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Applying to College: The Global Perspective

SM Upon Reflection News Term 42

In today’s highly competitive job market, candidates with a global outlook and strong cross-cultural competencies are viewed favourably by employers. As a School therefore, we have a pivotal role to play in helping our students build the skills and networks valued by employers and external stakeholders.

As Wenona’s Director of Student Opportunity and Career Education, I am a passionate advocate for global engagement and career education. 

In July 2017, I took advantage of a Wenona Seeding Grant to attend the inaugural College Counsellors Teacher Seminar, held at St Andrews University in Scotland and facilitated by Oxbridge.

“As Wenona’s Director of Student Opportunity and Career Education, I am a passionate advocate for global engagement and career education.”

College Counsellors Teacher Seminar
The eight-day intensive program covered the specific British, American, European and Asian university admission requirements and enhanced my knowledge and understanding in all four regions. Schools across the world have different ways of examining their students at the end of their tenure. As a group, we discussed the requirements and relative merits of A-levels, SATs, and the International Baccalaureate, and how these systems differ.

A significant amount of time was dedicated to American universities, and as an academic group, we discussed the American Common Application system and how students’ personal essays can be persuasive and compact enough to fit within the 500-word limit restrictions. We also explored the pros and cons of students having to make subject selections and career decisions at such an early age. 

I was fortunate to engage in professional dialogue with college counsellors from the United States, Switzerland, Puerto Rico, France and Canada. 

We discussed the many challenges facing students who aspire to study overseas, and how we can better prepare them for the transition. Our academic tutor, a graduate of Columbia University, had travelled to more than 200 universities in the United States, Germany, Spain, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom to expand her knowledge, which was insightful. 

Visiting the University of Edinburgh
During the seminar, I took the opportunity to visit the University of Edinburgh and tour both the business and medical schools. It was an eye-opening and informative experience in terms of the admissions process, the course structure and the learning environment.

“Increasingly at Wenona, students from Years 7 to 12 are expressing a genuine interest in studying abroad.”

Applying to British Universities
While on the Oxbridge course, I discovered that most British universities, unlike their American counterparts, require students to major in a chosen subject. This is important for Wenona students interested in studying in the United Kingdom. We need to explore how to prepare our students for this level of specialisation and to consider the advantages and disadvantages of engaging with one subject so early. We also discussed the interview process for universities such as Oxford and Cambridge, the role of the British Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS), and the personal statement that students are required to write for British university admission. In particular, we discussed what British professors are looking for in letters of recommendation.

Admission requirements for Australia
On the last day of the seminar, my academic tutor asked me to facilitate a session on the Australian university application process. Although I only had 24 hours to prepare, it is a system that I know well. 

Participants were particularly interested to learn more about the admission requirements for Australia’s eight leading research universities: The University of Melbourne, The Australian National University, The University of Sydney, The University of Queensland, The University of Western Australia, The University of Adelaide, Monash University and UNSW Sydney. But we also discussed the more than 40 universities located across Australia, and it was a two-way learning process for all involved.

A growing interest
Increasingly at Wenona, students from Years 7 to 12 are expressing a genuine interest in studying abroad. In 2017, a number of Senior College students travelled overseas to attend college fairs, seminars and international career-related events. 

Last year, Wenona also hosted international universities from the United States in order to inspire our students to study overseas. Participants included Boston University, Central Penn College, Embry Riddle Aeronautical University, Fairleigh Dickinson University, John Hopkin University, University at Buffalo, State University of New York, University of Chicago, University of Colorado, Boulder, The University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, University of South Carolina and Whitworth University. 

The event generated a lot of interest across the Wenona community, and continues to resonate, particularly with our Middle School students. Whatever our students’ interests, talents or career aspirations, the opportunity to study abroad will expand their thinking, develop their cultural curiosity and help them to find their place in the wider world.

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Samantha McFetridge
Director of Student Opportunity and Career Education