La Chât hosts 124 Universities! Planifier le futur de nos enfants.

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On Tuesday 1 October, La Chât was host to the CIS International University Fair, welcoming representatives from 124 universities in Australia, Asia, Canada, continental Europe, the UK and the USA. The latter two had the most significant presence, with 34 UK universities and 54 US universities in attendance.

Cet événement a été organisé par le Council of International Schools et fait partie des quinze salons des universités annuels que le Council organise à travers l’Europe. Deux d’entre eux ont lieu en Suisse: le premier à La Chât et le deuxième à Zürich. A en croire les sources de “En Bref”, le premier est l’événement universitaire le plus important de Suisse. Nous pouvons être fiers qu’il ait lieu au sein de notre campus.
“En Bref” a aussi remarqué la présence de nombreux étudiants qui portaient des uniformes appartenant à des écoles situées à plus d’une heure de route de La Chât. Le CIS en effet, nous a confirmé qu’environ 1,000 participants, en provenance d’écoles de la région, avaient répondu présents à cet évènement.

Krista Despotovic-Jacobson, organiser of the fair on behalf of La Chât since 2007, says that  ‘CIS is a not-for-profit organisation that shares many of the same values as the Ecolint Foundation. This is one of the many reasons why we host the fair.’  Ben Colliard, also a member of the Guidance team, adds that ‘By hosting the fair, our students (and counsellors) get privileged access to visiting universities. Krista’s role in anchoring the fair here is crucial and adds much value to the Guidance team’s operations and outcomes.’

So why do universities travel to Geneva to meet prospective students?

We spoke to some of the university admissions and marketing representatives to understand why it’s worth their while to travel so far to meet students studying at Swiss international schools. Their responses were remarkably consistent. They all see Switzerland as a hub of high quality students, who are not only well-prepared academically for the rigours of university study, but also open-minded and participative, therefore able to contribute more widely to university life. The representative from City University of London told us that ‘In the UK there is a lot of competition for the best students. Switzerland is a well-recognised centre for some of the top international students, so it is very important for us to be present here, amongst these, frankly, amazing universities, meeting the students and parents face-to-face.’

It seems that universities understand and especially value the qualifications offered by La Chât – iGCSE, IB and Swiss Matu. All mentioned the ‘impressive breadth’ of these programmes, which they see as particularly strong preparation for university. Some specifically mentioned the fact that IB Diploma holders are amongst their top-performing students. The representative from the University of British Columbia explained that ‘The statistics show that IB students are considerably better prepared for university than students with most other qualifications. They have developed the qualities necessary to succeed – they are able to set priorities,  manage their time, and have built character and depth through their ToK and CAS experiences.’

It is also interesting to note that some universities are prepared to offer incentives to attract students with international qualifications. The representative from the University of Colorado mentioned that ‘All IB Diploma holders, and holders of some other qualifications, such as A-levels, automatically receive 24 credits, and the number can be even higher depending on the subjects studied and the specific results gained. It’s a huge deal to have such a head-start before a student even steps on campus.’

In addition to the universities present at this event, La Chât hosts approximately 10 other UK universities and 100 US and Canadian universities each year. ‘Last week we hosted Stanford, UPenn, Brown and Wellesley – their only stop in Switzerland.’  says Krista Despotovic-Jacobson. According to Ben Colliard ‘Universities visit individually because they know this means they can have focussed time with a group of interested students, and also meet with the counsellors, which is very useful in terms of discussing entry requirements, new courses, campus developments, etc.’  The Guidance team also organise an annual trip to visit UK universities (open to Year 12s) and visits to Swiss university Open Days.

What did parents have to say about the event?

It seems that students attend the event from Year 11 and up, and that parents of this younger year group were mostly concerned about ‘getting the ball rolling’ – introducing their children to the idea of university and to the spectrum of options available so that they can start to formulate ideas of what their future might hold. As one parent put it, ‘I have older children, and I know that it takes time to work out what they might want to do beyond school, so, for me, the earlier they start to think about it the better – ideally before they have to make  IB subject choices.”  Others talked about broadening their children’s horizons – ‘My son is dead set on going to EPFL, which might not be the best fit for him. I’ve brought him here tonight so that he can see that there is a world of choice out there, and that he should consider a wider range of options.’

The parents of older students seemed to be taking more of a back-seat role – ‘My (Year 12) daughter has shortlisted the universities that she’s interested in, and she’s making a bee-line for those. She has some very specific questions to ask, and she’s hoping to make connections with university representatives so that she can follow-up directly with them after tonight. I’m leaving her to it!’

The ‘parental vibes’ were generally very positive, although some found the long queues at certain stands to be overwhelming (‘This is huge! Much bigger and busier than I was expecting!’), while one parent commented on the disappointing representation by European universities.

The CIS response to this latter observation was that ‘The composition of universities at the fair varies from year to year, but it is solely dictated by interest of the universities. As the US and UK are popular destinations for globally mobile students, many of those universities find value in attending events such as this each year.’  Krista Despotovic-Jacobson further added that ‘Public European and other universities don’t engage with families in this way – they host their own open days. Our Guidance colleague Beatrice Hoesli organises a La Chât Careers/University Evening to which she invites Ecolint Alumni from public universities to discuss their programmes.”

Quelles autres démarches font les parents pour aider leurs enfants dans leurs recherches d’universités ?

Les parents présents à l’événement nous ont fait part des démarches qu’ils entreprennent afin d’aider au mieux leurs enfants à faire le bon choix. Les plus récurrentes étaient :

  • Career and learning preference tests. (La Chât Guidance offers the Morrisby Career Profiling and MBTI Personality Indicator tests, usually in Year 11. All students from Years 10-13 also have access to Maia Learning software which helps them to search for universities and provides some free interest inventories and learning styles activities. Students simply log-in with the Ecolint email – no password is required.)
  • On-line searches – parents mentioned that university websites provide a wealth of information, including virtual tours, opportunities to connect with students, etc.
  • Looking at university league tables to get an idea of who does well overall, or against certain criteria, such as subject areas, student satisfaction, or employability. League tables mentioned were the Shanghai Academic Rankings, QS University Rankings, Times Higher Education World University Rankings,  Guardian University League Table and The Complete University Guide.
  • Visiting universities. (La Chât Guidance organises a tour of UK universities, open to Year 12s, and visits to Swiss University Open Days.)
  • Attending presentations by the school Guidance Team, and encouraging children to attend university visits to school.
  • Attending careers events. (La Chât organises an annual Careers Fair, which includes additional European universities.)

Comment La Chât aide ses étudiants dans leurs démarches ?

L’école a une équipe de conseillers universitaires en place qui, en plus de leur rôle d’enseignant, offrent des services de conseil. Ils ont subdivisés leurs compétences en trois grandes zones géographiques :

  • USA, Canada, Netherlands – Krista Despotovic-Jacobson
  • UK, Ireland, Australia – Ben Colliard and David Wynne Jones
  • Switzerland, Francophone Europe, Visual Arts – Beatrice Hoesli

L’équipe commence à conseiller les parents et les élèves à partir de la neuvième année. Le processus commence par une reflexion sur les examens IGCSE et autour des options pour les programmes BI et Matu. Au fur et à mesure que les élèves avancent dans leur scolarité et en particulier à partir du deuxième trimestre de la 12ème année, l’école leur offre de plus en plus d’entretiens individuels afin de leur fournir toute l’aide nécessaire pour choisir l’université qui leur convient le mieux ainsi que pour compléter les formalités d’inscription.

For a full overview of the services offered by the Guidance Team, visit my.ecolint.ch – Main Menu -> School Life -> Guidance.  As Ben Colliard advises, ‘The school’s Guidance webpages really do contain a wealth of information, including all of our presentations, which can really help families.’

By: Olive Fenton and Alex Ginsburg

Photos: Olive Fenton

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