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September 29, 2010

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Seniors set sights on university

WHILE many high school seniors are now scrambling to select which colleges to apply to, Natasha Weaser, a 13th-grade student from Yew Chung International School Shanghai, used her summer to finalize a list of institutions she wants to attend.

"Initially, the hardest part for me was to choose a country or the countries I would apply to," Weaser says. "Because of my multiracial background and experience living and traveling abroad, I think I could attend a college almost anywhere."

Weaser decided last year to apply to schools in the United States due to its liberal arts focus and a myriad of research and internship opportunities.

Part of her summer holiday was spent visiting colleges with a family member and a friend.

"Visiting schools has been an integral part of the search process and it helped me narrow my choices down," says Weaser. "My parents have also been very supportive and allow me to make my own decisions. It has been incredibly helpful."

Many students feel overwhelmed when they try to choose the best university or program for them. The process normally begins at the end of year 11 when they choose the subjects they will continue to study in years 12 and 13.

Karel DeCock, a university guidance counsellor at YCIS Shangahi, says students can stay on top of university applications with a bit of discipline.

"It is common to feel overwhelmed, but the key is to treat the university process as another class in your schedule," says DeCock.

He encourages students to set aside time to do all the research, then gather important information in a central and accessible location.

"Keep a journal, create an Excel document and designate a folder just for university-related material," DeCock says. "Just don't forget to keep an open mind to colleges that meet your needs."

To extend YCIS Shanghai's goal of providing a global education, University Guidance Counsellor Adam Neufield invites colleges from around the world to present information sessions and meet students.

"I encourage students to consider universities that provide multiple world views and are not necessarily located in traditionally popular college destinations," Neufield says.

"New and interesting options are always cropping up. For example, New York University's Abu Dhabi Campus is an excellent choice for students who want a strong education while experiencing life in one of the world's highly touted economies."

His advice is evidently paying off; students from YCIS Shanghai's Class of 2010 have ventured beyond popular choices such as the United States and United Kingdom to study in Switzerland, India, France, Malaysia and Japan.

At Dulwich College Shanghai, most of its 2010 graduating students have been offered their first choice of university. Sarah Hobbs, university and careers guidance counselor at Dulwich, says degree courses in the UK, Singapore, Australia and many more countries require students to pick a subject (or combination of subjects) to study at university level.

While some degree subjects have entrance requirements - for example, chemistry is more useful for hopeful medical school students - many undergraduate programs in the US and some in Canada and Japan have less definite subject requirements.

"Whether the student is targeting a US or a course-specific type of university, there are many services that the University Careers Service here at Dulwich offers to help our students," Hobbs says. "Pick a course that suits your interests and abilities. Stay honest to yourself. Prepare well for interviews. Get used to 'chatting' about your ambitions and produce a one-page resume."

Greer Bevel, college counselor at the Shanghai Community International School's Hongqiao Campus, says students should keep their grade point average on a constant upward trend. "This is especially important for the grade 11 and even more so in the first semester of Grade 12."

Bevel also advises that at least two academic advisors (teachers or counselors) should proofread and guide the writing of university essays and personal statements. As with any writing process, many revisions are needed until a strong, final essay can be submitted to a university.

"Students at international schools are typically conversant in more than one language; possess an instinctive understanding that the world lends itself to multiple reading. Universities seeking to promote internationalism will actively recruit such students," says Dr Luis Murillo, the school's Pudong Campus College counselor.

"It makes sense, therefore, to underscore in the personal statement the rich variety of multicultural experiences that make your application special, and highly attractive compared to someone who stayed at home," he says.


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