Spring at TAS: From the University Counselor’s Desk
By Ms. Karen Jacobi – College & Guidance Counselor
Spring is an exciting time for graduating seniors and their parents as they prepare for the future. As the College and University Guidance Counselor at The American School, it is also an exciting time for me because I’ve been along on the journey to help them find the right school. Because this is a process, it is important that students begin the journey in grade 10 or 11. It can feel like a long road, sometimes with detours and an occasional road block. Careful planning is important because these decisions can affect the rest of their lives.
Most TAS students apply to colleges and universities in the US and Canada. A handful of students apply to Australian universities. There are many things to consider and I use a questionnaire to help students determine what is most important. The questions that they rank in order of importance are:
_____ Region (Where in the world do I want to be?) __________________________________
_____ Major (Area of study) ______________________________________________________
_____ Big City – urban
_____ College Town – cozy
_____ Finances and Scholarships
_____ Size (smaller schools give more personal attention; large schools may offer more options)
_____ Diversity (are there many types of students from a range of backgrounds?)
_____ Culture (this relates to issues of religion, politics – liberal or conservative)
_____ Sports ________________________________ Play or just a sports fan?
_____ Live on Campus
An excellent website to help students discover college majors, career options and university programs is https://bigfuture.collegeboard.org/ .
Once students have an idea of what and where to study, it’s time to think about the admission requirements. Each school has their own requirements, but testing is usually a part of the application. SAT or ACT exams are designed to measure student skills and readiness for college level work. There are many “test optional” schools that do not require the SAT or ACT; however, merit scholarships are strongly influenced by these test scores. Because of the financial gain associated with these tests, it is a good idea for students to take their first SAT exam in the spring of their junior year. Many students opt to take the exam more than once in order to improve their score and increase scholarship opportunities. As of March 22, 2018, the merit scholarships awarded to the 20 members of the TAS 2018 graduating class is close to 1,000,000. USD.
Students will also need to take an English proficiency exam for admission to overseas universities. The IELTS, TOEFL and Pearson Test of English or PTE are the most widely recognized. Once again, individual schools have their own requirements.
Test scores are an important component in college admissions, but scores are just one piece of the puzzle. Written essays and life experiences give admissions counselors a better idea of who you are and what kind of college student you will be. Get involved in school activities such as sports teams, drama productions, academic and artistic competitions – whatever suits your interests. Look for volunteer opportunities so that you grow through the experience of making a positive difference in the lives of others. It is recommended that students create a resume, or summary, of their academic and volunteer accomplishments from grade 9 – 12. A resume will also help teachers and counselors to write a better letter of recommendation for you. A college essay and recommendation letters are usually part of the application. Tips on writing essays:
· Don’t simply repeat the accomplishments on your resume. Admissions counselors already have that information.
· Carefully read the prompt and answer in your own voice.
· Be specific. Focus on one event, person or activity and explain what it means to you. Take your time, you can learn a lot about yourself in the process.
· Proofread, proofread and proofread again. Ask a teacher or counselor for feedback.
Once students have completed the application process, decided on a college or university and accepted an offer, it is time to begin the visa application process. An acceptance letter from the college or university will be the first step in obtaining a student visa. Next, you will apply online or in person at the consulate, pay the service fee and collect all necessary documents including bank statements and school transcripts. Scheduling an interview is the final step. Interviewers will want to know that you are a serious student, have the necessary English skills to be successful and that, at the end of your visa period, you plan to return to your home country. Consulate representatives want you to study in their country; remember, they are not there to turn you away but to accept you. If you are nervous about the interview process, practice with a teacher, friend or counselor.
Counseling students on each step of the way toward reaching their goals is rewarding and getting to know students and their future ambitions is the most enjoyable part of my job.