Monday, June 19, 2017

Studying abroad in high school: The Nitty Gritty (NON UWC VERSION)

As someone who had the opportunity to study abroad before starting university, I do get a lot of messages from people who are interested in following my footsteps, especially after joining the Facebook group Bangladeshis beyond border. And while I am more than happy to help out those in need, even I myself get overwhelmed sometimes. That and I'm horrible with checking message requests on Facebook Messenger. Hopefully this post will help with answering most of the common questions and if need be, PLEASE send me a message using the form on my CONTACT PAGE. I am much more likely to see questions sent in through my contact page as opposed to message requests on Facebook Messenger. In this post, I will also give you the tools to do your own research so please try finding out as much as you can on your own first. I can give you pointers and advice every now and then, but as I am not your personal counselor (also since I am extremely busy with internships and schoolwork) I can't spoon feed you all the information. But I promise that I will try my best to help. Therefore without further ado, let's jump right into the general stuff.

1) Finding potential schools: During the time I applied, my go to website for finding potential schools was PLEASE do check this website out. It has a database of boarding schools from around the world and provides information on whether these schools offer merit scholarships/ financial aid. Make a list of schools which you think might fit your criteria. Then visit the schools' individual websites. To give you a head start, here are some schools I know of that offer merit scholarships/financial aid to international students and are, in my opinion, good choices:
i) PTIS (Prem Tinsulanonda International School, Chiang Mai, Thailand)
ii) Leysin American School (Leysin, Switzerland)
iii) Emma Willard School (All girls' school, Troy, New York)
iv) Lincoln Academy (Newcastle, Maine; Also: My alma mater!)
v) Fryeburg Academy (Fryeburg, Maine)
vi) Phillips Exeter Academy (New Hampshire; Mark Zuckerberg and Dan Brown graduated from here) 

2) Testing: To be honest, I don't think I will be of much help with this. There's this test called SSAT which private schools in the U.S. often require but in my case the school waived my testing requirement after doing a skype interview. If you're from a national curriculum school (or even an English medium school) and serious about applying, take the IELTS/TOEFL. I took the IELTS when applying to universities in the U.S. and managed to get a perfect score 9 by practicing for a couple of days. From my experience, for IELTS: if you're pretty confident in your English, what you mostly need to work on is getting used to the listening and speaking part (they want very concise answers). Give yourself a minimum of two weeks. If you're not as confident, give yourself a month of rigorous preparation and I can guarantee a relatively good score. You don't necessarily need to join a coaching center; the materials from the British Council website should be enough. 

3) Applying: Please plan well ahead! Check application/scholarship deadlines and application requirements! Email the admissions department if you don't understand something. Trust me, that's why they're there! The best time to start your application is the summer of the year before you plan on enrolling. Many schools have rolling admissions (meaning, they accept students year round) but apply by the December/January that comes right before the fall you plan on enrolling. (Example: if you plan on enrolling for Fall 2018, all your applications should ideally be done by December 2017 or January 2018 if we're pushing it). The reason for this is that schools allocate a certain amount of money to their scholarship/financial aid fund and if you're too late in applying, you might end up getting less aid money (or none at all). As for when during your high school career should you apply, I would say that a good time to target enrollment would be the fall after you finish your O'Levels/S.S.C exam. So the application process should start about a year before.

4) Deciding: I think this is by far the most difficult part of the process. My mother was more on the reluctant side when it came to sending me abroad, especially so early. So have a solid reasonable argument thought out beforehand. You can even create a flow chart on paper before sitting with your parents. Tell them why it would be a good opportunity for you, etc. Also, if you need more financial aid/ scholarship money, feel free to bargain for it with the admissions team (be polite though!). Tell them why their offer might be a financial constraint for your parents. (Don't just go like: Bangladesh is a poor country, so our currency is weak. That's a pathetic argument in my opinion.) Be as truthful and convincing as possible. Also, if you've applied to multiple schools and one school has offered you more money than the other, you can mention this to the other school and say that you're interested but  another school has offered a better financial package, therefore whether they'd be willing to provide more aid money. You'd be surprised with how the admissions team might respond. 

That being said, I wish you all the best on your journeys and remember, if something doesn't work out it means that there is a better opportunity waiting ahead! Till next time!

**Disclaimer, none of the images used in this blog post are mine. The owners have full rights.**

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