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Preparing Students for the Future

by David Boardman, Senior School Principal

I am often asked, “How do I get my child into a top university?” The answer is, that there is no simple answer to this question. More and more people are offering to help guide and prepare students to get into these prestigious institutes, often for a considerable fee, whilst making some interesting statements surrounding success. However, in the end, it is the student and their preparation that will or will not get them accepted. There are, though, some things that people can take note of to increase their chances of gaining one of those highly competitive places.

Firstly, always remember that these are highly academic institutes and that without excellent results and predicted grades, students will not be invited for an interview. Once there the real challenge begins, as every student at the point of interview has excelled academically and then has to be separated by other aspects.

Harvard University Admissions state that they “seek to identify students who will be the best educators of one another and their professors – individuals who will inspire those around them during their College years and beyond.” They are looking for students who show potential for continued growth, have interests away from the classroom, have extra-curricular pursuits, embrace leadership roles and who have taken the opportunities to innovate, to participate in service learning and contribute to their communities.

The American University of Paris sums this up well by saying that “good applications are three-dimensional – they combine their academic record with their personal story and their experiences. Cambridge University has a similar approach, admitting that they do not use the student’s application essays when selecting for an interview, but will use them to question the students at that later stage. This helps identify the students who may not have written their own essays, a growing problem in some areas, and also start conversations that allow candidates to show their passion for academic and non-academic areas of their lives.

I am lucky enough to work alongside teachers in a school that offers our students the opportunities to flourish, not only in the classroom but also in these other increasingly important areas. At Kristin we hold service learning close to our hearts, introducing it early in the Junior School and developing it through the Middle and Senior Schools. Students are also given opportunities throughout their years to take up the challenge of leadership positions, many of which also link in with service components in the wider community such as the annual Prefects Project, an entirely student organised and led annual activity. These combined with The Tertiary Futures programme, which supports and helps students plan their pathway beyond school, has resulted in these top universities, including those from the USA coming to the school, meeting our students and encouraging them to apply. Recent successes have resulted in places at Harvard, Stanford, Yale, Oxford, Cambridge and Melbourne.

So, when asked the question my answer has to be - “choose a school that offers students the opportunities to get involved in a wide range of activities beyond the classroom, has a strong service component to it’s values and then encourage your child to take up these challenges, use their initiative, be innovative and gain those experiences that will enable them to peak the interests of admissions officers.”