why we strongly advise you to read newspapers and websites to keep yourself informed on current events. After these short debates, they split us into two big groups to discuss two important issues: child adoption and democracy. Each group, independently from our personal opinions, stated its support for one issue while opposing the other; we then had to elaborate a speech for the spokesperson to tell. We found ourselves forced to argue against democracy and this was definitely fun. We later engaged in further actives, e.g. we did impressions of famous people, we were asked how we would’ve spent a million dollar and what object we would’ve brought with us to the college. During the day we also had an individual interview, which varied from person to person. The advice we can give you is to fill in carefully the application form, because they are going to ask you mostly about what you’ve written. They asked us “What is the most frivolous thing you have ever done?”, “What would be the greatest difficulty you might face in the college?” and “Have you ever changed your mind?”. We also recommend talking as much as possible, until the selectors interrupt you.
After having passed the pre-selection, you access the final round. The national selection occurred between the 3rd and the 6th of March. The five of us were in the first group to be selected and our selection lasted one day and a half from the 3rd to the 4th of March, while the second group was selected during the following days.
We still remember the great excitement we felt as we were crossing the UWCAD (United World College of the Adriatic) door; we were greeted in the entrance and immediately the hallway got narrower and narrower, there were many people coming and going, lots of talking and feelings. It was full of youngsters, parents and selectors.
After the first bureaucratic phase, which consisted in handing in a recommendation letter written by one of our professors and having a picture of us taken, we went into a lecture room full of flags from every country, and the selection officially began.
We sat in a circle looking at one another while the selectors introduced themselves and reassured us by telling us what we’d heard a thousand times, “Be yourself, we’ll try to take off the mask you’re wearing in these two days”.
Perhaps you have been wondering: “What if who I am isn’t okay?”. Our advice is to be calm and remember that your true self is exactly what selectors are trying to discover.
Group activities were easier than the pre-selection ones. We played a lot of icebreaker games to get to know each other better, games such as miming an object and organizing a little show for UWCAD students and selectors. Not only, we also had to walk around Duino, the city where UWCAD is situated, and interview its citizens, so that we could get familiar with the place. The activities varied greatly so be prepared for anything, don’t get discouraged, have fun and, once again, be yourself. There is no reason to worry: no one will criticize you for who you are.
The last day, we engaged in an activity that lasted almost the whole morning: everyone had to talk about something personal and it was extraordinary to discover how many things you can have in common with a group of 35 people you barely know. It was a very intense moment, filled with strong feelings, that have connected our group very much and helped creating an amazing friendship.
During these two days, applicants were called out to have an individual interview: don’t be afraid, it only lasts about 20 minutes, and you’ll be accompanied by a UWC student who’s there to talk to you and calm your nerves while you’re waiting for your turn. You’ll be asked specific questions about yourself: selectors want to get to know you as much as possible, so talk a lot about the sports you practice, your hobbies, your dreams and ambitions for the future but also be prepared to get asked bizarre questions such as “What is the most rebellious thing you’ve ever done?”, “When was the last time you got angry?”. You should also follow our previus advice.
National selections are a taste of what the UWC spirit really feels like: you’ll find yourself surrounded by bright open-minded young people, with sense of initiative and amazing interests, who share your same ideals of peace and brotherhood. At the end of those two days, you won’t feel like you were being selected but rather like you spent some great time with friends. Whatever your result will be, you’ll have had an unforgettable experience. Furthermore, you’ll also have a chance to meet some UWCAD students and have lunch with them.