the thousands of choices through an effective plan
international schools in Budapest are back into rhythm after the summer break,
but college application deadlines are now looming. By making an early and organised start,
parents can help their teens to navigate this intimidating process.
that the student has options is the key, college counsellor at the American
International School of Budapest (AISB) David Spencer said.
“One of the
most important things for families to think about with regards to tertiary
education is that it is a massive marketplace,” said Spencer. “Parents and
students have to understand who they are as consumers and be realistic in their
assessment of which universities are the best fit for a student’s interests and
advises his students to divide their list of university choices into three
categories: “safety” schools, where the student’s grades and test scores are at
the top of the school’s required range; “target” schools, where the student’s
statistics fit comfortably within the school’s range, and “reach” schools,
where acceptance is uncertain based on their academic profile, but perhaps the
student has something special to offer the university that would weigh in
favour of admittance, such as a talent in art, music or sports, fluency in several
foreign languages, or even just interesting life experiences.
process) is all about promoting self-awareness so that students understand who
they are and what is realistic for them. Applying to university should be an affirming experience, Spencer
believes, not one that destroys a student’s self-esteem, as can happen if
students are unrealistic in their expectations.
“In my past
experience, I have seen a student turned down by 17 schools and accepted by
only one and she was devastated,” says Spencer. “Come April, we want our
students to be able to choose from at least two or three schools.”
per cent of AISB’s graduates go on to attend university in the
and 30% in their home countries throughout Europe and
Ten percent attend university in
cent do mandatory military service or a gap year.
British International School of Budapest, students are also encouraged to
develop a clear understanding of their skills and abilities.
students do the
test, part of UCAS, before starting their applications and there are other
computer programs, such as Centigrade, which follow a similar format,” said
Rachel Batty, IB Coordinator at the British International School of Budapest
(BISB). “Students answer a range of questions and the programs suggest courses
that may suit their interests and abilities. They can then research these
courses on the various university websites.”
At BISB a
team of IB tutors give career and university advice to students and support
them throughout the application process.
are guided through the online UCAS application form and given advice on how to
write personal statements,” said Batty. “The personal tutor also writes a
letter of recommendation for the students. In addition, we take students to
visiting career fairs and invite regular guest speakers from universities to
talk to the students in IB about university life and making applications, he
explained. “Next Monday, for example, a representative from the University of
the Arts in
is coming to the school to talk to a group of Year 11 and 12 students.”
majority of students at the
return to their home countries.
An action plan
step in compiling a list of colleges that meet the student’s skill set and the
family’s criteria is to identify the location. For students who will be
attending university in their home country, province or state, deciding on a
geographical location is simple. But expatriate students with intinerant
families and flexible degrees, such as the International Baccalaureate, have
many more options.
preferences to be considered are the size of the school, the strength and
design of the academic programme, the fields of study offered, and the campus
life. The size of the student body will determine the range of academic majors
offered, the amount of extracurricular activities and the amount of personal
attention students will receive.
private colleges have lower faculty to student ratios, good student advice
offices and internship programmes, and a strong sense of community, but may
have more limited resources as well as fewer fields of study, sports, social,
and extracurricular activities.
public universities in major urban centres offer a wide variety of courses and
majors, research opportunities, well-funded sports programmes, a wide range of
social and recreational activities and more a more diverse culture, but
students are left to their own resources and there is little interaction
between teachers and students. Other criteria include retention and graduation
rates and, of course, cost.
student has drawn up a shortlist of six to ten colleges by reading course
materials, conducting web searches and exploring websites, as well as
communicating with admissions officers, current students and perhaps even
alumni, it is advisable to visit the colleges, especially when a student will
be attending an institution far from
their home. Visits to as many colleges as possible can be extremely valuable in
determining which schools will meet the student’s needs and expectations, and
in this way a student can further refine their list.
process takes time, of course, which is why students in their junior year (Year
the British education system) should already be engaged in their
self-evaluation and college search.
The final stretch
hurdle in the race to win those college admittance letters is to fulfill all of
the entrance requirements of the chosen universities, complete the
applications, and apply for financial aid: the latter process is
time-consuming, but diligence can pay off. Online services such as CollegeBoard
and EducationUK offer scholarship searches and advice to help students identify
aid opportunities. CollegeBoard reports that there is nearly USD 3 billion
financial aid available to students entering US universities.
For more information,