APPLYING TO UNIVERSITIES ACROSS THE GLOBE
STUDENTS AT ACS INTERNATIONAL SCHOOLS, WHICH HAS THREE CAMPUSES IN THE UK AND ONE IN DOHA, GRADUATE TO UNIVERSITIES ACROSS THE GLOBE. LAST YEAR’S COHORT WILL NOW BE STARTING THEIR FRESHER YEAR AT HIGHER EDUCATION ESTABLISHMENTS IN QATAR, AS WELL AS ARGENTINA, AUSTRALIA, CANADA, JAPAN, THE NETHERLANDS, RUSSIA, SPAIN, THE UK AND THE US, TO NAME JUST A FEW.
Research conducted by ACS International Schools into the future pathways of its alumni revealed that almost all respondents felt that their international education had prepared them well for higher education:
“My academic time at ACS was the best possible launching pad for my future academic career. By the time I left ACS, I was so significantly further ahead, it put me at the forefront of consideration with every college and university I applied to.”
“The education that I received at ACS prepared me to excel in my academic pursuits in high school and university. The small class sizes and engaged faculty provided an environment that fostered my learning beyond most educational institutions.”
International schools are highly experienced in helping students apply to universities around the world and foster an environment where it is routine to consider global choices. At ACS, students aged 16 to 18 are supported by the school’s dedicated ‘university and college counsellors’, whose role is specifically to support students with their study skills and university applications. Many of the school’s counsellors have lived and worked in other countries, and most have worked within a university. Here are some of their insights students could consider when applying to universities around the world.
What are top universities looking for?
Top universities are looking for students to demonstrate key attributes such as an ability to think and work independently, a real passion for their chosen subject, and a positive attitude towards study. Research conducted by ACS amongst UK university admissions officers revealed these traits are undoubtedly universal, but there are also some important differences in what universities in different countries look for. American universities, for example, really value an entrepreneurial mindset and an ability to work well in groups. Yet, most importantly, it is imperative that students think first about their own needs and learning styles when choosing a university.
Shortlisting potential universities
When shortlisting potential universities, students should first find out how courses and modules are delivered and whether it will suit their learning style. For instance, some universities deliver all their learning through lectures to 300 - 400 students, while others will opt for tutorials in small groups. Universities also differ in the number of contact hours each student receives with the teaching staff during a week, and some students might value individual attention more than general lectures.
Once students have identified whether a university fits their learning style, there are other practicalities to take into consideration, e.g., how big is the campus? Extroverts may thrive in a large university while introverts might prefer a smaller campus setting. Are the right courses offered in the appropriate language? An increasing number of European universities offer all their courses in English, such as the leading Dutch universities, while many science and medical courses in Eastern Europe are offered in English.
Geography should also be taken into account; it might be important for some students to have quick access to family and friends and for some, even the weather might make a difference. Some people will like the extreme winter weather experienced in Boston, for example, while others will prefer to know that they will be studying in the year-round sunshine of the Gulf.
Reflecting on what students wish to gain from their time at university is essential as this will change depending on the university and country. Most US universities will guarantee accommodation on campus for every year of study, but students are expected to immerse themselves fully in college life. Contrast this with Qatar and many universities in European cities where a more ‘open’, less intense campus experience is experienced. Similarly, if students do not yet have a clear idea of a career path or profession, they may prefer higher education in a country that encourages a trial of different subjects before committing fully.
Once students have done their shortlisting, it is time to consider the application process. Few countries offer a centralised system like the UK University and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS), so it is important to check how university admissions work for each country.
In the US, France, Germany and Spain candidates apply to each university individually and could, in theory, apply to as many universities as they wish. Ideally, applicants should narrow down their choices to around six universities. It’s also important to be aware that the application cycle has shifted in countries such as Australia and Japan where the academic year starts in January.
In the US, because applications are decentralised, most schools advise their students to submit their applications by November, and regular offers are made in January or February. The decision deadline in the US when you must commit to a university is typically May 1, when your deposit for accommodation and tuition fees for the following year is required