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Jul 052017
 

IB Subject Circle

This is the time of year when many students preparing to start the International Baccalaureate diploma program (IBDP) next fall choose the subjects they will study. Solving this puzzle in a satisfactory way involves considering many different constraints, from:

  • the precise mix of subjects required to complete the IB diploma,
  • to what subjects you enjoy most,
  • to what options are available in which time slots at your school,
  • to what workload you can maintain,
  • to what career you think you want to pursue.

In addition, to keep options open for university choices later, you need to be aware of the IB requirements at universities where you might want to apply. Start by investigating the general IB requirements of universities in each country under consideration. The general IB recognition policies are listed by country on the IBO website.

Switzerland

Swiss universities accept the IB diploma if the student has chosen from a prescribed set of subjects and achieves certain marks. For example, no matter what course you choose to study, Math Studies is not accepted by Swiss universities, and the same is true in Germany.

UK, Europe, and Canada

Many bachelor courses in the UK, Europe, and Canada require students to have studied certain subjects at an advanced level. For example, the entrance requirements for a chemistry course in one UK university might require a 6 in HL Chemistry and a 5 in HL Maths or another physical science.

For specific entrance requirements, google the name of the university you are interested in along with “admissions requirements” and “international baccalaureate.” Or, for UK universities, search by course and university on the UCAS website. Most universities around the world have both their general IB requirements and any specific course requirements listed on their website as, for example, does McGill University in Canada.

United States

In general, US colleges and universities are less concerned about which subjects you take for the IB and pay more attention to how well you do throughout the diploma program. Key exceptions are when applying to highly competitive universities or to study engineering or business.

  • The “top” universities in the US look for students taking the “most rigorous” curriculum and might not, for example, consider taking Sports Exercise and Health Science as rigorous as taking Biology, Chemistry, or Physics.
  • Some Engineering departments will expect you to have taken HL Math and HL Physics or Chemistry.
  • The most selective business schools also require very strong quantitative skills so pay close attention to which math course you took and what grades you achieved.

Students who intend to major in science will be better prepared if they have taken one of Biology, Chemistry, or Physics at H/L and, depending on the science, Mathematics at H/L. However, since many US institutions do not require a student to declare their major until the middle or end of the second year, students generally have a fair amount of flexibility to explore different subject areas and compensate for gaps in their earlier academic preparation.

If you have questions about IB course selections and university options, please leave a comment below or contact me directly.

____________

**  The Russell Group’s Informed Choices guide says the following about applying advice about A-Levels to IB choice selection:

The guidance provided in relation to subject requirements shows which degree courses are likely to require an advanced level qualification in a certain subject. For IB applicants this guidance can be used to identify the degree courses most likely to require you to have studied a certain subject at the higher level within the IB.

 

Jan 092017
 

flags-pixabay-1657912_640The Public Affairs Section of the United States Embassy in Bern is pleased to announce the exceptional opportunity to participate in the 2017 Transatlantic Summer Institute Institute in June – July 2017 (exact dates will be announced later).  All costs will be paid for, deadline for application is February 20, 2017.

The Summer Institutes will enable 1 teenager from Switzerland, aged 16-18, to participate in an intensive, four-week exchange program in the United States alongside participants in the program from the U.S. and a wide range of other countries. The program focuses on the global issues that both European and American youth face, through interactive activities, practical experiences, and other hands-on opportunities.

Among other requirements, the student must be a Swiss national and have had little or no prior U.S. study or travel experience in the United States. Full information about the program and the application process are found on the United States Embassy website.

Sep 132016
 

time-488112_640 Pixabay

Tired of nagging your student about university applications for Fall 2017?  Does their process seems disorganized and deadlines unclear? Concerned that their university list isn’t right?

A professional assessment from an objective third party prevents last minute surprises while providing one-on-one guidance through a University Plan Review:
  1. Student and parents provide copies of school reports, predicted grades (if available), any standardized test results, and drafts of personal statements and essays. They then complete questionnaires about their preferences, needs, background, and any courses and institutions where the student plans to apply.
  2. After reviewing this information and research as necessary, the student, parents, and I meet to discuss how the plan meshes with the student’s stated goals and academic qualifications, focusing on the context of the universities under consideration and their application requirements.
  3. After the meeting, I follow up with a detailed, written list of action items and recommendations, and discuss and answer questions as needed.
Your student then has a customized to do list and clear guidance for what needs to be done when, but additional help can be arranged as necessary. There is space in my practice for a few more Year 13 students applying to university for Fall 2017. Services are tailored to supplement the help students receive at school and plug holes in their process…before there is a crisis. Contact me for more information.

No solid draft of personal statement or essays for the UK, US, or elsewhere? Application writing tasks take a lot of time, especially for the US. If your student seems stuck, consider Personal Statement/Essay Support:
  1. Students fill out a questionnaire about their background and goals, where they plan to apply, and send that to me along with copies of school reports, predicted grades (if available), and a writing sample.
  2. Student completes an exercise to collect ideas and outline their personal statement.
  3. After reviewing this information along with any drafts the student might have, we meet to discuss and brainstorm content where it is lacking.
  4. The student prepares a draft of their personal statement and sends it to me for review and critique.
  5. The draft goes through several rounds of review and revision.
After this process, your student will have a solid personal statement that strongly supports their application to the courses or programs where they plan to apply.

If you would like more information or have questions, contact me and we’ll arrange a time to discuss your student’s situation.
Sep 092016
 

Did you know that the biggest mistake students and families make when planning for university is not starting the process early enough? For students planning  to start university in Fall of 2018, it is time to start the process now.Even students a year younger benefit by starting early on the five tasks listed below. Next summer offers many opportunities to get ahead of the game, but only with advance planning. The final year of gymnase or the IBDP or high school goes by in a flash.

These are five ways to start now:

  1. Understanding university options, requirements, admissions processes, and timelines.
  2. Choosing a subject to study, or deciding to look for programs that are not narrowly focused.
  3. Putting full efforts into schoolwork to achieve the grades (or marks or notes) required.
  4. Preparing for standardized tests when required.
  5. Visiting university campuses.

Students Sitting on StepsResearch options and requirements

Each university sets its own requirements and deadlines, and higher education systems differ from country to country. Start by reading up on the national systems the student is considering using the resources here. Narrow down the countries where the student will apply and verify that the student meets the minimum requirements. For example, Swiss and German universities do not accept IB Math Studies.

Then pick several universities and courses of interest, and investigate the general admissions requirements for the student’s qualification. For example, here are the general IB requirements for The University of Manchester. The easiest way to find the requirements is to search using UCAS. Or Google with all of the following:

  1. The name of the university,
  2. “undergraduate” and “requirements”, and
  3. the name of the course.

Choose a subject to study

Most university systems – outside of the U.S. and University Colleges in the Netherlands – expect students to apply to a specific area of study depending on their interests and future career goals. Choosing a subject can be a challenge for many students but here are some  suggestions:

  • Some schools support this process by holding or attending job fairs to expose students to potential careers, administering interest and skills inventories, or arranging for students to “shadow” professionals on the job.
  • Supercurricular activities are also a great way for students to learn more about subjects and potential careers.
  • Once students think they might be interested in a specific course or major, they should read about it on university websites.

Check the entry requirements for the course. Pay attention to both the subjects the student must have studied and the required marks. More here on UK entry requirements.

Grades or marks 

No matter what curriculum the student is studying or where they plan to go to university, developing strong study skills and doing well in their studies are both critical to future success. Some students don’t worry about their marks as long as they pass, significantly reducing their choices outside of Switzerland. That level of effort might also leave the student inadequately prepared for university-level work at home in Switzerland where many students do not pass the first year.

Once students understand the approximate application requirements for university programs of interest, it is a good idea to set targets for the grades they’ll need. Be reasonable! Students are unlikely to go from being an average or underperforming student to one with a chance at Imperial or Stanford.

If your student is struggling in classes, consider academic tutoring (private tuition) or a revision course before he or she falls far behind and cannot catch up. Be realistic about how much a student’s grades or marks are likely to improve before time to apply.

Standardized testing

Depending on the student’s language of instruction, universities might require even native English speakers to submit scores from English proficiency exams such as the IELTS, TOEFL, or CPE. This requirement varies from university to university and may be a requirement for receiving a student visa.

Most U.S. colleges and universities also require students to submit scores from either the SAT or the ACT, and some of the most well-known universities also want scores from two or three SAT Subject Tests. These exams take place five times a year at local international schools, but many students take the SAT or ACT two or three times before application deadlines. Since test preparation tends to improve scores on these exams, develop your student’s test plan about 2 years before the planned start of university.

Visit universities to understand the options

Take advantage of family trips during school holidays or the summer to visit university campuses. Most have official Open Days or presentations and tours for visitors, typically found on the web by searching on the university name and “visit”. Even if the student is unlikely to apply to that institution, visiting helps students understand written descriptions and gain a better idea of what they want.

Start now to reduce stress

Sound complicated? Don’t stress, but do begin to learn how it all works. Then work with your student to investigate the university systems of interest. If you feel overwhelmed by the learning curve, consider working with a professional university adviser like myself. I already understand the university admission processes and requirements and offer one-on-one strategic coaching for your student. Contact me to discuss your student’s university application process.

Jun 072016
 

Updated: Summer 2016

If your student is a rising senior (i.e., will be in the final year of “high school” in the fall) and plans to apply to university for Fall 2017, this summer needs to involve more than hitting the beach or even volunteering at an orphanage in Ghana. Once school starts, it is very challenging to find time to focus on university applications.

What are the four most important things students should work on this summer to be on track?

  1. Complete extended essay or other school assignments because academic performance in a rigorous curriculum is the most important factor universities consider. Do additional work – possibly with a tutor or an online class – in subjects needing improvement.beautiful_boy
  2. Research and solidify a balanced list of colleges and universities where they plan to apply. It takes digging to find those “likely” schools that a student can both be sure of getting into and would be happy to attend. Students need to have at least two likely schools on their list.
    1. Research colleges and universities for the US.
    2. Research university courses for the UK.
    3. Find other bachelor programs taught in English.
  3. Start writing personal statements and/or college essays. The UCAS personal statement is generally adaptable to non-UK universities as well.  In the US, the main CommonApp essay prompts, or questions, are not changing for the 2016-2017 application season, so that is one place to start. Do not underestimate the amount of time it takes to complete all of the supplemental essays when applying to the US.
  4. Prepare for future SAT, SAT Subject Test, ACT tests, IELTS or TOEFL exams. Any rising senior who has not taken required exams or is not happy with their scores should practice test questions from old tests and read!

Questions? Feel free to leave comments or contact me if your student needs help with this process. I particularly enjoy working with students to develop their university lists. We then brainstorm ideas for their personal statements and college essays, and I guide them through completion of this important writing process.

May 292016
 

Please note: I am not an immigration attorney and this is not legal advice. These are recommendations based on personal experience in Canton Vaud. Each canton has different laws and interpretations of federal laws.

While discussing going to university outside of Switzerland, I hear anecdotes about non-Swiss students losing Swiss residency in the process. Even EU-passport holders and students in the middle of applying for citizenship have been unable to regain a residency permit after their education. Once Swiss residency doors close to young adults, it is difficult to reopen those doors.

This does not have to happen and many (most?) students maintain their residency while they go to university abroad. Be careful to avoid some pitfalls or risk loosing a student’s right to live in Switzerland after completing their higher education outside of the country.

Even expats who plan to move on before their child finishes university are wise to maintain their student’s residency on the chance the situation changes. Some students end up returning home well before they complete higher education for a myriad of reasons including adjustment issues, lack of a good match with the course or university, extended illness, or academic failure. switzerland-1179029_1280

The scenario to avoid

Your non-Swiss child decides to attend university outside of Switzerland. You deregister your student at your commune when they leave.  This allows you to cancel Swiss health insurance if the student must purchase health insurance where he or she attends university. Years pass, your student travels back and forth for holidays, completes their education, and is ready to return to Switzerland to work and continue life. Then bad news cancels your excitement! Your student, well over 18 by now, learns they are ineligible to resume Swiss residency and live in Switzerland. They can still visit you but they travel as a tourist with the limitations that implies.

Recommended steps

Here are some recommendations in order to maintain residency while a student studies abroad:

  1. If at all possible, the student should not deregister with the commune for this reason. Even if the student needs residency in another country, such as in the UK to qualify for “home” fees, there is usually no reason to give up Swiss residency.
  2. Since maintaining Swiss health insurance is a condition of residency, do not cancel the student’s insurance even if they must purchase it in the country where they attend university. Consider a less expensive plan for the student, or drop supplementary health insurance while a policy in another country covers the student.
  3. Make minimum AVS payments when contacted by the government, around the year the student turns 21. This currently costs about 500.00 CHF per year.
  4. Finally some good news! Continue to file for the cantonal family allowance after your student leaves Switzerland for university. Technically, parents in Canton Vaud can file until a dependent student reaches age 26 if they are still in school. However, in some cases you may only be able to collect for the first year they are gone. You need a proof of attendance from the student’s university, but this is standard documentation and should be readily available.
  5. Maintain records – including receipts when available – of your student’s trips to and from Switzerland. Having this information can help build a stronger case if a student’s residency status is questioned by the authorities.

Keeping your student’s participation in the official Swiss “systems” demonstrates that their departure is temporary and supports the case for maintaining their residency.

Seek professional advice ahead of time if possible

Some communes are not familiar with these types of situations, especially if they are not directly addressed by immigration law. Your family’s timing in the residency or naturalization process could also factor into deciding the best approach. Consider talking to a recommended immigration attorney to review your student’s plans.

Do you have feedback on this advice?

Many families are confused about what they should do about residency when their child studies abroad and we had a difficult time deciding on the best path. If you disagree with these recommendations, have feedback on this article, or experience to share, please comment below or send me a private message so that I can improve this information.Thank you.

 

May 252016
 
The University of Liverpool

The University of Liverpool

Don’t despair if you have not found the perfect university home for the fall. Maybe your circumstances have changed or you are not happy with the options you have in hand. Clearly you need to move quickly, but if you do, there are many UK university courses still making offers.

UK Universities Still Accepting Applications

The UCAS search tool, as shown below, is the place to head if you want to find out what courses in the UK are still taking offers. Be sure to select the appropriate answers in the black bar for “Where do you normally live?” and “Search courses available in”, as shown below. Then choose one of the first two option under Filters:

  • Select “Courses open to new applicants” under Availability if you have not yet applied to UK universities in the 2016 cycle. 
  • If you have applied this season and received offers but are not happy with them, select “Show courses in Extra” and follow the guidelines for adding courses in Extra.

UCAS Search tool

Call to Verify Before Applying

At this relatively late state of the application cycle, it is recommended that you call the department offering the course to verify that they are still taking offers and to discuss your qualifications for the course.

Good luck, and contact me if you have additional questions or need some help.

May 182016
 

Updated for Summer 2016

Summer is the only time teens in rigorous secondary programs get a moment to yourselves, but now we are talking about what you should be accomplishing this summer! Yes, you need down time and will do better next school year if you aren’t rushing around all summer trying being “productive.” However, you’ll find the university application process easier if you spend time in the summer understanding yourself, your interests, and your goals.  Age 13 or 14 is not too early to start being strategic about summer plans. What’s important is that you enjoy what you are doing.

Get inspired about the possibilities.

Already know what you are doing this summer? Take a look at the introductory sections of this great summer planning guide (it downloads as a PDF) for more inspiration. Although targeted at students in the US, it has many good ideas and questions to ask yourself no matter where you might be going to university.woman_with_magnifying_glass_186653

If you plan to stay in Europe for university, summer is a good time to explore the fields you might want to study or to delve more deeply into subjects of interest via super-curricular activities. You don’t need to travel far from home or spend a lot of money and many summer projects can accompany you if you travel with your family.

Pick a topic that truly interests you to explore in-depth, or in more depth.

Go below the surface and what you know already, whether the topic is something you study in school, your hobby, or see in the media.

What if you don’t know what truly interests you?

Something is interesting if it is new or unexpected or complex – but also comprehensible or understandable. Sometimes you need to learn more about a subject before it seems interesting, though once you are interested, you are much more motivated to learn more about it.

What if the only things you want to do are play video games, or watch sports or TV programs, or read about fashion or celebrities? Time to take that interest to a deeper level.

The possibilities are endless!
Mar 292016
 

True or exaggerated? The headline of this recent article in Le News, 80% of 12-year-olds in Switzerland told they can’t go to university, is overly sensational though the text is fairly balanced

Relatively few qualify for university in Switzerland. To apply you need to score well in school exams at the age of 11 or 12, enter the academic stream and graduate from it, normally at the age of 19.

The 20% number is an average across the country and it varies by canton. In canton Vaud the number is closer to 25% and in Geneva it is 30%.bored depressed student with book

However, as the article points out:

Some of the difference between Switzerland and the rest of the world hinges on the definition of university. Places like the UK use the label more freely. Switzerland uses it relatively less so.

The Swiss universities of applied science offer courses that are frequently considered at the university level in the UK and US.

In addition, as the article describes, there are accepted pathways for students in Switzerland to qualify to attend university later in their academic careers. There are also options for students to qualify for university in other countries by spending a year in a foundation program. Contact me for information on possibilities that apply in your student’s situation.

Mar 102016
 

time-488112_640 PixabayDid you know that when planning for a student’s university education, the biggest mistake students and families make is not starting the process early enough? For students planning  to start university in Fall of 2017, it is time to start the process now.Summer offers many opportunities to get ahead of the game, but only if you plan ahead. The final year of gymnase or the IBDP or high school goes by in a flash. Even those a year younger, starting university in 2018 benefit by starting early on these five tasks:

  1. Research information about university options, admissions processes, and deadlines.
  2. Choose a subject to study.
  3. Achieve high grades (or marks or notes) for schoolwork.
  4. Prepare for standardized tests when required.
  5. Visit university campuses.

Research options and requirements

Each university sets its own requirements and deadlines, and higher education systems differ from country to country. Start by reading up on the national systems the student is considering using the resources here. Narrow down the countries where the student will apply and verify that the student meets the minimum requirements. For example, Swiss and German universities do not accept IB Math Studies.

Then pick several universities of interest and investigate the general admissions requirements for the student’s qualification. For example, here are the general IB requirements for The University of Manchester. The easiest way to find the requirements is to search the web using:

  1. The name of the university,
  2. “undergraduate” and “requirements”, and
  3. the name of the course.

Choose a subject to study

Most university systems outside of the U.S. expect students to apply to a specific area of study depending on their interests and future career goals. For example, courses at universities in the UK can require specific A Levels or higher-level IB courses.

  • Some schools hold or attend job fairs to expose students to potential careers, administer interest and skills inventories, or arrange for students to “shadow” professionals on the job.
  • Supercurricular activities are also a great way for student’s to learn more about subjects and potential careers.
  • Once students think they might be interested in a specific course or major, they should read about it on university websites.

Check the entry requirements for the course. Pay attention to both the subjects the student must have studied and the required marks.

Grades or marks 

No matter what curriculum the student is studying or where they plan to go to university, developing strong study skills and doing well in their studies are both critical to future success. Some students don’t worry about their marks or notes as long as they stay above the passing mark, but that level of accomplishment significantly reduces their choices outside of Switzerland. The student might also not be adequately prepared for university-level work at home in Switzerland where many students do not pass the first year.

If your student is struggling in classes, consider academic tutoring (private tuition) or a revision course before he or she falls far behind and cannot catch up. Be realistic about how much a student’s grades or marks are likely to improve before time to apply.

Standardized testing

Depending on the student’s language of instruction, universities might require even native English speakers to submit scores from English proficiency exams such as the IELTS, TOEFL, or CPE. This requirement varies from university to university and may be a requirement for receiving a student visa.

Most U.S. colleges and universities also require students to submit scores from either the SAT or the ACT, and some of the most well-known universities also want scores from two or three SAT Subject Tests. These exams take place five times a year at local international schools, but many students take the SAT or ACT two or three times before application deadlines. Since test preparation tends to improve scores on these exams, develop your student’s test plan about 2 years before the planned start of university.

Visit universities to understand the options

Take advantage of family trips during school holidays or the summer to visit university campuses. Most have official Open Days or presentations and tours for visitors, typically found on the web by searching on the university name and “visit”. Even if the student is unlikely to apply to that institution, visiting helps students understand written descriptions and gain a better idea of what they want.

Start now to reduce stress

Sound complicated? Don’t stress, but do begin to learn how it all works. Then investigate the university systems your student is most likely to attend. Consider working with a professional university adviser like myself. I already understand the university admission process and requirements and offer one-on-one strategic coaching for your student. Set up a free phone or Skype consultation to discuss your student’s university application process.