University Counselling

University counselling at International Secondary School


Blog | E-Learning | Live life, love learning

May 27, 2021

University counselling for middle and upper school students

Helping students recognize their strengths and talents

As a school that passionately believes in lifelong learning, the transition from our school into the next phase of a young persons’ life is one that we give a great deal of time and attention to. From the prospective parent who asks, ‘Can my child study at a German university with an IB Diploma?’ (yes!) to the 19 year old who is returning from a gap year (remember those?) and now thinking about higher education – we are there for you every step of the way!

Targeting students’ strengths for qualification courses

The first time the topic gains importance for students and families is at the end of grade 8, as the options they choose for the IGCSE courses in grade 9 reflect to some extent their subject preferences and strengths. At our annual IGCSE presentation to grade 8 parents, we outline all subject options choices, along with the consequences for the Diploma. This is because although the IGCSE and the Diploma Programme curricula come from two different providers – the IGCSE from Cambridge Assessment International Education and the DP from the International Baccalaureate Organisation – they are designed to flow logically into each other: students cannot study both History and Geography at IGCSE for example, because it is not possible at DP. While no doors are closed at this point, some careful thought is advised. Because of this, the possibility to consult on careers and universities begins here, half way through school.

We also typically see many new students join us in Grade 10 with the intention of using the year as a foundation for the Diploma, so these students also need special guidance. This is finalised during our DP induction week for grade 10s, which takes place towards the end of the year: students are introduced to the DP model and each subject in detail, and the consequences for university and career paths are considered in this process.

As the role of DP coordinator and university / careers advisor is combined at ISS, the students can be sure that there is a continuum in the eyes of the school between graduation and what comes next. This is often very specialised, and we are pleased to have someone as experienced and knowledgeable as our Mr. Parker in that position!

University fairs

While many students opt to take a year off between leaving school and starting university, it is nevertheless important during this time that they attend university fairs. These help to focus and motivate students by bringing to life actual opportunities available to them in the next phase of their development.

Prior to the pandemic, we hosted university fairs on campus, some with special focusses such as Dutch Universities or private universities. We also take the students to fairs off campus, such as the large scale fair held annually at Düsseldorf International School.

Like everyone else, the universities have adapted to the pandemic, and for the last two years have offered virtual fairs online. There have been some positive experiences around this, and even though I do not see them completely replacing physical fairs in the future, elements of the experience are likely to be incorporated into how universities recruit going forwards.

Supporting students to meet their individual needs

Our International Secondary School graduates typically go on to study in the US, Canada, Europe (particularly Germany and Holland) and the UK. Each country’s university system has its own application process, and each student gets bespoke support to meet their individual needs.

University entry is often based on Diploma performance, so we also support our students immediately after the exam results if they are lower than expected, or needed. There is a meeting with the students and families in the first days after the results are released and, if necessary, we work together to form a plan on the next steps. This can involve formally challenging results, approaching universities and organising retakes, for example.

We currently have five cohorts of graduates who find themselves in a variety of positions, from studying for a Masters degree at Cambridge University to working in real estate in Moscow. We are planning to hold a reunion for our alumni once the pandemic is over and we have moved to our new campus to find out more!

Shaun Roberts, International Secondary School

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