In order to stand out from the other applicants, you need to first know what they are doing.
From my experience, most students approach their EAE application in this manner.
TYPICAL EAE APPLICANT’S PROCESS
- Starts thinking about EAE on the year of application
- Gets information about EAE from school a few months before application starts
- Visit Polytechnic websites and read about the courses there
- Some students who happen to know a senior studying in the course might ask them for more information
- Choose a few that looks interesting enough
- Prepare one portfolio comprising School Awards, Teacher’s Testimonials, and CCA Transcript (School Portfolio)
- Answers group interview questions by the interviewers (who are likely course lecturers), using information obtained from the polytechnic’s website (that were likely written by the same interviewers asking the questions)
Depending on how competitive the course is (number of applicants VS number of vacancies), that typical process can actually be enough. My students have told me that they have friends who just walk into the interview emptyhanded and still end up clearing the interview. I have a suspicion that their friends are not sharing the whole truth, but let’s give them the benefit of the doubt.
Going in emptyhanded will most likely be insufficient for the competitive / popular courses. Not only will you want to be prepared for your EAE, but you are going to want to stand out as well.
Using that common process as a guide, there are two main areas we can focus on.
They key idea here is to stand out by doing better.
Most students will have a single portfolio containing the following:
- School Awards
- Teacher’s Testimonial
- CCA Transcript
It is what most teachers will recommend students to prepare, so that is what most students will focus on.
What I recommend is to prepare two different portfolios containing the following:
- School Awards
- Teacher’s Testimonial
- CCA Transcript
Relevant Work Portfolio
- Anything that is relevant to the course you are applying for
When my student leader President went for her EAE interview, the interviewer told her not to waste his time with the school stuff and just show him what was relevant. So because we prepared two portfolios, all she had to do was put away the School Portfolio and present the Relevant Work Portfolio.
Now not all interviewers are going to be that blunt or have that opinion. Some interviewers will emphasize greatly on the School Portfolio still, but based on experience the Relevant Work Portfolio tends to be more important.
Let me explain why the School Portfolio is less important.
These are awards given out within your school. Any school can come up with their own awards and criteria to determine who should receive it. In other words, there is no standardized benchmark between all the different awards from all the different schools.
You will not have the time to explain and convince the interviewers about how amazing your school award is, therefore they are not going to be amazed by it.
Your teachers are really, really busy. Most of them will not have the time to write a personalized testimonial for you, especially if you are an average student (no leadership positions). Many of them may not even know you that well outside of the subject that they teach you in. In other words, one student’s testimonial is going to look a lot like another student’s testimonial – even if they are from different schools.
At the very least, what a testimonial is good for is indicate to the interviewer that you are at least decent enough that a teacher is willing to write something for you. Because no teacher is going to write anything even remotely negative in the testimonial. It is useful but it is not as useful as you might think it is.
How useful this transcript is depends entirely on how relevant your CCA is to the course you are applying for. If you are in Floorball applying for Biomedical Science, your CCA transcript is not going to do much beyond signalling to the interviewer that you have a CCA.
Even if you are number one in nationals, how useful do you really think it will be for an irrelevant course?
In other words, your School Portfolio is a basic requirement. You need it because everyone else has one, but at the same time because everyone else has one, it is not that useful.
This is where your Relevant Work Portfolio comes in.
Relevant work tells the interviewers how interested you are in the course. Let’s say you are applying for a course in the School of Applied Science. Your portfolio is filled with pictures of science experiments you’ve done at home and competitions that you’ve taken part in. That shows the interviewers that you really are interested in science.
Even if every single experiment in your portfolio failed to produce the expected results, and you lost in every single competition you took part in, it is still significantly better than just a School Portfolio.
Because as a student, they are not expecting something incredible. They are not a company looking to hire a professional who can do the job well. They are a school looking for a student who they can teach. And a student who is still interested enough to conduct experiment after experiment is someone who they can teach.
If you have a strong Relevant Work Portfolio, you will effectively stand out from most of the other students taking part in the EAE exercise.
If you need help figuring out what your passion is, I have an article here that talks about that.
When I help my students prepare for their EAE application, I always make sure that they read beyond what is on the polytechnic’s website about the course they are applying for. This is the biggest saving grace that students without a Relevant Work Portfolio can rely on.
The interview is not just about the course.
The course is just the tip of the iceberg that you can see on the surface of the water.
The rest of the massive iceberg underneath the water is the industry that the course is directly tied to.
Every polytechnic course is tied to a specific industry. The whole purpose of a polytechnic is to equip you with the skills and qualifications to join the workforce in the future and contribute to the nation’s economy.
Poly lecturers are professionals from the industry who join the polytechnic either full-time or part-time to basically teach you how to work in the industry.
The questions they ask during the interview is relevant to the course, but it would be more accurate to say that the questions they ask is relevant to the industry.
Therefore the more you know about the industry the better. What you are going to find on the course website is insufficient. The lecturers themselves probably wrote it, so regurgitating what they wrote when they ask you questions is not going to impress them.
I shared how you can go about researching the industry of the course you are applying for in my article to help those without a Relevant Work Portfolio. For those of you who have a Relevant Work Portfolio, you will likely already know a lot about the industry because of all the time you’ve spent doing things (portfolio) relevant to it. But read it anyway to make sure you stay ahead of your competition.
To give you an example, using my student whose write-up I used for the EAE Write-Up article, her course of choice was Accountancy & Finance.
During her interview, the course lecturer asked, “What do you think are the challenges that our industry will face in the future?”
It was one of the questions that she researched on, so she was able to talk about automation and artificial intelligence taking over many of the things that an accountant performs. And she even went on to explain that this doesn’t mean accountants would be replaced, but that accountants could then focus on other more complex tasks that automation cannot perform.
Needless to say she managed to stand out and impress the interviewers.
I can’t recall any of my students failing their EAE if they had a strong Relevant Work Portfolio and did sufficient research. Just make so you do more than the average student. It might be too late for you to build a Relevant Work Portfolio, but you can definitely research the industry properly still.
All the best!