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Universities Banner - BIS HCMC

Help your child get into the world's best universities

Is your child dreaming about studying at Oxford, Stanford, KAIST or another of the world’s top universities? Competition for places at these elite institutions is undoubtedly fierce. Applications take a lot of hard work, passion and determination and even then only around 5% of global offers will be accepted.

Since our first graduating class in 2008, the British International School Ho Chi Minh City has seen hundreds of students accepted to the world’s highest ranked colleges and universities. In this article, we look at which features of an international education at BIS have empowered our students to access these top universities, achieving their ultimate goal of learning with the world’s best.

First, let’s define exactly what we mean by the ‘best universities in the world’.

QS Top University Rankings

When referring to the world’s best universities we are referencing the QS World University Rankings.

These rankings have grown to become the world’s most popular source of comparative data about university performance. It is an independent measure of the overall quality of universities worldwide and includes Higher Education providers from across the globe. The rankings are derived from a holistic judgement that takes into account academic research and innovation, teaching quality, reputation with employers and international diversity.

The institutions that make the Top 100 are elite centres of learning that are shaping the future through research and teaching, providing graduates with the credentials and expertise sought by employers in all sectors. 

At this point, we can’t talk about the world’s best universities and not mention the Russell Group in the United Kingdom and the Ivy League in the United States.

Russell Group (United Kingdom)

The UK Higher Education sector is dominated by a group of 24 self-selected universities that is collectively known as the Russell Group. As leading research universities, they attract academic leaders from all over the world and 60% of all doctorates awarded in the UK are from these universities. Additionally, in 2017, it was found that graduates from Russell Group universities held 61% of all jobs in the UK that required a university degree, a clear illustration of their reputation with employers. In 2020, all UK institutions ranking in the QS Top 100 are Russell Group universities.

Ivy League (United States)

Ivy League schools are a group of 8 private universities located in the North-West of the United States. They are often considered to be the most prestigious of all colleges in the US and they regularly appear in the QS Top 20 Global Rankings. In the 1950’s when the term ‘Ivy League’ was first created, it was a reference to a sporting division in which these universities competed, but today Ivy League is a byword for academic excellence and high levels of admission selectivity.

It should not be forgotten that while the Ivy League is associated with excellence and expertise, there are many elite US universities which regularly feature in the QS Top 50 Global Rankings that are not part of this prestigious group due to their geographical location. For example, MIT and Stanford are both non-Ivy League universities but are ranked 1st and 2nd in the world respectively. Therefore, if your child is considering university options in the United States it’s important that they know to expand their research to colleges outside of this famous group of 8. 

Our history of sending students to the QS Top 100 universities

At BIS Ho Chi Minh City, we know what it takes for a student to get accepted into a QS Top 100 university. Why? Because we’ve guided hundreds of students through the process. Year-on-year our students consistently make successful applications to a wide range of top-ranking higher education providers around the world, many of which are synonymous with elite education.

In the UK, we have seen numerous students attend the University of Oxford, University of Cambridge, University College London (UCL) and Imperial College London, all Russell Group universities in the Top 10 global rankings for 2020. Incredibly, over 90% of UK university offers made to our current Year 13 cohort are from Russell Group institutions.

In the US, our students have been admitted to world-renowned universities such as Stanford, Cornell, New York University (NYU), Northwestern, The University of Pennsylvania (UPenn) and the University of California campuses in Berkeley, San Diego and Los Angeles (UCLA) to name just a handful of universities that are consistently ranked in the QS Top 50. The list of QS Top 50 universities that our students have attended also extends to Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Europe and Asia.

It is fair to say that over the last 12 years, BIS HCMC students have met their aim of attending the world’s top universities – but how have they done this? And how can your child achieve the same?

How to get into the world’s best universities

In terms of process and requirements, applying to leading universities differs from country to country but there is a common thread to those applications that are successful. They require a blend of academic excellence, demonstration of potential for growth and engagement with the broader school community.

Academic excellence

The foundation of any successful admission to a top university is a stellar academic profile.

Academic achievement at BIS is consistently outstanding - over the last 4 years BIS students have averaged over 36 IB Diploma points with 86% of last year’s cohort achieving at least 35 points - the baseline for admission to many top 100 universities in the UK. On top of that, around 30 % of last year’s IB class scored 40 points or above, placing them in the top 7% of IB candidates globally. The world-class teaching and learning environment that students enjoy at BIS is the foundation that successful applications to elite universities are built upon.

For QS Top 10 ranked institutions students will need mostly A* and a few As at IGCSE, 43-45 IB Diploma points and an equally strong SAT (1450 minimum) for those applications that require a standardized test.

Academics are just the start, however. Leading universities with entry requirements that filter only the brightest and best still have a huge number of applicants for places and use other aspects of the application to identify suitable candidates.

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Passion and skills

US universities attempt to create campus communities -  students with a diverse blend of interests, backgrounds and skills - that will collaborate and thrive together. In the words of an admissions representative from the University of California, universities want to know “who will add value all over the campus -  in the lab, on the sports field, on the stage, in the orchestra pit or by being involved in societies and clubs. We want students who are thinkers but also doers.”      

US universities will often set multiple short application essays with reflective or philosophical titles. This is the perfect opportunity for your child to demonstrate who they are as an applicant beyond grades and academic achievement, showcasing their engagement in broader activities outside the classroom setting.

In the UK, the UCAS Personal Statement serves a similar purpose. This student writing is the chance for your child to demonstrate important transferable skills - leadership, innovation, communication, resilience - with concrete examples that provide a picture for the admissions team. It’s important to note that for the UK, the focus is academic rather than holistic, reflecting the fact students apply for a specific course rather than to a university as is the case in the US. The Personal Statement is therefore an opportunity to convey real passion for their chosen subject.

It’s crucial that your child engages with a range of co-curricular activities so they can reference these in their applications. At BIS Ho Chi Minh City, we have over 200 activities at the Secondary Campus including sports teams, musical performances, a diverse range of community-centred projects, Model United Nations, F1 in Schools and other activities that help our students to grow as thinkers, leaders, collaborators and contributors. Through this strand of school life, they develop key skills and gain the experience of creating and developing projects, many of which benefit the school and broader communities.

Cedric Chua, Head Student of the BIS Class of 2020 and a recipient of offers from UCLA and UPenn comments: “Through 15 years at BIS, the one constant has been the school's commitment to learning beyond the walls of the classroom. The plethora of cross-curricular activities at BIS - whether it be swimming for the BIS Barracudas, performing with the Chamber Orchestra or tutoring underprivileged youth at the Mai Am Shelter - has widened my perspectives and allowed me to explore my various interests.”

Dedicated University Guidance Team

Having a dedicated team to guide your child through the university application process is also a key factor in application success.

Here at BIS, all year groups receive provision that relates to careers, college and decision-making, including input and material relevant to IGCSE and IB option choices. Senior CUG Counsellor Dr. Simon Finnigan explains further: “From Year 11 onwards, students have access to the powerful Bridge U platform and a programme of bespoke research tasks that facilitate preparation for the application process that begins in Year 12. During their IBDP, students continue to use Bridge U and their research and decision-making is supported through the wealth of specifically-created and curated online content and resources. Extensive feedback is provided on application essays and personal statements and frequent, detailed staff training and the expertise of our team results in recommendations and references that show the true strengths, capacity and potential of our students.”

What Our Parents Say

Parental support

As a parent, you can help your child to access the world’s top universities in a variety of ways but perhaps the most important is frequent, open discussions about the possibilities on offer and potential decisions. Be realistic about the range of considerations that are relevant to university applications and attendance and engage with the aspirations and plans of your children.

One parent of a current Year 13 student explains: “It is important to aid rather than dictate and support the plans and dreams of your child. Open communication with your son or daughter about the potential pathways is key and discussion of your own experiences or those of friends and family often helps as the prospect of leaving school and beginning university can be daunting for students - and families. The most important thing, after all, is the wellbeing of your child, and regular, open communication is perhaps the surest way to ensure that students and families have a united approach to what can be a very demanding and uncertain process.”

We hope this article has proved useful and offered some insight into how graduating from the British International School Ho Chi Minh City can provide your child with a passport to some of the best universities across the globe.

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