Preparing Your Child for an International Education – The Early Years

If you have a child, without a doubt you have spent at least some time worrying about his or her education—which school should you enroll them in, what extracurricular programs will help them develop themselves better, which careers and subjects should they be preparing for, etc.  As counselors, we get calls from parents of children starting as young as 10-years-old asking what the best way would be to “prepare them for the future.” Of course, there’s no blueprint for how you should raise your child to “be the best,” but there are things you can keep in mind as you are nurturing your child through their teens towards the crucial decision-making moments, especially if you are considering an international education for them.

Why should students considering an international education prepare differently than other students? THEY SHOULDN’T.  In reality, ALL students should be following the advice presented below.  But as it happens, the Indian Higher Education system prizes assessment results and percentages when allotting seats for high quality university placements. In trying to accomplish this gargantuan task (i.e. scoring high enough on Board exams and placement exams to gain admission into a top university in India), students seldom have the freedom of time or resources to implement the advice below.  For a student considering an International Education, however, it is crucial for them to step away from the textbooks and tuitions occasionally and dive into the real world to challenge themselves and explore the world around them in a meaningful way.

Universities outside of India, especially those that are top destinations for Indian students, such as the US, Canada, and the UK, value BALANCE. They want to admit applicants who are not only strong academically, but who have personality, passion, and a drive to learn and explore.  In keeping with these goals, we should aim to foster these qualities in young students. Here’s how we should do that and why.

Students Need to READ and WRITE with Ease

Language is such a big part of not only admissions tests (TOEFL, IELTS, SAT, ACT), but also for students’ success during the application process and once they get to college.  Students entering college will be asked to write essays, analyze texts, and express themselves in writing again and again. We find that those students who love to read, read for fun, or have done ample amounts of free writing throughout their high school years actually have a much easier time with the transition out of high school and into college.  Those who don’t, often struggle with their application essays, and that reflects in the outcome of their admissions in the long run.

Students Should Engage in MEANINGFUL Out-of-Classroom Experiences

One of the major questions students will have to answer in their international college applications is “WHY DO YOU WANT TO STUDY THIS SUBJECT?” Too often, student responses include “because I am good at it,” or “because that’s what my parents want me to do.” Unfortunately that’s not enough to convince a university that the student is going to be successful in and passionate about that subject once they actually begin to pursue it. For example, a student who wants to become a doctor, but who has never set foot in a hospital, interviewed a doctor, or demonstrated an interest in helping others, cannot possibly know that medicine is the field for them.  Similarly, a student who wants to become a researcher should already be viewing the world through that lens throughout their high school years, conducting ad hoc experiments and applying the scientific method to their everyday lives. This is the kind of passion and immersion students need during their formative high school years in order to really understand themselves and their goals better. And international universities will want to see that the student has taken advantage of these opportunities around them, or in the case of those who are exceptionally motivated, created those opportunities for themselves.  Hence, in the early years, it is the parents’ responsibility to allow their child to explore, explore, and explore.  Give them ample opportunities to experience things outside of the classroom and encourage them to dig deeper and find those things that they are most passionate about. These experiences will help the student not only make a sound choice about their field of study, but also give them fodder for their admissions interviews and essays.

Consider a Career Planning Curriculum

One of the ways international high schools prepare their students for college and career is by implementing a supplementary curriculum that allows students to engage in self-discovery activities and career exploration assessments.  Traditionally, Indian high schools do not offer such curriculums because the local college admissions systems do not demand it. However, Gen Next Education, in our interactions with Indian high school students over the past decade, have realized that there is, in fact, a need.  Because there are so many more college options opening to Indian high school students, and because the current system does not provide many quality education options for the students who do not place at the top, it is important for Indian students to develop a more creative and global career map for themselves. This is why we have introduced Blueprint for Success (read more about the program through this link), which is a supplementary curriculum now being implemented in Indian high schools to students in grades 8-11. Our hope is that students who engage in this curriculum will have a much clearer progression towards their future college and career, regardless of whether they decide to study in India or pursue an education abroad.