High school experiences may vary from country to country, but one thing is certain. No matter where you are, the stress of choosing and applying to college (not to be confused with the French collège, which is middle school) is a big part of it. While some families seem to expertly navigate the complexities and master the deadlines, most of us just try to survive!
I always feel that our kids here in France have the advantage of not experiencing the same sense of “frenzy” that surrounds the college application process in North America. By the same token, some notion of “healthy stress” is necessary for our kids to take the wheel and drive their way to a place where the goal is a sense of owning the process and ending up with viable options for college.
If you are a parent of a high school student, I am sure you have figured out by now that the college landscape has changed immensely since you applied. And since then, chances are your child also attends a French school with little or no college counseling support. So, you might be feeling a little overwhelmed by the myriad of college choices, requirements and deadlines.
Here’s a helpful little guide to keep you on track:
If your child is in Terminal, you have likely already helped your future college student identify which schools to apply to. And, if he or she is so inclined, you have already submitted an early application by November 1st. If not, then your child should be in the throes of:
- Writing and re-writing the application essays
- Studying and preparing for a final attempt at the SAT (Dec. 5th) or ACT (Dec. 12th)
- Polishing the Common Application for the January 1st deadline common for a lot of American universities
If you are feeling panicked at this moment because your child has done very little in terms of the application process and won’t be able to meet the 1st of January deadline, not to fret! There are plenty of excellent and reputable universities that work on a rolling admissions basis and/or better yet, are “test optional”, meaning they won’t require your student to submit standardized test scores.
If you are a parent of a child in Seconde or Première, you can breathe a little easier, but know that creating a plan for the coming months will ease the stress. These tips are for you:
- Identify whether the SAT or ACT is a better test for your child. He or she can do this by either taking a diagnostic test, or a full practice test of each to see which one is better suited.
- Make a standardized test plan by checking out the dates the tests are offered, keeping in mind that most students take the official SAT or ACT at least twice – once at the end of 1ère and once in the Fall of Terminal year. The most selective universities also require two Subject Tests.
- Plan a date to take an English proficiency test (TOEFL or IELTS) if your child has been attending a non-Anglophone school for most of his/her life.
- Help your child identify ‘best fit’ schools, not based on arbitrary rankings, but based on your child’s requirements for an optimal college experience and environment. Take into consideration things like his or her learning style, level of independence, size and location of the school, accessibility to faculty and learning support, job placement, and percentage of international students on campus.
- Plan to visit some schools if you can and make the most of your time on the campuses. You wouldn’t buy a car without test-driving it first, would you?
- Have your child think about which teachers would write the best letters of recommendation for him – most universities require two.
- Reach out to your child’s high school by the end of 1ère year and let them know of her intention to apply to universities abroad. If they aren’t familiar with the process, they are going to require some extra support to fulfill the Common App requirements.
- Encourage your child to reach out to the schools he’s interested in by sending questions to the person in charge of international admissions – they will appreciate his interest in their college and can provide a wealth of information.
Finally, be mindful of the fact that there are many different paths that lead to success and no matter where you are on the journey with your child, try to relax and enjoy the ride!