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Conundrum: education vs. university entrance


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Calvin is attending a school where everyone does the International Baccalaureate. I like the programme because it enforces a broad education; UK education tends to specialise early. I am now looking at the requirements for university entrance, however, and it seems that it's harder using the IB. The universities seem to require the same high level of achievement in subjects relevant to the degree the child is applying for, even though the pupil is also studying more widely. So it looks like it's just harder.

 

I do think the IB is a better education, but are two years of a better education worth not getting into the course of a pupil's choice?

 

Laura

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For us it would depend on the field of study, how competitive entry to the course at the chosen university is, etc.

 

For the last 3 years my oldest dd has been saying that she wants to become a vet. There is only one veterinary school in South Africa and they take 140 new students each year. Admission is based on exam results. Given the small number of students, competition for entry is obviously extremely stiff (and for non-designated groups even more so). She will therefore have to have very high marks in first and second languages, maths and physical science and two other subjects (interestingly biology is not specified).

 

If dd is still adamant that she wants to be a vet by 9th grade, we will focus her schooling on university entrance. Closer to the time, I plan to contact the admissions office to make sure we tailor her high school studies towards getting the best possible results for course entry. (Here university entry level is typically at the equivalent of six AS level subjects. The vet course is 6 years with 2 practical years before registration). I'll try to add in exposure to additional subjects, but the study will not be in depth.

 

Does Calvin know yet what he wants to to study? How competitive is entry going to be to the specific course and university?

 

My first choice would be to go for the broader IB education, but if he is passionate about a particular field, it might be better for him to focus on university entry.

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I've been discussing this same type of question with my son's handwriting tutor in London (ds is 9 and at boarding school), whose own two children have done remarkably well. Her initial advice on my dds (12, but two years accelerated in their former school) was to do 4 A levels and do extremely well, as that will be easier to get and just as (in her opinion) useful in terms on uni entrance as the IB. We're looking at US university for the girls, but they will likely do their last two years at school in the UK or similar (when they are 16/17, thus dropping the acceleration). It seems possible, though, that the girls will do quite as well on the IB as they would on the A levels, so her advice is now leaning more toward IB. Not sure that helps, but I think it is a good question to be asking and certainly one we will be looking at in the next couple of years. I like the idea of the IB, but if 4 A levels get you into the college of your choice, well, who can argue with that? I'd be very interested to hear what the school says, if you don't mind sharing.

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Does Calvin know yet what he wants to to study? How competitive is entry going to be to the specific course and university?

 

My first choice would be to go for the broader IB education, but if he is passionate about a particular field, it might be better for him to focus on university entry.

 

It's extremely competitive.

 

Laura

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I would go to the end-point (Oxford and Cambridge) and talk to an admissions counselor. While your school may be able to point you to exceptional students that went through their type of school and got in to Cambridge or Oxford, the universities can tell you if it's an uphill battle.

 

I guess you (and he) needs to decide if he's willing to possibly sacrifice those schools.

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I do know someone who entered Cambridge after receiving and IB Diploma. I have no idea how that related to her intended course of study. Perhaps if there is a course of study Calvin wants he could try to focus more of his IB work in that area or do the IB service projects in that area.

 

Out of curiosity can Calvin sit the other non IB exams? Would that be too much work?

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The older brother of a classmate of my ds went *St Andrew's because he couldn't get into competitive universities here in the US. His grades were bad, but he got extremely high scores on all the IB exams. It seems that's all the European schools look at. So, if my understanding is correct then maybe part of your decision making should based on your evaluation of how good your ds is at test taking.

 

I guess the other thing is how your son feels about it. My son feels extremely strongly about his IB studies. It would be a difficult (unbearable) situation if dh and I said he couldn't do it.

 

My ds, like the boy I described, is also a phenomenal test taker, but doesn't make grades on regular work. Unfortunately, my ds doesn't have parents who can the check his classmate's parents did. Wish I could.

 

 

*(I don't know how competitive St Andrews is the UK, but if this young man comes back to the states it will stand out better on his resume than the 3rd tier schools where he was accepted).

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Kid is looking at University of Glasgow as one of his options.

 

Since kid is *not* in an IB program (obviously - he's homeschooled!), I called admissions and asked what requirements he would need to meet to gain entrance. They told me he would need to submit an SAT score over 1800 and two SAT2 scores that were applicable for the college to which he was applying. So, since he would be applying for physics, he would have to submit Physics and Maths 2. They would both have to be at least a 600 score.

 

The only other hurdles at that point are the "home fees vs international fees" requirement (our residency has been rather... fluid) and completing the UCAS. I swear, if he does this, I'm going to HIRE someone to help me with that stinking form. It is absolutely dreadful. Worse than the common app, in my opinion.

 

Oh - Calvin could take the SAT at an international school - that is where kid is taking it. With "score choice", he can take it several times and pick the best one.

 

You could call the English unis and see if it works the same way for them as it does for the Scottish ones...

 

 

asta

Edited by asta
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I would go to the end-point (Oxford and Cambridge) and talk to an admissions counselor. While your school may be able to point you to exceptional students that went through their type of school and got in to Cambridge or Oxford, the universities can tell you if it's an uphill battle.

 

I guess you (and he) needs to decide if he's willing to possibly sacrifice those schools.

 

I've contacted Oxford for more information. My concerns started when I saw their admissions statistics. British universities offer entrance based on future exam performance (as exams come at the end of the final school year). Of IB students last year, 25% failed to reach the grades asked of them by Oxford. The percentage for A levels (the standard exams in England/Wales) was only 7% and for Scottish Highers 12%.

 

Laura

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Doesn't the school have an expert career adviser, even one who is part time? We have spoken to ds's advisor-we are choosing GCSE's at the moment and she is absolutely on top of exactly what each university requires. There is a book she keeps referring to which lists entrance requirements for each university and course.

Personally I am making sure that we do not close any doors at all even at GCSE plus keeping on top of what ds needs to achieve out of school so he has a chance of getting into the university of his choice even at this early stage.

 

Speaking to people who have day to day experience of dealing with the universities is vital because a lot of what is going on isn't written down! Their experiences are helping us make sure we don't forget anything and miss any possible things we can do to enhance ds's chances.

 

If you find you aren't getting anywhere with the school it may be asking a private career advisor to help you-I know the one at ds's school is self employed and advises other people too.

Stephanie

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Doesn't the school have an expert career adviser, even one who is part time? We have spoken to ds's advisor-we are choosing GCSE's at the moment and she is absolutely on top of exactly what each university requires.

 

The problem is that the school only teaches the IB, so the school advisor is unlikely to say, 'Yes, Calvin will have a much better chance of getting onto this course if he leaves the school..'

 

I've looked at a lot of websites (Bristol, Oxford, Cambridge, Durham) and in every case the offers for IB were in effect tougher than for A levels. I'm looking forward to hearing the school's take on this.

 

Laura

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Since kid is *not* in an IB program (obviously - he's homeschooled!), I called admissions and asked what requirements he would need to meet to gain entrance. They told me he would need to submit an SAT score over 1800 and two SAT2 scores that were applicable for the college to which he was applying.

 

Calvin's talents are skewed towards arts, so I don't think that the SAT (which favours more balanced people) would suit him well. In the IB, the maths component will be about one sixth of the whole, rather than one half.

 

Laura

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The older brother of a classmate of my ds went *St Andrew's because he couldn't get into competitive universities here in the US. His grades were bad, but he got extremely high scores on all the IB exams. It seems that's all the European schools look at. So, if my understanding is correct then maybe part of your decision making should based on your evaluation of how good your ds is at test taking.

 

 

It's a slightly different case to Oxford and Cambridge, however. Because Scottish degrees take four years, you don't need to specialise so much at school to enter them, as opposed to English/Welsh universities with three years of study. Calvin is a good test taker, but he's aiming very high.

 

Laura

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