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Updated: February 11, 2013 21:29 IST

The crucial 1,000 days

SUNITHA PERUMAL
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Aiming for the best universities in the U.S. and the U.K. for your undergrad studies? Start your preparations in class IX.

Adequate preparation is half the battle won. We have all grown up on a staple diet of proverbs and adages which are steeped in centuries of wisdom and hold true even today. History speaks eloquently of wars and battles in the past that have been fought after careful study, painstaking strategising and an eye for detail and how they always yielded better and favourable results. Today, this principle can be applied even to the case of preparing for university studies while still in high school.

Every year lakhs of Indian students apply to U.S. and U.K. universities for their undergraduate studies. But only a handful actually get accepted in the best universities. The general practice among our students is to work hard during their class XII exams and start applying for universities abroad after the results are announced. The application deadlines at many universities have passed by then. Many top universities have their application deadlines starting October to January every year. Universities are more interested in the academics scores of the students starting class IX till XII. They look for consistency in performance during the last four years of high school.

Start early

University preparation process should begin in class IX for students who dream of getting into the top universities in the U.S. and the U.K. for undergraduate studies. The most important factor is to stay competitive at the international level. Every university has a separate quota for international students and receives applications from across the globe. Abhilash Javaji from Bangalore started his journey to the top science university in the U.K. with high school education at a private high school in Oxford. He proudly states that his university guidance counsellor at his school is working full-time on his university application and finding the best university for him while he is focusing on his academics and grades.

Choosing an international curriculum like IGCSE at IX and X grade is the best start. This serves as a good foundation for an International Baccalaureate (IB) diploma or A-Levels during class XI and XII.

Choosing the university

A student has to decide on the country he/she wishes to apply to. Invariably, the top ranking universities for most popular specialisations are located in the U.S. and the U.K. For the U.S., students have a choice of applying to as many universities as they want; unlike in U.K. where students get to apply to a maximum of five universities.

Both the countries have centralised college application systems. Application to U.K. universities has to be done through UCAS system (website www.ucas.com.). Many universities in the U.S. accept applications through Common Application (www.commonapp.org).

Getting into the best universities is highly competitive and, students from all over the world are chasing the best ones for admissions. A student has to have a well-researched list of universities he/she wants to apply early in Class XI. Some top universities close admissions in October every year making it the most difficult to get through. Having an early understanding of the specialisations and top-ranked universities offering those specialisations will help the student prepare further before the application deadline and the interview schedule.

Sheel Patel from Baroda is now studying in class XII in an international private high school in New York. Having worked on his university application during class XI, he already has the admission acceptance letter from Babson College, ranked No.1 for Entrepreneurship study in the U.S. Sheel is overwhelmed having received the acceptance letter from Babson in January 2013 itself, much before his IB board exams in May 2013. His university guidance counsellor at the school made this possible for him.

What you need

The U.S. has Grade Point Average (GPA) as the grading system and universities usually list out the international student application requirements with GPA, SAT or ACT scores.

The Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) scores should be above 1,800 to get admission in the best universities. The Ivy leagues will require above 2,300 scores on SAT in addition to exceptional academic GPA. TOEFL scores will be required if the student does not have English as the first language during the last two years of high school.

Those 1,000 days of high school are very crucial and everything a student does — be it academics, creative skills, social projects or sports — every bit of his learning will go on to make a big difference to his/her college application. Every year universities are looking for students who are academically strong, unique and diverse in their perspectives and stand out from the crowd. Universities are also in the pursuit of enhancing the student experience at their campus.

The writer is Country Product Manager- India, EF International Academy.

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