University calling


     Parents of older secondary students are likely concerning themselves right now with where their children will go off and study.  For children with dual citizenship, they will likely have the option of studying in at least a few different countries.  For example, if your son or daughter holds an American passport but also has a passport from an EU country, they will  be able to study in the English language not only in the U.S. but in the U.K. and other countries where Universities offer programs in the English language, i.e. Netherlands.  It is a difficult choice as there are advantages and disadvantages of the different systems.


     What is important to know is that the American system and the U.K. system are quite contrasting in what they require.  For example, if a student applies for University in the U.S., they will need to take Scholastic Aptitude Tests (SATs), and in some cases they will also need separate SATs Subject tests.  These tests are given on a limited basis so one has to find out well in advance when and where they are offered.  As well, the U.S. system wants to see what kind of extracurricular activities your child has been involved in.  There is space for this on the Common App, which is the universal application used for American Universities.  Finally, the marks received in Grades 9, 10 & 11 are the most important for the U.S.  Normally, they make their offers based on that information, and their offers are rarely conditional.  If you’re in, you’re in – unless things go terribly wrong in Grade 12.


     In the U.K., meanwhile, students apply using UCAS which is the universal application for U.K. Universities.  Extracurriculars are not nearly so important there, nor are the marks from Grades 9 & 10.  11th Grade is quite important because the teachers will give predicted grades based on performance in 11th Grade.  This information is used by U.K. universities to make a conditional offer, which offer acceptance into University providing the student makes a certain IB score after having taken the 12th Grade final IB exams.  As well, when applying to the U.K., the student must know which area of study they will pursue and they must write a convincing personal statement which shows they are interested in that area of study.  This is in contrast to the U.S., where a student doesn’t have to declare a major up front.


     My advice to parents and students is to inform yourselves about the options as there are many.  Financing the different options is also completely different and U.S. Universities are notoriously expensive in comparison to their U.K. counterparts.  The College Board website is a good place to start for U.S. information, and needed to enroll for SAT’s.  As well, there are many websites reviewing and ranking Universities both in the U.S. and U.K.  Good luck!