University Guidance: Supporting Every Student

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University Guidance is a core part of our Year 12-13 programme. At the same time as studying for the rigorous IBDP, our students need to be navigating complex application processes for their universities of choice. Mr Jonathan Mellen discusses his role as University Guidance Counsellor.

Please introduce yourself

I’m Jonathan Mellen, originally from the United States. I’ve been at Yew Chung International School of Beijing for 10 years. During that time, I have held various teaching positions including Lower Secondary Humanities, IGCSE History and Global Perspectives, IB Global Politics, IB History and IB Theory of Knowledge. For the past three years I have been Head of Humanities also Staff Coordinator. I’m excited to start my new role this year as University Guidance Counsellor.

Please explain your role as University Guidance Counsellor


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My role is to help students find universities that suit them, and guide them through their applications. I’m really an advocate for the students, here throughout the entire process to help them secure offers from their universities of choice.

Much of my role is providing clarity for the students and parents in a somewhat complex application process, and I will meet with families often to make applications as smooth and clear as possible.

I work closely with Ms Gupta to ensure IBDP choices align with university ambitions, and I am responsible for collecting and writing recommendation letters for our students, as required by universities around the world.

How do we prepare our students for university applications?


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Our university guidance programme begins in Year 12. Students receive a weekly class to help them understand the process of applying to university and the unique requirements for each country. Towards the end of Year 12 and throughout Year 13, we meet individually with students to help with their applications and Personal Statements. We also involve parents towards the end of Year 12 to help the whole family prepare for the upcoming application season.

How does YCIS Beijing’s guidance differ to other schools?

Our Y12-13 cohort is smaller than many schools in Beijing. This means we can give more personalised guidance that includes one-to-one support. Last year one student, who had not taken any visual arts / design papers for his IBDP, decided that he wanted to study graphic design at university. We provide him with lots of assistance – including encouraging him to write his extended essay on visual arts, arranging one-to-one support with our art teacher Ms Cusato to put together a portfolio outside of his IBDP, and orchestrating letters of recommendation that stressed his artistic ability. He ended up securing a scholarship from Parsons, The New School, in New York City – one of the best art and design schools in the world. It is this level of personal attention that sets us apart.

How do you help students who don’t know what they want to major in?


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We use a variety of strategies to help them understand who they are, their strengths and interests. We explore and discuss different majors and courses with students. We will use personality tests and set reading when necessary. We also invite members of the parent community to give career talks to help students visualise where they see themselves, and what is required for certain jobs.

Do you have any advice for students – and parents! – on making their university choices?

The best advice I can give is to thoroughly research each university and consider which is the best fit your child. Avoid reading magazines that rank the top universities – instead use something like the Fiske Guide to Colleges 2018. There, you will find information on a number of universities in the United States, including the entry requirements and a snapshot of daily life.

I can also recommend visiting universities over the summer or Christmas. Email their admissions offices who will help you arrange a tour and provide you with more info.

Finally, ask me! I will do my very best to help you find what you need.

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