“College today represents the second largest expense for most families, second only to a home purchase. This is a very significant investment, and you should be looking at it as an investment and spending time on it.”
- Steven Cohen, “Getting in”
Things to focus on:
- Academic performance
- Standardised tests
- Extra-curricular activities
- Writing the essay
Is your family considering an education abroad for your child after high school? Applying to a college overseas demands a lot of planning and preparation. For one, the application process is more complicated. Second, colleges, especially those in the USA, evaluate an applicant’s academic, as well as non-academic potential. Almost all colleges take into account the performance of the student through high school (from ninth to twelfth grade) and not just the final board exam marks. Suddenly, it is time for your teenager to step up to base and make decisions for himself, and there are not too many places you can turn to for guidance. The number of things to be done may seem overwhelming at first. But an early start and good planning can instil the much needed confidence and prepare him well for the time when he leaves your home to begin a new chapter in his life.
Earlier issues of ParentEdge explored the variety of colleges abroad – both big brand schools and less well known, though equally good, schools. In this feature, the first of a two part series, we attempt to scope out what is involved in the preparation process and delve into the details.
Colleges abroad have a long list of requirements, so it is a good idea to begin preparations early. It takes about three and a half years from start to finish, with the momentum building up towards the end. We therefore recommend that the application process be started in the ninth grade, so that there is enough time to explore all options.
Things to Consider
Before we get down to the brass tacks, here are some points you should remember:
- Schools abroad review an applicant on several facets of his career in high school. They are also looking for consistency and demonstration of continuous activity and initiative rather than one-time, flash-in-the-pan approaches. Think marathon race rather than short-distance sprint here. That is why we recommend starting the process early, ideally in grade 9, and stepping up the effort towards grade 11 and the first half of grade 12.
- While foreign universities consider an applicant’s performance across different nonacademic areas, they do accord importance to academics. Colleges in the UK and Singapore focus strongly on grades and while US colleges look at other aspects of the student’s performance in addition to grades, grades matter here too. The student must show consistent academic performance through out his school career.
- Now is the time for your child to quit dabbling in several activities and focus on a few extracurricular interests. Colleges want to see passion and commitment; advise your child to be the master of some rather than the jack of all trades. It is important to show ability in these activities too – see that your child demonstrates outcomes, and look for ways to showcase his sustained interest in these. It is not advisable to start a new activity in the 10th or 11th grade; rather, let him build on something he has been interested in since middle school.