5 Tips from Richard Branson to Help You Ace Your University Application

by Daniela Dandes

Richard Branson, one of the most successful billionaires in the world and founder of the Virgin Group, is known for the generous advice he shares with young people. His goal is to see a world where people focus more on their passions, dare to act and begin pursuing their life’s dreams. 

Although Mr. Branson doesn’t have a graduate degree himself, he wants to see more people step up their game and chase their dreams, including future students like you.

That’s why we think his knowledge and insight can be invaluable to you during your university application process. 

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We have rounded up the best 5 pieces of advice from the magnate, which will help you write an amazing motivation letter, ace the university admission interview and keep you motivated throughout the application process:

1. Let yourself be fuelled by passion

Have you ever heard of DJ Switch, also known as Erica Armah Bra-Bulu Tandoh? DJ Switch is a 10-year-old DJ in Ghana, who likes to get crowds going with those funky beats.

She made her big debut on the world wide web after BBC News Africa released a video of her showcasing already well-developed disk-jockey skills. The video currently has 8.3 million views on Facebook and nearly 4.5 million views on Twitter.

She is remarkable, not only because of her age but mainly because of the passion that fuels her attitude. That attitude is what pushed her to go public and brought her concrete results.  

This is the kind of passion that Richard Branson wishes more people possessed.

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In the case of your admission interview and motivation letter, candidates who display enthusiasm, interest and curiosity have a higher chance of being admitted at their dream university.

Aside from skills and experience, admission boards take into account the motivation and enthusiasm that the student shows throughout the process. This attitude indicates that you possess a strong interest and strengths that are specifically suited for the Master’s programme.

When you’re applying for your studies, don’t hesitate to show your passion for the subject and for the university. Trust us, you’ll leave a memorable impression.

2. You were made to stand out

What extracurricular activities have you taken on, which will add value to your programme application? What achievements can you include in your Master’s motivation letter? Who can you bring on board to recommend you for your dream study? These are questions that reveal what the admission board looks at.

Making yourself known (either during study or via a website or blog) is a core belief that Richard Branson adopts in his lifestyle as well. Visibility helps people understand you better.

Making a name for yourself also gives others a positive personal impression about you. Richard Branson is always on the move, hangs out with people with different backgrounds, provides value to others and makes things happen. You can adopt the same attitude when it comes to your academic and professional path.

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Your motivation letter and application interview are great opportunities to present details about what you have accomplished personally, academically, and professionally. Mastering the art of networking and creating a presence for yourself can boost your admissions chances when you’re applying for your study of choice.

As you are approaching the application deadlines, it is important to showcase concrete reasons why you deserve to be part of that study programme. Don’t brag, as nobody likes a show-off. But do shine a reasonable light on your achievements that got you where you are.

3. Build mental toughness for those stressful times

Getting through the entire Master’s application process can be hard, especially when you apply for multiple international programmes. It is easier to get discouraged when you see the full list of requirements, or when you assess the difficulty of the application process.

What you should keep in mind is that entry requirements are established as a bumper that keeps unmotivated students out. Honing grit as a skill will help you to successfully move forward.

Grit is the combination of courage, perseverance and passion for long-term goals. If you feel committed enough to apply for your studies, then you will automatically get into the mindset of pushing through hard times.

The way you can build grit is by doing things that scare you on a daily basis. Start with tiny steps. Are you afraid to speak in front of strangers? Then, join organisations like Toastmasters. You’re not sure that you have what it takes to become a writer? Start putting down your thoughts and publish them on a blog. Or send your drafts to friends to get feedback.

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This attitude is what got Richard Branson to where he is in the first place. The stories of how he was a notoriously shy kid are plenty, but he had to get over this personal blockage to start his rise as a world-class entrepreneur, investor, author, and philanthropist.

Don’t stay idle in your quest to deliver the best Master’s application to your chosen university. Practice grit daily and learn how to push through.

4. Your actions follow your thoughts, so dream big!

If there is one lesson to take out of Branson’s life, it's dreaming big. As he put it, "Dreaming is one of humanity’s greatest gifts. It champions aspiration, spurs innovation, leads to change and propels us forward. In a world without dreams, there would be no adventure, no moon landing, no female CEOs, no civil rights. What a half-lived and tragic existence we would have. We should all dream big, and encourage others to do so, too.”

When you write your Master’s application, ask yourself this: Are you aiming high enough? Are you putting your best work into that application? If the answer is yes, then you are on the right path.

Dreaming big doesn’t need to translate into applying only for Ivy-league institutions. The rationale here is that whatever you choose to do, you should make sure that your talents, skills and thought power are put to good use. At the end of the day, you should strive for something big, because it adds purpose to what you do. And purpose, as we found out in point #3, pushes you forward.

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How can you bring in some big-picture thinking to your academic goals? How can you add some extra spice to your degree application, and make it part of that bigger dream?

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5. Move away from perfection

Although this is more of a mindset than a skill, being able to focus on producing a great Master’s application should trump your need to create the perfect one. Don’t spend too much time on nitty-gritty details, since they will eat up all your attention and they will distract you from keeping the bigger picture in mind.

Trust yourself that you’ve put in the work to get so far. Be constructively critical with that you are shipping. And remember: everything can always be improved, so you’ll never reach that state of perfection that you are seeking. Just show up and write the best Master’s application you can.

Are you ready to jump-start your application process? As Richard Branson put it, “Screw it. Let’s do it!”

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