University admissions - always a hot topic. So how does Haut-Lac, as an IB school, prepare its students to take their next big step in the world? I caught up with Haut-Lac International Bilingual School’s higher guidance counsellor, Nick Pournaras, to ask the burning questions and get some answers.
Hi Nick. As our MYP5s start to think about their IBDP or IBCP journey, what is the best piece of advice you can give a student considering their future?
Be informed. Even if you’re not yet ready to voice what it is that you want to do, look into it. Rather than decide on a particular career, identify the field that interests you and do your research.
By developing an idea of where you want to go early, you will help yourself academically, because having a concrete goal to work towards is a great motivator.
How early should students start considering their options?
I would advise students to start looking into their university choices, if that is the path they wish to follow, midway through MYP5. Starting to research early will help them to select DP or CP options that correspond to the field in which they wish to work in the future.
What makes applicants from international, IB schools stand out?
Due to the IB’s rigorous nature, students are introduced to formal research at school. This will put them a step ahead of many of their university peers, who will only begin to gain good research skills once they start university.
Haut-Lac’s multicultural environment is also a bonus as it prepares our students for the university experience, during which they will also live and confront others of different nationalities daily. Following an IB programme in an international school environment is the most accurate simulation of the global microcosm students will encounter at university.
In what ways will the IBCP (IB Career-Related Programme) benefit future students?
It will benefit those who appreciate a more hands-on approach to learning. An apprenticeship or learning on the job is higher education of a kind but with a practical pay off. The IBCP also benefits students whose desire it is to work before continuing their studies, a not uncommon phenomenon nowadays. Many employers are now looking for graduates with experience, which is exactly what they will get with the IBCP.
How much will the IBCP change the current university application process?
It will force quite a few big changes as it allows students to keep university as an option, whether they want to get work experience first or go immediately into higher education. Students who decide to apply to university after some time in the working world will apply with all the benefits of a mature student and their experience will be viewed as an asset by the universities they apply to.
How do our students fare getting into Swiss universities? Do many want to go?
We have an increasing number of students who go on to attend Swiss universities. Given that the requirements for acceptance are standardized amongst most Swiss universities, IB students have as much chance as anyone else of getting in, especially Haut-Lac students. Most Swiss universities require 32 points, and as our average is of 33.2, so all of our students stand a good chance.
Furthermore, the rigour and skills they learn during the IBDP or CP stand them in good stead to pass the first year of university in Switzerland, the results of which are notoriously used to cull a large number of students. This strong work ethic is also a bonus for students who apply to the polytechnic universities, as it will put them in the right mindset for the kind of tasks that will be expected of them.
Haut-Lac students are also in a much better position than students in Swiss public schools to get into UK universities. This is because IB school students are trusted more with lower grades, thanks to the renowned rigour and prestige of the programme.
Are North American applications popular amongst Haut-Lac students?
As with Swiss universities, applications to the US and Canada have increased, quadrupling since I joined the school.
Are US university applications straightforward when applying from Switzerland as opposed to in the US?
They require an equal level of effort, but are a lengthy process. Students looking to go to the US are better off beginning their applications and choosing their universities early. This is because the system requires them to write more personalised essays and applications than students applying to universities elsewhere in the world.
Besides academics, what is important for students applying to the US?
Soft skills, which are a way of showing the level of one’s time and work management capabilities, are attractive to universities. They want rounded students with interesting personalities to add to their student body, so extra-curriculars, voluntary work and tangible results from programmes like the IBCP all look very good on a US application.
How will Brexit change applications, given that the UK is also another popular destination for Haut-Lac graduates?
As of yet, nothing that would clarify possible changes for university applications by foreign students has been published. Students applying to begin university in 2020 are well informed about any changes this year, and I will keep students from the class of 2021 updated when more details come to light.
Are you available to help students whose plans change after their exams?
Of course, if students change their minds or decide to embark on a different journey, I am here to help them seek an alternative. Together, we take a careful look at their options and move forward.