To develop such skills, it’s imperative to have an experienced support system.
“It’s okay to need help,” says Erin Tacey, European International School’s (EIS) Diploma Programme (DP) coordinator. Indeed, learning to reach out for assistance and take advantage of available resources can make all the difference in getting the most out of university. EIS teachers emphasize the importance of turning mistakes into learning experiences and becoming comfortable with seeking help. The school’s small class sizes and accessible teachers mean that by the time students get to university, they are familiar with seeking out their professors and attending their office hours.
From an academic perspective, the demanding International Baccalaureate (IB) program that all Grade 11 and 12 students take is the best means of university preparation. Because of it, “they know how to learn, how to study, how to meet deadlines, and a lot of the material in first-year courses is covered by the IB program,” explains John Veitch, Head of Middle and High School. Some students even receive university credit based on their performance on the IB.
"A lot of students have the knowledge, but once the pressure adds up they struggle to meet deadlines,” Erin notes of students in the IB program. When this happens, she meets with the students on a weekly basis to create and monitor study plans and schedules. These habits are essential in university, where students have more freedom and less oversight.
EIS’s flexible schedule provides numerous opportunities to explore outside interests. As part of the Middle Years Programme (MYP), Grade 10 students are required to complete the Personal Project where they create both a product and accompanying report on a topic of their choosing. One student decided to write a book about Saigon's architecture, while another who is interested in film made a short video. These activities help them to realize that learning can be fun while letting them investigate whether their hobbies might lead to careers.
Many of the challenges students face at university occur outside of the classroom. Being independent and far from home ushers in dangers that EIS addresses via regular workshops and assemblies. How to create and follow budgets, basic first aid, drug and alcohol safety, sexual education, and learning local laws are some of the topics that they cover so students can be safe and healthy while away from home.
Teachers supplement coursework with practical life skills in their normal classes as well. For example, students learn how to sew and cook in their homeroom class. In addition to the many extracurriculars on offer, last year grade 11 and 12 students could join a 10-week barista course. They learned about the agricultural processes for coffee, coffee regions, coffee science, basic roasting techniques, various brewing methods, with a focus on barista skills which could help them land a part-time job when in university.
Universities differ greatly across countries, and finding the right fit is essential. University and Careers Guidance Counselor Myriam Harley explains that students begin the search in Grade 10 by examining their interests and what subjects they enjoy. During the next two years, they use the online resource portal UNIFROG to explore careers and university options around the world. In Grades 11 and 12, they also attend bi-weekly classroom sessions where they discuss things to consider when thinking about schools including program fit, climate, international internship options, safety and other factors that are important to each individual. During the sessions, they also work on their personal statements, CVs, and application elements.
EIS graduates have gone on to study in a great number of places, including North America, South Korea, Japan, Australia, the United Kingdom, Bulgaria, the UAE, and Sweden. Past graduates make frequent visits to offer first-hand accounts of educational possibilities and give practical advice on topics including homesickness, making friends, and balancing academics with social life. Moreover, EIS’ recent joining of the Inspired Network, which includes more than 70 schools around the world, increases the shared knowledge of university options and admissions.
EIS aims to foster proactive, independent learners, and this extends beyond the classroom and helps students get accepted into universities. The school encourages students to “geek out” about their passions and join MOOCs (massive online open courses), take internships and spend time demonstrating their interests and passions. “This all looks appealing to universities” Harley explains.
Most EIS students are privileged to have the expectation that they will go on to higher education. Thus, an important part of their high school education is preparing them for it. Via a challenging curriculum, emphasis on self-motivated learning informed by one’s interests, resources for developing study habits, soft skills and practical knowledge, EIS graduates are given all the tools to excel at university and beyond.