Preparing for university is a complicated affair for high school students. Many of them take on extracurricular activities and enriched classes to improve their chances of landing a spot at a top university, while others focus on finding the best fit for themselves. No matter the case, teens face a host of uncertainties as they gear up for one of the most important periods of their lives. beijingkids spoke with four Beijing City International School students, as they shared their thoughts on what is expected of them in high school and the knowledge they hope to gain in their university years.
Thilo Braun, 17, Germany, has been living in Beijing for six years
Anthea Low, 16, Malaysia, has been living in Beijing for five years
Ashley Biack, 15, Cameroon, has been living in Beijing for five years
Jing Hao, 17, China, has been living in Beijing for 10 years
In high school, do you feel there’s a lot of pressure to get into a good university?
Anthea: It depends on what kind of university you want to get into. [There’s more pressure for the ones that are] high in rankings, especially for overachievers.
Jing: I’m going to the US. Hopefully [I’ll] get into the Huntsman Program at the University of Pennsylvania. My parents don’t pressure me, but I care.
Ashley: Do I feel pressured to go to university? Yeah, because my parents want a good future for me. They want me to do my best at school and succeed in life.
Thilo: The pressure you feel here is a lot less than you’d find at other places. Classmates who [went]from the local system into an international school have said that their parents are more lenient here than they would’ve been [in the Chinese schools].
In a way, I’m similar to Jing, because I’m putting more pressure on myself to get into good universities. But at the same time, I have pressure coming from my parents going the opposite way: to get into a cheap university somewhere in Europe and then doing a master’s later on.
In what ways has high school prepared you for university?
Anthea: I think it’s more how [the IB program]has prepared us for university.
Ashley: That’s the better question, I think, because IB has really high standards. Apparently what we’re learning in biology now is first year university stuff. It definitely gets you to work harder and to develop a sense of overachievement, because you have to be the best in this system. You have to.
Thilo: You also need to move away from IB and look at what the school itself does. [With] things such as extracurriculars, there are different leadership opportunities. And also, the [aid]that [BCIS] gives us here in finding a university is very helpful.
What are some of the things you’re doing to prepare for university?
Anthea: Extracurricular activities.
Jing: Study, study, study – extracurricular – study, study, study.
Ashley: Our grade [Grade 11] is where you establish yourself for what you want to do in the future. So it depends on what kind of extracurricular activities you do and what you concentrate on in your studies.
Jing: They say there’s a triangle between social life, academic achievement, and rest – and you can only choose two.
Do you get time to enjoy life?
Anthea: The holidays.
Thilo: It depends on your focus. Some people just procrastinate all the time, and if you procrastinate, of course you’re not going to be able to do [everything you want to do]. If you stay focused and actually do your work, then IB’s not that bad.
Anthea: It goes back to your university choice. If you just want to get into college, get a degree, and work afterwards, it doesn’t matter to you if you’re the best or not. But for people who want to get into a good university and possibly a scholarship, they will try to achieve high grades while doing lots of extracurriculars to build their resumes.
Jing: You only need 24 points to pass the IB. But alumni say, if you don’t have at least a 39 or 40 predicted grade [out of 42], don’t even think about applying to an Ivy League.
What do you look forward to the most about university?
Anthea: Part-time work. I’ve heard my mom talk a lot about how she used to work: checking stuff in and out of the shop, and cleaning the cafeteria. Studying and getting work experience at the same time – I find that quite interesting.
Ashley: I’m the complete opposite. My mom has started to prepare me for being independent. I do the dishes [and]clean the house. I hate it right now, but I’m sure it’s going to be very beneficial when I go to university.
Jing: If you graduated from Harvard, you would be recognized and acknowledged as a Harvard graduate. The ranking doesn’t show the full picture, but it defines the person in some ways. Therefore, what I’m anticipating is how [university]prepares me for the future: the onnection, the achievement, the status, all that.
Thilo: I’m going to disagree with Anthea and Jing, and go more with what Ashley said. I’m a senior here, and I’ve become more independent. For example, our common room is completely run by the students and we’re assigned to clean up after ourselves. I don’t think it’s that much about your academics, [but]more about what you actually learn for later [in]life.
What are you most worried about when it comes to university?
Jing: Getting a scholarship.
Anthea: Well firstly, getting into a college, and then how you manage living independently.
Thilo: I think both of those are the least of my worries. My parents are out of the country quite a lot, so half the time I’m living by myself. I [am not worried]about the actual academics, but more about making the right choices and going to a college that makes me happy.
Anthea: After all, they always say you can’t always get into the best university, just the one that fits you.
Ashley: Sometimes, I regret a few of my choices. Like at first, I chose history, and then I switched to art. I wasn’t sure what to do, so […] it’s worrying to know that you could’ve done the other thing better.