This is the time of year when students in their senior year of high school conduct their search for possible Universities. A University Guidance Counselor once told me that choosing a University is like getting married – it’s a decision which sticks with you for the rest of your life. Every year a new bunch of high school students are faced with this difficult decision. Juggling schoolwork with University applications, coursework with University essays can cause significant stress.
For international students, there is the additional burden of deciding on what country to shortlist. In my school year, the list of countries shortlisted by students includes the US, the UK, Japan, Canada, Australia, South Africa and Korea.
It’s easier for me than for some; I’m only applying to schools in the United States and the United Kingdom. Once the shortlist of countries is made, students begin looking at which Universities to apply to. At Dulwich, the maximum possible number of university applications is 10, because of the restrictions in both the UC and UCAS systems .
Because of the additional essays and exams usually involved, applying to Oxbridge or Ivy League Schools is a longer-term effort. (Keep in mind when applying to Oxbridge, you must choose either Oxford or Cambridge and are not allowed to apply to both).
This month I am applying to my chosen universities. The Oxford Deadline was earlier this week, on 15 October, and the general UCAS deadline will be on 15 January 2014.
In order to prepare for these decisions, I devoted a week to Open Days in the UK this summer. I went to visit The University of Oxford, The University of Edinburgh, London School of Economics and Political Sciences (LSE), and King’s College London.
Open days are extremely useful, for finding out additional details that you wouldn’t discover otherwise. At open days, there are university tours, college tours, subject talks and even international student talks.
At the Oxford Open Day I went to a talk on Philosophy Politics and Economics, usually abbreviated to PPE, which is the course of study I hope to pursue. I also went on four College tours. The subject talks are designed to expose students to the reality of the course – the difficulty, the consistent effort required, the need to read extensively and to focus on exams. Although they may paint a daunting picture of university life, when students must step into uncharted territory, these talks are necessary because they give prospective students an accurate idea of what is to come. The College tours, given by actual students, reminded me that it isn’t just 24/7 workaholics who are accepted but normal people too.
In Edinburgh, there was no Open Day scheduled while I was there, but the admissions staff kindly arranged for me to attend a talk aimed at International students. The talk outlined several reassuring factors in Edinburgh’s favor: Scotland isn’t too expensive, the people in Scotland are very kind, and although the school is top ranking it does not have the grade requirements of Oxbridge.
At the end of my trip, I went to London, and attended the LSE and King’s College Open Days. Compared with Oxbridge and Edinburgh, London is very expensive. Having attended the LSE Open Day I decided not to apply there because they don’t offer a course which matches to my preferred area of study. When applying to the UK, you must settle on the course of study before choosing the school and they prefer students with fewer and more focused course options.
I visited King’s College on the same day. University campuses in London are generally split up across various buildings around the city. So although London has a world class public transport system, it may take some time to navigate and travel between classes. King’s College reminded me of an American School – they seem to focus on a sense of community and College experience more than any other school I went to in the UK.
Every University that I visited is highly competitive and they needn’t be the universal picks for all students. I chose this selection in the UK because I’m planning to keep all my safety schools in the US.
I wish you all well in your University application process and remember not to leave it too late.
Michelle Jong is a 16-year-old Year 12 student at Dulwich College Beijing and has been attending Dulwich since Year 4. From China and the US, she has been living in Beijing her entire life. Her favorite subjects are English, History and Economics.
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Photos courtesy of geograph.org.uk and wikimedia