Higher Education for Dummies
By Kate Carden-Brown, Head of Higher Education and Careers
The application process to Higher Education is complicated and can become a source of stress and anxiety to pupils and their parents! University, College, Undergraduate Degrees, Foundation Programmes…What is best? What will suit your son or daughter and how do you, as parents and guardians, choose between the many courses that are on offer? The answer is: by accessing the expertise available in the school. There will be a member of staff whose role it is to answer all your questions, demystify the process and support you and your son/daughter every step of the way. With support and advice the application process can become an exciting time of new opportunities and enticing experiences.
A solid foundation at IGCSE, with a minimum of 5 passes at grade C (level 6 or above to include Mathematics and the Sciences), is going to smooth the way to Higher Education. A good English grade is desirable (although international students will generally sit IELTS – the International English Language Testing System that will allow them access to university in countries where courses are delivered in English). IGCSE scores show universities (UK and Europe) and colleges (USA and Canada) that a student has a solid foundation on which to build academically.
Once IGCSEs are completed, the next step is finalising A-level choices. Aim to work with your son/daughter’s teachers to see where his/her strengths lie and what combinations would be best given his/her areas of interest. Do not worry too much about specific courses at this stage unless your child is hoping to study Medicine, Veterinary Medicine or Dentistry. Ask any questions that you have to the Higher Education Advisor / Counsellor and remember that they are there to support you.
How do you decide which country to study in? As a general rule USA, Canadian & Australian universities / colleges provide a more general education and the opportunity to major (specialise) in a subject or discipline later on. UK universities tend to focus on a specific subject, combination of subjects from the outset. Remember your son/daughter can apply to universities and colleges in more than one country so there is no need to decide until they have received all their offers.
The application process should begin in earnest in Year 12 with IELTS, SATs or ACTs (for US colleges) and the personal statement (for UK universities). Ask what support is available for your child and, once again, encourage your son/daughter to take full advantage of the help on offer. Applications will be sent from the September of Year 13 and offers of a place should follow shortly after.
Finally, what do you do if things go wrong? What if there is a problem? Answer: seek advice from the school advisor. There is always support available and a plan B! In the meantime, encourage your son/daughter to enjoy their learning, to read widely and to take advantage of all the opportunities available to them. The most successful candidates are able to think creatively and ‘outside the box’. This ability comes from exposure to new experiences, challenges and from having to apply prior learning in new contexts.