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Higher Education Guide: Key considerations when applying for university

Bernd Widemann
Bernd Widemann (2 posts) University Counsellor View Profile

The process of deciding what to do, and where to go, after graduating from BIS Hanoi should be a long-term, ongoing one. The University Guidance Counsellor is focused on giving BIS Hanoi students the right support and guidance as they negotiate what can be difficult decisions. Below are some key considerations for students when thinking about their academic career beyond school.  

  • BIS Hanoi University Counselling
  • BIS Hanoi University Counselling
  • University Counselling BIS Hanoi
A, literal, world of opportunities 

Cambridge, Oxford and the Ivy League - these institutions are often synonymous with the word “university”. In reality, they represent a fraction of the higher education opportunities available to students of BIS Hanoi.  

In today’s world, the Bachelor’s degree has been adopted far beyond the borders of the UK and US. The availability of top-quality university degrees - taught in English - has increased significantly over the past couple of decades.  

Canada and Australia are well-known alternatives to studying in the UK or US - but courses available in the EU and Asia are increasingly well regarded. The Netherlands and Germany are two notable countries that have a growing number of courses on offer at world-renowned institutions.  

The University of Amsterdam and Utrecht University in the Netherlands, alongside Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich and Heidelberg University in Germany, are examples of the many fantastic institutions in mainland Europe. Some unique perks set these European universities apart from their UK and US counterparts.  

Dutch universities are globally recognised academically, but their admission policies are often more liberal than their counterparts in other countries. Applicants may find it easier to be offered a place at these institutions - but students are expected to deliver high-quality work in order to retain their place! 

German universities often represent excellent value for money. With higher education being subsidized by the state, even international students pay only a fraction of the otherwise high tuition fees. Looking further ahead, an added bonus for students is the relative ease of finding work and staying in Germany after graduating.  

“Oxbridge” and the Ivy League remain compelling prospects for our students - but they are not the only options available to them. 

BIS Hanoi University Counselling
How should a student choose a university course? 

First and foremost, the students need to ask themselves what their future goals are, what success means to them, and how to achieve that success.  

If university is the best route to achieve success for a student, a healthy approach is to take time to understand the different types of school and school cultures. University is somewhere an individual will spend 3-4 years of their life, so the global rankings of different institutions should not be the only thing considered when it comes to a student’s well-being.  

Answers won’t be found overnight - and ideally the process of choosing a university should start in Year 10. It might seem early to be thinking about the future in this way - but this approach allows for ongoing exploration of each student’s options, as well as discussion between the student, parents, teachers and guidance counsellors. 

It’s paramount to remember that, while students need guidance, their own interests are central to the process. What are their strengths, their passions? (These are also important considerations when choosing IB subjects during Year 11). 

Thorough research is the key to good decision making - and the more students know about their chosen fields and university options, the better informed their decision will be. It is also important, for both students and parents, to keep expectations realistic. The aim should be to find the right range of destinations in order to create the most productive application strategy.  

Preparing for university life 

To prepare for life at university, students need to focus on making the most of the opportunities available to them within the school and the local community. Most universities will evaluate applications based on how engaged and active students are. Of course, it is important to work toward the best possible grades and show high academic rigor in all subjects. However, it is also important for students to be involved in extracurricular activities (or super-curricular, if the activity is related to the field of study). Universities are eager to see students’ interests and how proactive they are.  

It’s important to note that quality is more important than quantity. It is more valuable for a student to be able to explain what they have learnt and how they have developed through an activity, rather than list endless endeavors. Sports, work experience, volunteering and extracurricular courses are just some examples of activities that students can engage in to complement their academic standing. Extracurricular experiences can also be used as material for the students’ “Personal Statements” (or “Essays” as they are known in the US).  

The application process 

Each student’s application will be supported by letters of recommendation from the school, which will be written by up to two subject teachers and a university counsellor.  

A good recommendation letter is one written by someone who knows the student well. Whilst our teachers make every effort to build relationships with all BIS Hanoi students, it is paramount that students proactively communicate with their teachers, show that they are engaged, and ask for help if needed. The key for students is to build those relationships early, not just in the last few months of their school careers. 

Some very competitive university courses will require pre-admission testing, while others might ask for an interview. These requirements will be discussed and planned for in Year 12 together with the University Guidance Counsellor.   

What can students do to prepare?  

School can be challenging at times - but teachers and school counsellors are here to help and support students through difficult situations (including, but not limited to, applying for university). Our hope is that all BIS Hanoi students feel they can confide in their teachers during challenging times, and seek advice on subject choices and university decisions at any time.  

Students should focus on identifying what they enjoy doing - and evaluating whether they might want to pursue those interests further in an academic capacity. In doing so, when it comes to the application deadline further down the line, students can submit their applications to their chosen universities with confidence and excitement.