When senior Maraleis Sinton was asked what her dream schools were, universities from London, Scotland, Dublin, and Quebec all came into her mind, eager to major in either politics or international relations.
According to the website of ACS International School, opportunities to try new things and live in a different country are offered by attending an international school. International schools are communities with a diverse enrollment of many nationalities and celebration of different cultures.
According to senior Natalie Churchley, who is interested in attending a school in the U.K., international schools are much more specialized. Instead of taking a range of requirements for general education, like most American schools require, students are able to focus more on a specific major.
Students who plan to attend international school apply with a declared major. This allows students to focus more on specific topic and bolster their knowledge about a specific field. However, there are limits to which international schools students can apply to, since each one has its own set of specific Advanced Placement and other requirements, depending on the major, in order to be eligible to apply.
Many international schools require students to write a personal statement sharing their personality and suitability for the chosen degree program, including the extra curriculums that provides preparation for the specific major.
However, from a perspective of a student like Churchley, who has a variety of interests, a downside to this system is that she isn’t given much opportunity to dabble in these interests, since she will start right away with her major.
The decision to attend an international school is a big one, and there are many things to consider. College Counselor Sandra Cernobori said students should consider the academic and the social aspects to each international school before applying.
Most international schools consist of more lectures and less collaborative and group work than their conventional counterparts according to Cernobori. She also mentioned that international schools tend to treat students independently, as they assume students are managing everything on their own.
The social match between the school and the students depend on how good they are at making decisions and how much they are willing to get themselves involved in a new community.
Cernobori said around 14 percent of the senior class of 2018 applied to international schools, but only 1.5 to 3 percent actually decided to attend them. The collection of The Campanile’s Post-Paly Plans map from the past four years show seniors who are interested in studying abroad typically send applications to schools in the U.K. and Canada.
Often, the reason students attend international school involves having personal connections to that country. Churchley, for example, has family in England and is also familiar with that environment from previous vacations.
“The process involve(d) a lot of research on my own, especially because I don’t have a college counselor, but I found the overseas applications to be more straightforward and less labor intensive than American apps,” Churchley said.
Most international school applications emphasize numbers from test scores, grades and the specific classes that particular student took, potentially because they can’t monitor the class curriculum that the American system follows as closely. In addition to SAT and ACT scores, AP scores are highly encouraged.
“I don’t know if the process is easier or harder, (but) I think it’s different,” Cernobori said.
Sinton said the vocabulary and word phrasing on the UCAS (an application program for U.K. schools) was a little difficult to navigate, but learning the process was the starting point of her international avenue.
Throughout the process, students and parents will realize that the application fee is much cheaper than U.S. schools. While a U.S. school application fee costs around $70 to $80 per school, it only costs 25 pounds to apply to five British schools, which is equivalent to about $33, according to Churchley.
The decision to study abroad is not just about the student, however. For parents, having their child far away from home, where students have to moderate their own behavior and study in a foreign environment, can be stressful.
Many would expect convincing one’s parents to allow them to study abroad to be a big obstacle, but Tim Roake, a father of a student currently attending Waseda University in Tokyo, said he was open to the option because of his son’s reasons behind the decision to go to school abroad.
“It seemed very interesting in terms of academic challenge(s), and showed a healthy willingness to try something different from most people.”
One major disadvantage international students have is the lack of connections that would assist them in finding a good job if they intended to join the workforce in America following their college years. Also, since the school terms and breaks do not align with U.S. breaks, getting internships back home can also prove to be a challenge according to Roake.
“I’m worried it might be more difficult to come back to the U.S. afterward if I receive an international degree,” Churchley said.
Considering the pros, studying at an international school is the perfect opportunity to travel and experience cultures completely different from the U.S. Many international schools offer a lot of social events at local clubs, guest speakers and opportunities to engage with fellow peers to create a welcoming environment for all the students, international or not.
“I look forward to meeting new people, especially when they’re from several different countries,” Sinton said.
Sinton said she is especially excited to take on this big decision since she’s been interested in traveling and going abroad ever since she was a child.
As her high school career is coming to an end, what she hopes will be a new chapter of her life is about to begin as her passion creates an international avenue, full of valuable and life-changing experiences.