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International schools and university entry

For many parents, the route to university is a key factor in deciding where their children should go to school, and this is no less true, and perhaps even more so, for parents who choose international schools. Education writer Nick Morrison provides Winter's readers with an overview of university entry procedures in the US, Canada, the UK and Australia.

 

An international education can open up a host of new opportunities, as the prospect of studying for a degree anywhere in the world becomes both more feasible and more appealing. But with this increased opportunity comes increased complexity, as parents and students seek to navigate their way through the many different university application routes.

The US

US universities are autonomous, meaning that unlike the UK there is no central admissions body. Students must therefore apply to each institution directly, and the procedures and requirements vary from one to another.

Application dates differ but will generally be between August and spring, although most universities also offer early application routes. Students who follow this route will typically apply by November 1 with a decision by December 15, although some universities specify that students cannot make early applications to any other institution.

In addition, early applications are binding at some universities. Students accepted under this route must withdraw all their other applications worldwide, so need to be sure it is their preferred university.

"Most applicants to US universities will be expected to sit a standardised test, the SAT or ACT..."

Senior students at the Canadian International School of Hong Kong.

Senior students at the Canadian International School of Hong Kong.

At many US universities, students will follow a general path for the first two years, and do not need to specify their chosen subject when applying. Most US universities are familiar with the English system’s A-levels and with the International Baccalaureate, and typically will expect to see similar levels of achievement to UK universities with a roughly equivalent level of competitiveness. 

Most applicants will also be expected to sit a standardised test, the SAT or ACT. These should normally be taken by October, leaving time to resit in November or December. 

The more competitive US universities may also require applicants to sit subject-specific exams, and international students may be required to take an English language proficiency exam.

Canada

Canada is an increasingly popular higher education destination and has a number of well-regarded universities. 

Application procedures for Canadian universities vary by province. Some provinces, such as Ontario, British Columbia and Alberta, run a central application service, while in others students must apply direct to the universities.

"Canada is an increasingly popular higher education destination and has a number of well-regarded universities."

Deadlines vary, but students should generally apply eight to twelve months before the start of the course. Many universities operate a two-semester year, from September to April, with entry points in September and January.

As with their southern neighbours, international students may be required to prove their proficiency in English. Most university courses are taught in English, but some may require proficiency in French.

The UK

For admission to UK universities, students apply through a central body, UCAS, which allows them to choose up to five courses at different universities, although the applications are considered by the universities themselves. 

EU-based students must apply by January 15; non-EU international students can submit applications up until June to start in September, although early applicants are more likely to find places available, as well as leaving time for immigration and accommodation requirements.

The exceptions are applications to Oxford and Cambridge universities or to study medicine, dentistry or veterinary science at any university, which must be submitted by October 15 preceding the year of entry.

Most UK universities are familiar with the main international pre-university qualifications, such as the IB and the American high school diploma, and will also accept equivalent qualifications. Students may also need to take an English language test.

"For admission to UK universities, students apply through a central body, UCAS..."

Sixth Form students at Kilgraston School, Scotland.

Sixth Form students at Kilgraston School, Scotland.

Australia

Students wanting to study in Australia must apply to their chosen institutions individually. The IB, A-levels and the US high school diploma are widely accepted for entry, as are a number of other national qualifications.

The Australian academic year starts in February, although some courses also have the option of starting in July. Applications can normally be made up to three months before the course starts, although courses such as medicine and dentistry may have earlier deadlines. Most medicine and dentistry programmes also require applicants to sit an additional admissions test.

 

A few general tips...

While an international education can open doors to a range of higher education options, there are a number of things for parents to think about to avoid unnecessary obstacles.

One is to try to avoid moves during the crucial two years before university. This is when many national education systems embark on the qualifications that universities rely on to determine admission. Disruption during these years can put added complications into the process.

Another is to check how much experience a school has in sending students to particular countries for higher education. Schools with a strong track record will usually be familiar with the admissions process, which can be very useful for parents looking for help through the maze.

 

Top image courtesy of iStock

Other images:

The Canadian International School of Hong Kong

Kilgraston School

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