I have tried to organise the site in as user-friendly a way as possible, so the page-list to the left is ordered to help you navigate everything in a logical manner - starting at the top and working your way down . The support on offer is as much for parents as it is students.
Parents should primarily use the site to familiarise themselves with the application process so they can support their children each step of the way, and understand the elements for which they will have ultimate responsibility. It should also help you answer the question about whether to pay an independent counselor to give your child the best chance of getting into a top university. The answer is no, by the way!
Students in Year 10 and Year 11 should use the site to gain an understanding of what they should be doing now to bolster their future applications, and to get a handle on everything that goes into a US university application. They should also be exploring where they want to go and why they want to go there.
Sixth Form students should use the site for support, but should not see it as a replacement for coming to see me face to face. I should meet each of you at least 5 times (probably significantly more) during your time in the Sixth Form to discuss your application, to get to know you and to review and refine your essays. Sometimes we might meet just for a chat - us getting to know and understand one another is the cornerstone of a rich and effective application, but sometimes it's just nice to chat.
Definitions, Explanations and FAQs
What are Universities looking for?
Each university or college sees itself as a small community - a microcosm of the wider world. As such they want to build a diverse group of students with a variety of backgrounds, ethnicity and skills. They want to know if, and where you will fit in, how you will get involved and what you will bring to the table that is new. So the first thing they are looking for is...
Community involvement A good indicator of this is how you have impacted the communities of which you have been a part thus far - so your school, local and national communities and even the wider global community. What have you done to make any of these communities better? Have you sought opportunities to get involved? Better still, have you created opportunities that have helped others to get involved? Have you helped those less fortunate than yourself?
Universities and Colleges also want you to be clever and thoughtful, so they are looking for...
Academic ability and involvement Universities and colleges want students who not only have a strong academic record, but who also seek to enhance and enrich their knowledge and experience beyond that which is offered by their schools. Universities don't just want to know that you are good at physics (they'll see your grades on the transcript anyway) they want to know that you are enthused by the subject and have taken responsibility for adding depth and breadth to your learning. Have you taken online courses, have you got work experience in a related field? Best of all, have you started a project to help you answer a question or solve a problem that fascinates you, purely for the sake of learning, or ideally to help your community become a better place?
Finally, all our intelligence and good intentions are irrelevant if others cannot understand us, so you must have excellent...
Written Communication The first place to demonstrate the clarity and readability of your prose is in the essays that you will write for your applications, but it is important to remember that every part of your application is gone over with a fine-tooth comb, so it is imperative that even the explanations of your extra-curricular activities on the common app are beautifully written. Incidentally, 'Beautifully written' does not mean using long words and complex sentence structure to show our intelligence, it means understandable, engaging and above all, honest communication: when you write, be YOU, but be the best you you can be.
The Common Application is the portal through which you will make your US applications*. You can go on the Commonapp (as it is usually abbreviated) at any time to explore and even set up a dummy account to get a real sense of how it works and to practise filling it in. Why not have a go now: https://www.commonapp.org/ They have also developed this http://www.commonapp.org/ready which walks you through the process. In order to link your application to Dubai College you will need to add our CEEB code: 697009
What is the difference between a University and a College?
Colleges are undergraduate only, so you would study there for four years and gain a Bachelors degree. If you wanted to take your education further you would have to move to a 'Grad School' or a University to do a Masters or PHD. Universities offer Bachelors, Masters and Doctorates all under one roof.
Coming soon...I am starting to put together a list of considerations for weighing up Colleges v Universities, most of which relate to scale, atmosphere and opportunity - depending on how long it is when it's finished it will either go here, or get a page of its own.
Do I apply to a specific course at US universities
Not really, is the best answer I can give here. You can express an intention and target your application towards a particular subject, but you won't necessarily have to declare your Major until you have been at the college or university for two years. You can, in fact, apply Undecided, stating why you want to study at a particular university and what your interests are without having to plant your flag in even a particular faculty.
Early Decision and Early Action - what, when, why, etc.
The usual deadline for US university applications is January 1st, and students can expect to find out whether they have been admitted by April 1st. Many US universities and colleges allow students to apply early - by November 1st - and will let students know if they have been admitted, rejected or wait-listed* by December 15th.
In addition to the advantage of finding out you have been admitted earlier, an early application also gives students the benefit of being viewed as part of a smaller applicant pool. Most US universities will publish figures on the likelihood of an early application improving your chances of admittance.
Individual universities will offer one or other of three different types of early application, either Early Action, Restrictive Early Action or Early Decision.
1. Early action (EA) - is non-binding and non-restrictive, meaning students may apply early to as many universities in the US as they choose. 2. Restrictive early action (REA) (Harvard, Princeton, Stanford and Yale) - is non-binding, but restrictive - meaning students may only apply early to one university. 3. Early decision (ED1) - is binding, meaning if a student is admitted they must immediately withdraw their other applications and attend that university. In short, students should only apply early decision to their very top choice university, if it is offered as an option. The student, parents and I will all sign an early decision agreement certifying that we understand the terms. It should be clear that you only submit one early decision application, but unless otherwise stated on the particular university's website you should be able to submit non-restrictive early action applications at the same time. There is a second opportunity to make an early decision application (ED2) in January, with the same rules applying.
You can find a document containing the full list of colleges and universities that offer Early Action, and a document containing the full list of colleges and universities offering Early Decision at the bottom of this post.
*If a student is wait-listed during the early round of applications, their file goes into the regular decision applicant pool to be reviewed again as part of that cohort. At this point I will sit down with the student to discuss whether this is still absolutely their first choice institution, or whether they are happy to attend their next (or what might now be their top) choice. If they still really want to get into this particular institution we will compile a list of what they have done academically, socially etc. since their early application and, unless the university in question has a no-contact policy, write an 'update' letter to the university admissions office to try to enhance the student's application and increase their chance of admission during this second viewing. The student should also write an update letter that restates that this is very much their first choice university.