Navigating university applications – how Wellington prepares pupils for higher education

Last year saw Wellington College International Shanghai congratulate its first group of year 13 leavers. Having achieved excellent IB results and subsequently, they secured places at top universities in the UK, US and elsewhere across the globe. As the school grows, we aim to build on this incredibly auspicious start. We aim to provide them with all of the necessary motivation, guidance and support needed to attain a place at the right university when the time comes.

Pre-application: choosing the right country, course and university
For each pupil, the path to higher education is a long and very personal journey, which will ultimately lead to an important life decision. This decision shouldn’t be rushed or taken lightly, which is why Wellington pupils are encouraged to start thinking about their options early on. This process begins in year 9 as part of our system of career awareness and development talks. During these we outline the importance of planning out subject choices in later years that will be appropriate for the pupil’s intended path. This process becomes more focused in year 11, when pupils are advised on how to make their IB subject choices match up with their higher education and career hopes.

Understandably, preparations for university applications increase in year 12. At this point, Wellington’s higher education support team, headed by me, will ensure that each pupil has a solid working knowledge of the wide range of courses and college/university choices that are appropriate to their future aspirations. Pupils are then given all of the advice and support necessary to help them narrow down this range of choices into a workable number of applications. For some sixth formers, their intended path will already be extremely clear to them, whereas others may be less certain about their options. In each case, it is Wellington ensures that each young adult is given the right guidance to allow them to make realistic and appropriate applications to the universities and colleges that will suit them best.

This vital ambition is achieved through a process of continual conversation and feedback. Pupils are made aware of the different requirements specific to each country and, in many cases, individual institutions. From grade and subject requirements to more character-based individual essays and tests, pupils are shown what they will need to do to make a successful application. Equally importantly, pupils are taught to take the cultural side of higher education into account before applying: will they be happier in a bustling city-based university, for example? Or would a quiet, rural campus with a low student population make for a better fit?

Of course, many young adults may think that a certain course or career path will suit them perfectly when it’s an abstract concept, though the reality may be an entirely different matter! With this in mind, Wellington offers opportunities for pupils to get a taste of their intended career through summer programmes and work experience positions. We have found that this works equally well for pupils with definite plans for their future as well as those who are unsure of themselves: as in either case, the experience will give them insight into a future career path and help them decide if it’s something that they wish to commit to.

Complementary to Wellington’s advice and guidance is the input of university representatives who visit the College and are available for pupils to meet. Wellington maintains excellent relations with reps from dozens of top universities across the world. By forging links between our pupils and the reps, who spend time with the pupils in order to understand their character and aspirations, Wellington gives each applicant the best possible chance of a successful outcome.

During applications: tackling the task
Once pupils are armed with the knowledge and insight needed to make their higher education application choices, Wellington ensures that they are supported through each stage of every application they make. This can be a lengthy and sometimes slightly overwhelming process for some pupils, so the higher education support team is always on hand to offer advice, review applications, talk through personal statements and suggest useful revisions where necessary. Many higher education institutions also require references, so applicants are helped to choose which teachers will give the most appropriate and relevant references which will complement what they themselves have written in their personal statements.

In most cases, multiple drafts of personal statements and essays will usually be required until the application is sufficiently honed and ready to be sent. This continual process of revision and feedback allows each pupil to craft an application which properly showcases their skills and characteristics and ultimately portrays them in the best possible light.

Post-application: completing the process
Once our pupils have completed their applications they will hopefully find themselves in a confident and relaxed state of mind, prepared to concentrate fully on the examinations before them. Then, the final stage of the applications process occurs after their IB results come in and they must choose from the various institutions who have given them an offer.

In each case, pupils are supported through this final phase of their application, not only by offering guidance on making the most appropriate choice from their offers, but also by providing all the necessary post-exam paperwork that many universities require to confirm their offer. This can range from the authentication of IB results, to transcripts, copies of references and other teacher-related credentials.

Preparing pupils for the next step
At each stage of the applications process, Wellington endeavours to ensure that each pupil is given every opportunity to plan out their future education goals and then achieve them. From discovering which subjects they are passionate about, to choosing appropriate, realistic course and university options, to securing offers, Wellington is with each pupil every step of the way.

John Macrow
Director of Higher Education