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    The Standard: Paving the way to winning university applications at YCIS


    25 Jan, 2022

    10 : 00

    • In today’s increasingly globalised society, tertiary education is in great demand as students compete fiercely to gain admission to top universities around the world. With the stakes of applying to prestigious degree programmes at an all-time high, the Careers and University Guidance Office (CUGO) in Yew Chung International School (YCIS) helps students gain a competitive edge and maximise their chances of success in university and beyond.

      At YCIS, a team of leading university guidance counsellors work closely with students to place them in a university that matches their academic, social and personal growth needs. All six CUGO counsellors, hailing from diverse backgrounds, are equipped with specialist knowledge of different university destinations, alongside a combined total of more than 50 years of professional experience in university admissions and university guidance counselling. As a result of this breadth and depth of expertise, YCIS has a university placement rate of 100%, with countless students accepted to top global universities year after year.

      Laying the groundwork from a young age

      YCIS believes that early preparation is crucial for students to build a strong foundation for their educational and professional pursuits. As such, Secondary students from all school years are encouraged to meet and work with CUGO counsellors to identify their academic and career interests, as well as their personal qualities, strengths and skills early on. For those who are unsure of their future path, Nick Strong, Regional Coordinator for Careers and University Guidance at YCYW Education Network, notes that a number of university research tools and guidance courses are available to help them explore and define their passion, goals, and direction. 

      CUGO also assists students in identifying and developing the skills required for their particular aspirations. The Advanced University Preparation Programme, for example, is specially designed to help gifted students develop critical skills and attributes expected by highly selective universities.

      Additionally, academic planning is provided to students from Year 9 onwards. “Year 9 is an important phase in a student’s academic journey as they have to choose their IGCSE subjects,” explains Dr Alvin Kwan, University Guidance Counsellor at YCIS Hong Kong. “Hence, we discuss with students to ensure that their choices for both IGCSE and IB align with their career aspirations.”

      Holistic & individualised support

      As students enter Year 12, they are each assigned a CUGO counsellor for one-to-one support. “They learn how to explore university options, build their personal portfolios, maximise their summer breaks to learn new skills, explore their academic interests, and acquire relevant work experience,” Kwan outlines.

      When exploring university options, CUGO aids students in conducting thorough and detailed research by making all aspects of the selection process clear. Key areas of consideration include the university's size, location, research specialism, course content and assessment methods. “Students should select universities based on the concept of best-fit rather than purely on league table rankings,” says Strong. “This means they have to take into account whether the university and the course will give them the skills, the knowledge, the experience and the judgement that they need to go on to that next stage in their career.”

      Throughout the application process, CUGO adopts a strategic approach to help students increase their chances of getting into top-choice universities. “We advise them on the optimum time to submit their applications,” Strong continues. “For example, those who have attained excellent predicted grades early on in the year should apply early. On the other hand, those requiring additional time to raise their predicted grades should apply later on in the year.”

      CUGO also advises students to apply to different universities that correspond to various possible examination results. These include ‘reach universities’ for when students perform better than expected; ‘match universities’ for when students achieve expected grades; and ‘safety universities’ for when students perform worse than expected. At the same time, CUGO works with students to ensure that they do not send in too many applications as it can interfere with their academic work.

      Other areas of support offered by CUGO include personal statement guidance, co-curricular activities and work experience guidance, test and interview preparations, and scholarship and financial advice. In receiving comprehensive, one-to-one support, students are not only better placed to meet the academic requirements of their chosen universities but are also equipped to meet the demands and challenges of university life.

      Strong connections with leading universities

      The individualised support offered by CUGO is made more effective with the team’s access to the latest and most accurate university admissions information. “CUGO has strong professional connections with higher education admissions officers as well as academics. These relationships enable us to acquire information on the most up-to-date admissions and student recruitment trends in higher education in many popular university destinations, allowing us to tailor our support accordingly,” Kwan elucidates.

      Over the years, CUGO has been invited to interview training sessions offered by Oxford and Cambridge, which has equipped the team with more significant expertise in helping students navigate the competitive application process at top universities. Leveraging on its strong network of connections, CUGO also regularly invites admissions professionals and academics from global universities to deliver academic taster lectures or specialised workshops for students’ benefit.

      Broadening horizons

      A plethora of opportunities is provided by CUGO for students to get in touch and gain a deeper understanding of different universities around the world. The annual university fair, organised by CUGO, is attended by over 90 global universities. Together with more than 150 individual visits by universities and academics across the world each year, students and parents are given valuable opportunities to meet with university representatives from Hong Kong and overseas, including Australia, Canada, the UK and the US.  

      Insights from YCIS talents

      This year, with the help of CUGO, three YCIS students – Jasmine Chan, Ermina Shahid and Nga Sze Wong, have received early offers to pursue Medicine at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. In addition, Derun Li, another YCIS student, has received an offer to study Physics at the University of Oxford.

      In the next article, these four students will share their personal experiences of how CUGO helped them throughout the university application process. They will also reflect on their learning journey at YCIS and give valuable advice on studying for IB and applying to top universities around the world.

      Jasmine Chan

      Jasmine’s passion for studying Medicine stemmed primarily from her experience of participating in Seeds of Hope, a service-learning co-curricular programme organised by the YCIS schools. As part of the programme, Jasmine embarked on an overseas trip to the Philippines, where she was given the opportunity to observe and assist in childbirth at a local clinic. Having witnessed first-hand the healthcare challenges faced by less developed countries, Jasmine hopes to join Medicins Sans Frontiers (Doctors Without Borders) in the future to deliver quality medical service to more people in these areas.

      Ermina Shahid

      As an aspiring doctor, Ermina believes that health is the biggest blessing that a person can have. Hence, she considers it a great joy and privilege to study Medicine as it will enable her to offer more people the priceless gift of wellbeing. Motivated by the desire to make a positive impact in society, Ermina is confident and determined to overcome any challenges along the way.

      Nga Sze Wong

      Having undergone life-saving surgery in one of the hospitals in Hong Kong at a young age, Nga Sze is grateful for the healthcare that the city has provided to its people and would like to give back to society by becoming a doctor. She looks forward to working with other healthcare workers in Hong Kong to improve people’s health and enhance their living standards.

      Derun Li

      Ever since an announcement for the Hong Kong Physics Olympiad caught his eye nine years ago, Derun has been inspired to pursue physics at a higher level. Having achieved stellar results in the competition year after year, he was selected to attend the prestigious Physics Enhancement Programme for Gifted Students offered by the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. Looking ahead, Derun is excited to read Physics at Oxford, where he can engage with leading professors in the field and contribute to frontier research.

      Written by Glory Chan, The Standard

      Extracted from The Standard - Education on 26 Jan 2022