Applying to world-leading universities is like entering a battlefield that requires thorough preparation, starting well before the end of secondary school.
Gaining admission to the top universities around the world and securing a scholarship have always been the dream shared by many students in Vietnam. A good university will open the door to a world-class education, which in turn will provide job opportunities with top organizations after graduation.
However, too often, students only focus on earning good academic results and don’t do enough research on the critical question, “What qualities do top universities look for in applicants?”
The answer is a mix of everything.
The importance of being well-rounded
Academic excellence is an important starting point to help students through the first scanning process, but it’s not all that is needed. The world-leading universities always look for candidates who excel in several areas and who can demonstrate authentic values that go beyond academic success.
According to Mark Davis, president of the Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation, judges often narrow down highly qualified candidates by looking out for significant non-academic values that the students embody such as leadership, creativity, and service to the community. This supports the fact that international university admissions seem to take a more holistic approach when looking through candidate applications.
Having graduated from the International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma Program at Renaissance and scoring an impressive 45/45 points, Hoang Le Minh, an alumnus of Renaissance International School Saigon, received offers from several prestigious and renowned universities in the U.S. and UK including Princeton University, UC San Diego, Imperial College London, Warwick University, University of Sheffield, University of Southampton, and Johns Hopkins University.
Minh emphasized how “pursuing university abroad is a serious undertaking."
"While academic adjustment is a commonly discussed issue, people tend to neglect emotional and social adjustment. It is important to remain in touch with your emotional well-being in your first few months at university and have a good support network to confide in,” Minh said.
The now Princeton economics graduate also shared how the IB program got him well-prepared for university life and beyond.
“If there’s one thing that distinguishes the IB program from the AP or A-Levels, it is its preparation for handling ambiguity. I see this a lot in the core requirements - especially the Extended Essay, TOK (Theory Of Knowledge) essays and presentations, which are very open-ended and mirror the kind of research expected of you at university,” he elaborated.
Minh expressed how grateful he was to his teachers and mentors at Renaissance, who guided him and encouraged him with opportunities such as the Model United Nations conferences, musical productions, volunteering for charities, and leading internal clubs.
At Princeton, in addition to his major, Minh also minored in French Language and Culture. He enjoyed taking theater and language classes at college, just as he did during his time at Renaissance. Minh mentions the importance of spending time reflecting upon what truly motivates and excites you and being open to exploring other opportunities, as your higher education and future career choices are not limited to the subjects you’ve studied in school.
Therefore, for those who aim to gain acceptance to top universities around the globe, choosing the right study environment where students are encouraged to unlock their academic potential, develop their authentic self and cultivate their own passion is very critical in helping them build up a strong portfolio and make their dream come true.
IB qualification: the ideal foundation to reach out to top universities
The International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma program has been a top choice for high school students around the world. The program offers an international education that encourages both personal and academic achievement, challenging students to excel in both their studies and their personal development while preparing them for university life and beyond.
In fact, universities tend to admit IB students at a higher rate than their non-IB counterparts. A survey of more than 4,000 students conducted by the International Insight Research Group in partnership with the International Baccalaureate Organization (IBO) showed that the acceptance rate of IB students into Ivy League universities is up to 18 percent higher than the total population acceptance rate. The gap is even more significant for top-ranked universities outside of the Ivy League.
Each student has different aspirations and different strengths, and therefore different goals and needs. The significant benefit of the IB program is to empower each and every one of them with a focus on academic and personal excellence. “The IB program aims to do more than other curricula by developing curious, knowledgeable and compassionate young people who are motivated to succeed and are ready for an ethical and unknown future,” said Sarah Alexander, KS5 leader, teacher-business management and IB coordinator at Renaissance.
While being challenged by a demanding academic curriculum, students are also gaining important life skills like critical thinking, problem-solving, collaboration, communication, and creativity.
“At Renaissance, through subjects like CAS (Creativity, Activity, Service), our students are always encouraged to be active in their communities and to take their learning beyond classroom-based academic study,” Alexander added.
In the 2018-19 academic year, with a pass rate of 95 percent and an average IBDP score of 33, students graduating from Renaissance have received offers from leading universities and colleges around the world in the U.S., UK as well as other European countries, Australia and Asia.
Renaissance offers scholarships for their Two-Year IB Diploma program and welcome applications from quality students. Interested candidates should visit the Renaissance website for more information.