The submission date of your Student Learning Profile (SLP) might seem like it’s forever away (April 2017 is forever away, right?), but don’t be lulled into a false sense of security – it might take longer than you think to narrow down your personal achievements and learning experiences into something that helps sell you as a desirable student.
Young Post has asked 2015 DSE top scorer Melody Tam Lok-man and Hok Yau Club Student Guidance Centre director Ng Po-shing to offer useful advice on making your SLP stand out from the rest.
1. Know the importance of your SLP
The SLP is a useful reference for universities when they are looking at admissions, and this is never more important than when it comes to interviews, Ng says. It enables interviewers to know more about your personal quirks and competencies, which was the case when Tam had her university interviews.
“The interview questions were largely based on my SLP. When a professor asked me about my experience at a summer camp, I told them how inspirational it was and how it motivated me to choose their programme,” Tam says.
Ng adds if there are two or more students who obtain the same DSE scores, their SLPs are a vital part of their admission process as it provides a valuable insight into their minds.
2. Make your SLP stand out
Highlight your personal responsibilities and achievements with concrete examples that are relevant to the programmes you have chosen for your first three choices in Band A of the Joint University Programmes Admissions System (JUPAS).
Don’t just make it a hard sell about your leadership roles, though. You might have been head prefect or student union president, but this doesn’t help your SLP stand out – others may have had similar roles and responsibilities. A lot of applicants only include a standard list of their strengths, talents and extracurricular activities on their SLP, and they aren’t original or interesting enough to make any sort of lasting impression.
Ng says this is the time to share your personal experiences in your SLP’s Self-Account to bulk up your achievements. Give an in-depth account of the ways in which you have managed to develop your strong leadership, teamwork and organisational skills.
Here’s the important part – emphasise how unique your experiences are. “To cite doing volunteer work at a child care centre as an example, it certainly shows you’re very caring, patient and approachable,” Ng says. “But other than your characteristics and strengths, was there a particular child that you offered help? What did the child learn from you? How did this experience motivate you to study social work or education? It’s advisable that such unique experiences should be relevant to the programmes you’ve selected.”
3. But don’t be too ambitious in your claims
“Some students include ‘reading hundreds of books’. What if an interviewer asks you what knowledge you’ve gained from reading them? I think it’s a bit unrealistic and unconvincing. How about writing [about] your favourite book and what you’ve gained from it? It’s a cliche but quality is more important than quantity,” Tam says.
4. Keep your SLP Self-Account brief but engaging
The Self-Account is like a cover letter – you use it to highlight your competencies and experiences, Ng says. But you have to bear in mind that it’s neither a letter nor an autobiography; you shouldn’t write a thousand words about everything of interest that has happened to you – 400 words on one page should be enough. One good way to approach the Self-Account is to highlight no more than three valuable experiences. Each paragraph should focus on one experience and what you took away from it. Describe how you developed your skills from it, and how it links in with the programmes you plan to study.
Ng insists a clear and concise Self-Account can make a huge difference to your SLP. A confusing or rambling Self-Account may hinder your chances during an interview.
5. Accuracy matters
Some applicants will not bother to check simple things like spelling and grammatical errors. A portfolio with many typos or contradictions doesn’t reflect well on the student. Tam stresses the importance of proofreading your SLP and asking for feedback. “Without a doubt everyone should proofread their portfolio at least twice. I won’t say you should use complex sentences or difficult words because your SLP shouldn’t challenge your professors. Make it easy and pleasant to read; simple but accurate English will be good enough,” she says.