College Admissions

Irish Colleges & Universities – Part II

Ireland is certainly known for Trinity College, but what about one of its other famous universities, Queens University in Belfast?

Gates of Queen’s College

Queens is a short train ride from Dublin to Belfast (a little over two hours). Queens University has a total enrollment of about 25,000 students and was founded in 1845. According to the QS WORLD UNIVERSITY RANKINGS – 2018, Queens ranks in the top 1% of universities globally and is truly a global school. According to their website, they “pride ourselves on giving all students a world-class education; 32% of our full-time, first-degree entrants are from lower socio-economic groups, placing us 1st amongst the UK’s leading universities for widening participation. Our students are making an impact across Belfast, across Northern Ireland and further afield, contributing £297.1m every year to the local economy and harvesting 5,500 active community volunteers. What’s more, our 2,000 international students are helping to create a more inclusive campus and a more diverse city.”

Having visited Queens, I can say that it’s in a fabulous location, right next to the Ulster Museum, a free, accessible, well-planned museum featuring art, history and an exhibit on The Troubles, the decades-long civil conflict Belfast is known for and the inspiration behind many famous songs by U2, the Cranberries, and other Irish artists. There’s also adorable

Delicious hot chocolate at Maggie May’s Belfast Cafe

cafes and study stops dotting the streets, and easy public transit as well. Belfast is a city of history still recovering from The Troubles, but features a truly European education that’s steeped in history and growing diversity.

And, as mentioned in our previous blog post about Trinity College, housing can be a problem for many Irish schools, especially with the influx of international students. Queens is taking the initiative to fix that, recently boasting:

“We’ve added 1,237 new student rooms exclusively for Queen’s students, so you can rest easy living somewhere safe, comfortable and affordable.”

Many students are so locked into the colleges in America that they don’t consider the excellent opportunities abroad. Ireland is unique in that English is still a main language across the country, and features a UK-feel that is distinctly more, well, Irish. Don’t limit your search domestically if you are the kind of student who likes a little adventure! 

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A Month of Milestones

April was a month of big milestones for me: It marked 18 months since my leg surgery and the chance to get outside of my comfort zone. So I decided to take a solo trip to Ireland and just…explore. It was empowering to realize that I had control over every single second of my day. I saw Dublin and Belfast, visited castles and murals and museums, and even won a Literary Pub Crawl t-shirt (here’s to being obsessed with Oscar Wilde trivia).

I even visited some universities over there, as many of our students are considering applying to colleges like Trinity, Dublin University and other UK schools. (Link to that blog post ICYMI) But this empowerment also led me to a desire to learn more and use my newfound independence to better myself. I ask my students to consider the same thing: maybe you can’t jet off to Ireland, but can you arrange your schedule or plan experiences that inspire you to become a stronger person or a better prepper?

I also decided to run a 5K- the Race for Peace in Wheaton Regional Park on April 20. My goal was to finish without embarrassing myself (since running is still a bit hard with a metal leg), and I had been training for it for a couple months. Imagine my surprise when I somehow finished in 2nd place overall for women (and 4th overall regardless of gender). It showed me I had set my bar too low. While I am certainly not going to blow anyone away in a tougher field, I now know that with proper, gradual training and a goal-oriented outlook, I can conquer previously-impossible goals. Hmm, sounds like there’s a college app/test prep metaphor in here….

Here’s to our newly warm weather and a fabulous wind-down to the school year!

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Irish Colleges & Universities – Part I

“Dia duit!”

That means “Good day!” in Irish (don’t call it Gaelic there!) and it’s almost always a good day in Ireland. Usually rainy, sure, and often a little chilly, but the warmth of the Irish people make up for it. Having just returned from a little jaunt to Dublin and Belfast, I’m reflecting on not only the great times I had (Dublin Literary Pub Crawl Quiz and T-Shirt Winner here!, castles, Irish chocolate, the Guinness Factory) but also on the excellent universities I was able to visit and learn about. With more and more American and international students considering European universities, I thought it best to go directly to the source of some of Ireland’s finest institutions.

Trinity College is one of the most famous schools in the world and the pride of Dublin. Set in the heart of the city, you have to enter a Harry Potter-type archway just to enter the campus grounds, and once inside, you can continue the Harry-Potter-esque ambience by visiting the Book of Kells, an amazing 9th-century illustrated manuscript, and the Long Room, Trinity’s oldest library and the inspiration for many scenes in the Harry Potter movies!

But Trinity is more than just gorgeous: it boasts top educational programs and counts authors Oscar Wilde, Jonathan Swift, and Samuel Beckett, actress Ruth Negga, and philosopher Edmund Burke among its esteemed alum. In fact, as one of Europe’s historic universities, Trinity College Dublin, which was founded in 1592, is, according to their website, “renowned as a centre of teaching and research excellence. This is supported by the fact that Trinity is Ireland’s only university to rank in the top 100 of the QS World University Rankings.”

Perhaps one of the drawbacks of the Trinity experience is the housing issues. In America, we’re pretty used to students having guaranteed on-campus housing, at least for the first year, as well as plenty of apartment or shared housing options nearby. This is not so in Dublin, a fairly small major city and one that is somewhat unprepared for the influx of top students coming to Trinity. In speaking with students, they all recommended searching for housing at least six months before arriving to start the term, and to be prepared to pay. Some websites they suggested looking into were:

  • – search for all sorts of housing in Dublin
  • – a little more student-focused housing in Dublin

One student said to expect to pay as much a $600 Euro for a shared room in a house (about $733 U.S. dollars) and up to $2000+ for an apartment (about $2450 in U.S. dollars).  Definitely account for both housing searches and housing costs in your budget!

Stay tuned for Part II of our Irish Universities spotlight.  In that post, I’ll discuss some of Ireland’s other gems: Dublin’s University College and Belfast’s Queens University! 


(that means cheers!)



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Tackling The Supplemental Essay

Many schools have supplements that ask you “Why ((School))?” The biggest mistake students can make here is to be basic. If an admissions rep can read your essay and stick in any other college in the country and still have it make sense, well, you done messed up.

Things to consider:

  • Internship opportunities: is there a specific program? Partnerships with specific companies?
  • Professors: Did one do a study or article on something of interest to you?
  • Traditions: is there a quirky or interesting tradition the school has?
  • Study Abroad: Yeah, yeah, they all have study abroad, but is there a particular program that matches perfectly with you?

Things to Stay Away From:

  • “I like your small class sizes, beautiful campus and prestigious education.” Barf.
  • “I can’t wait to play club sports.” (This is not a bad drop in if you have word space, but should not be a major motivating factor in attending a school.)
  • “I can’t wait to cheer on the (big state school mascot) at the (big state school stadium) during the (big state school sport they are known for being good at).” You and everyyyyyyone else. Again, maybe not a bad ending or quick drop-in, but should not be the major factor.

Take the time to show these schools you care and can really see yourself there!

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