Admission Season: Pitfalls to avoid when applying to public schools

Every year, the number of students applying to tertiary institutions increases by at least five hundred thousand. High school seniors make up a majority of applicants, while others are adults seeking a second degree and unsuccessful applicants from previous years. The Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examinations (UTME) registers an average of 1.5 million candidates applying to various tertiary institutions such as universities, polytechnics, colleges of educations and mono-technics every year. There was an increase in the number of UTME candidates from 1.4 million in 2015 to 1.7 million in 2017.

Universities across the federation receive more applications than any other tertiary institution. According to the National Universities Commission (NUC), there are 43 Federal Universities, 47 State Universities and 75 Private Universities, making a total of 165 universities in Nigeria. Despite this array of choices, a handful of universities still receive thousands of applications more than others. As at 2018, the 5 most sought after universities were University of Ilorin (UNILORIN), Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), University of Benin (UNIBEN), University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN) and University of Lagos (UNILAG). Every year, these institutions receive no less than 60,000 applications each while having an average of 10,000 admission slots. This leaves thousands of applicants disappointed every year.

As a result of the thousands of entries universities receive, the selection process becomes unnecessarily difficult because these institutions look for every means to get rid of the excess flow of candidates. These may vary from expensive post-UTME forms to ridiculously high cut-off marks. The admission process into public universities is quite a competitive one, with everyone striving to beat the UTME cut-off marks of 200 and high post-UTME cut-off marks.

There are numerous pitfalls any admission seeking individual should avoid, so as to guarantee a place in the university and one of such pitfalls is subject combination error. Every course studied in the university requires that the student have a basic knowledge of subjects that are relevant to that field. This means that any student who wants to obtain a degree in the sciences will have to have taken science-related subjects in high school, such as physics, chemistry, biology, etc. Anyone applying should know the subject combination required for that course in the particular university he/she is applying to. This is important because some universities recognise only Physics, Chemistry, Further Maths and Biology as the major science subjects while other universities accept Agricultural Science and Health Science as science subjects. For example, in applying for Chemical Engineering, UNILAG accepts only a subject combination of Maths, English, Physics, Chemistry and Further Maths (with credit passes in WASSCE/GCE/NECO) while UNILORIN accepts Agricultural Science in lieu of Biology.


Another common pitfall is wrong school selection. The UTME form gives candidates the choice of selecting four tertiary institutions in the order of first choice to fourth choice. Some universities such as OAU and  UNILAG only accept applications where they are listed as the first choice while some other federal universities do not mind being second choice. It is therefore important that one finds out which category the institution he/she is applying to falls under, so as to avoid mistakes.


Result combination is third on this list of pitfalls to note. The term ‘two-sittings’ is commonly used in the admission process, it simply means the combination of two results. This situation arises when a candidate happens to fail a core subject like Maths in GCE but passes that core subject in NECO while failing English. These two results are useless separately, however when combined, they are a complete set. This method puts candidates at a disadvantage because it is unacceptable in some universities, especially when applying for courses in the college of medicine of any federal school. It also limits the candidate’s options as the courses that accept two-sitting results are not really competitive ones. In fact, top universities use this as an elimination method when selecting candidates eligible for post-UTME examination. Therefore, if you happen to have such a result, it is important to know the universities that accept it before filling that UTME form.  


With UTME registrations for 2019 having commenced, applicants need to be logical and cautious when choosing institutions and courses to apply to, so as not to end up disappointed. It is advisable that applicants consult the JAMB brochure for any information needed concerning the admission process and requirements for tertiary institutions. With these pitfalls in mind, anyone can navigate through the admission process, avoid mistakes and successfully secure a place in the university.   


Article written by Ajibade Adebanke

      (Content writer at

Posted On: 11 February, 2019