Top Tips from our University Guidance Counsellor

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Students at Yew Chung International School of Beijing have already received several fantastic university offers. There’s Chloe Sandifer-Stech who has received no fewer than three scholarship offers from top American universities. Joshua Perrett has received offers from leading British universities Southampton and Bristol, and Cici Lin Shiqian has received offers from UCL, York and Sydney. The list goes on and offers continue to roll in. We discuss applications with University Guidance Counsellor Mr Jonathan Mellen.

 

What is the toughest thing about applying to university for our students?


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Different universities and different countries look for different things. My job as UGC is to stay on top of these various requirements and help navigate our students through them. For example, in the United States, many universities focus heavily on character and extra-curricular interests. In the United Kingdom, Singapore and China, interest in your subject is more important. Students need to tailor applications for each destination which can be pretty demanding.

 

Students are no longer accepted on academic merit alone. What other qualities make a student stand out?


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This is particularly true for American universities where they take into account all manner of extra-curricular achievements and interests as well as significant life events. There are typically three things that American universities look for in a student, and I encourage students to address these in their written statements:

  1. Your record. This includes school grades, SAT results, letters of recommendation and your personal statement. It may also include outstanding athletic, linguistic or musical achievements.
  2. What you’ll contribute. You need to show that you will make a positive contribution to college life. Have you organised a charity fundraiser, put on a school production or fought for change in your school or community?
  3. Your character. Have there been any significant events in your life that have posed a challenge to you? Have you had to overcome a serious setback such as illness, bereavement or financial hardship?

 

How can students craft strong application essays?


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There’s no one-size-fits-all for these essays. For British, Singaporean and Chinese universities, I suggest writing a personal statement that focuses on your subject. This might include what sparked your interest, how you have continued to pursue that interest, why you want to study it at university, and future ambitions e.g. becoming a doctor or lawyer. For American applications, I suggest considering the three points above, citing specific examples such as your CAS activities.

 

What advice can you offer to students starting applications next year?

Firstly, know the university. Research colleges online, explore courses, locations, class sizes, contact time and what they stand for. If you can, visit them over the summer (some American universities even make a note if you have visited them in person).

Secondly, know yourself. Take a personality test online, think about what you value, what makes you feel comfortable, what provisions you want in your university and what will be the best fit.

Finally – ask me! Our university guidance service is full-time and personalised. I am here to help.

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