University and College Counselling
This handbook provides you with information that will help you become acquainted with the aims and objectives of the school, a brief overview of the curriculum as well as practical day-to-day information.
The role of the College Counselling team at ISZL is to help students and parents define plans for further education and assist during the university application process by giving advice on standardised tests necessary for the university systems and school courses to match desired goals for university entrance. Students and parents of all grades are welcome at any time to discuss how their academic program affects their university plans.
Students and parents have access to an online service through which students can research universities and their entrance requirements. Every student and parent receives individualised logins for this once initialised by the college counselling team. Formal, individual meetings with the College Counsellors generally begin in Grade 11.
University admissions have changed dramatically in recent years in terms of competitiveness and the nature of education offered, particularly in Europe and North America where the majority of our students apply. Our students successfully receive offers from universities across the world and we advise to spend more time on research, to be very realistic about academic achievements and to target universities that match the student’s profile.
Students and parents should attend school based college presentations throughout the year. At the beginning, it is useful for students to find out what type of university setting and size is appealing, and speak with visiting universities that fit this criteria, even if the particular university that is visiting does not interest them. Possibly the only exception is the various art schools that visit that are looking for students already focused on a particular subject. Students thinking of applying to Art College need to work closely with their art teacher in developing a portfolio.
The college search process should be undertaken in the penultimate year of school. Those planning on the UK, Canada or mainland Europe should investigate what subject they would like to study (a major). Students looking at the US should start considering the “fit” with an individual institution. In the US, students need to choose “somewhere” and students applying to non-US schools need to choose a course of study. The US offers much more flexibility about subject choice and students need to realise that a European/UK/Canadian application commits them to study a subject with very little chance of changing their minds, other than starting again. Those looking at other systems need to communicate their intention to their College Counsellor as early as possible so that any necessary tests can be appropriately planned for, for example, the TISUS language test for Sweden or Test DAF or C1 level German or French for Switzerland.
The months before Grade 11 and in between Grades 11 and 12 are ideal times to do university visits and much of the investigation that goes with a successful experience when applying to university. We hope that parents will become active in this process, engaging in direct and open communication with the student and counsellor. An extensive collection of college prospectuses and catalogues as well as college guides and handbooks are available in the library and in the college counselling offices.
Generally, students considering study in the US should consider taking the SAT or ACT and possibly TOEFL or IELTS if English is not their native language, preferably in their Grade 11 year, as well as an academic programme with AP courses or the IBDP programme. (Please see the section on External Testing for further information.)
Grade 11 and 12 students should not underestimate the amount of time a thorough university search and application process requires. For appropriate applications with a likely offer of acceptance, it is wise to spend an hour or two per week during the 18 months from the time of the initial research at the beginning of Grade 11 to the eventual university application by the middle of Grade 12. This helps to avoid rushing to fulfil last minute deadlines and consequent adverse effects on school studies.
Students should be proactive in seeking out their College Counsellor, as for most countries it is the College Counsellor, in conjunction with the subject teachers, who writes the school recommendation. It is the student’s responsibility to ensure that the Counsellor knows about them and their personal interests. Students will be asked to fill in questionnaires and parents will be asked to write a letter to round out the picture of their child. The more information we have as a school, the better an individual application from a student can be supported.
At various times, students will need to ask individual teachers to write a letter of recommendation concerning their work in a particular subject area. These are particularly requested for students applying to US universities. Dutch universities often have specific online recommendations that subject teachers need to complete and are sent via e-mailed links. A change of teacher might mean that students ask those who knew them in Grade 11 to write a letter, even if in Grade 12 they are in a different school. It is important that these letters are written by the designated deadline, as they are critical to a student’s acceptance at many universities. Students must respect the extra work involved for the teacher to write these letters and it is a discourtesy to ask for such references shortly before the deadline. Reference letters from teachers become a part of a student’s life at the school, as they may be needed in future years should a student need to change universities.
In Grade 12, students and their families need to be aware of specific deadlines and requirements for university entrance applications. In the case of the UK, if considering medicine, veterinary medicine, dentistry or entrance to Cambridge or Oxford, the deadline is as early as October 15th. Students should have drafted application essays by the end of their junior year and continued the process during the holidays. Internally for these students, there is a deadline of October 1st, which allows the College Counsellor time to process the application. For the US, early deadlines are November 1st and many other international deadlines are January 1st. Our internal school deadline for all college applications is November 29th with us recommending that all applications to the UK are submitted by early November. Regrettably, we cannot guarantee that as a school we will be able to complete all that we have to if a student is late with these deadlines. Students and parents will receive regular reminders of these deadlines. Grade 12 students have the opportunity to write and complete their college applications in the PDW week in September, a window of time provided for the Grade 12 students to be proactive and engaged in their University applications.
For Switzerland, students need to pre-register their interest between January and February of their Senior year, but a final application is not complete until after students have successfully obtained the prerequisite results in either Advanced Placement (AP) or International Baccalaureate (IB) exams, which become available in early July.
With increased competition, the importance of the application essay has increased enormously. Students need either to show their character (a US application) or their interest in the subject (a UK/Canadian/ Dutch essay). There are many examples available for students and students are given help from their College Counsellor, their English teacher, tutor or subject specialist to ensure that their essays are compelling. Students applying to the US may have additional supplemental essays to write and students should check in frequently with the College Counsellor during the peak application process for essay advice.
Historically, the average number of applications submitted by ISZL students is about four. Occasionally, students and their families may create an unusually long list of potential universities. However, this does not work in the student’s favour. It is far better to choose colleges of true interest that are a match for one’s academic profile, and to have the time to complete the applications with quality writing and attention to detail, while also being able to maintain good grades in academic classes. Therefore, the maximum number of applications that Grade 12 students may submit is ten. It is important to note that applying to the University of California system counts as one, the Cal State system counts as one, Apply Texas counts as one, and the UCAS system (which allows for up to 5 universities) also counts as one. This policy appears on our school profile so that universities are aware, and they wholeheartedly support it. It is also a policy that is in place at a majority of well-regarded international schools and demonstrates the serious and considerate nature by which our students choose where to apply.