As the “Global village” decreases in diameter, upcoming generations are increasingly in touch with the world around them. This is not just in relation to current affairs and peer interactions but in education as well. As Bill Gates simply put it, “Exposure from a young age to the realities of the world is a super-big thing.”
Today, students in Kenya are not competing only against their counterparts in neighbouring schools and counties but rival against their peers from faraway lands with contrasting opportunities, cultural dispositions and education systems.
Last academic year, thanks to the Council of International Schools; St Andrew’s School, Turi had the privilege of hosting a Universities Fair at the Senior School.
Exhibiting were Universities from Italy, South Africa, Canada, USA, Switzerland, Qatar, Spain Grenada and Japan each known for their specialty in certain areas of interest and degrees.
In attendance were students from local schools around Turi as and a number from GreenSteads.
More recently, Turi students had yet another opportunity to interact with representatives from top universities; this time from the UK. Given that Turi is a British Curriculum School, the UK is a natural choice for our students.
University Fairs are organised by the college head Mr Andwati and Head of Careers Mrs Andwati , the couple have played a significant role in not only assisting Turi students to secure admission into universities of their choice but have been the even more important voice in assisting the students to decide and plan their career paths.
Given their combined years of experience and developed relationships with many highly ranked and well respected universities, they give a few tips on where to begin.
How can Kenyan students increase their chances of getting into top international Universities?
Early preparation- As soon as you begin secondary school
Unlike local universities, it takes more than just grades to get the attention of recruiters. This is especially true for highly ranked universities. Remember, unlike local universities they have students from all over the world applying and to fill in the limited places available, they look at the applicant as a whole- their interests, talents and differentiating factors e.g your contribution to your community, leadership abilities, excellence in co-curricular activities etc. Therefore, as soon as you join secondary school, identify sports, clubs or any other activities that you like to do and do them well. All your achievements in and out of the classroom form part of your profile.
Note UK universities tend to be more academically focused while American ones place higher value on co-curricular activities e.g outstanding sportsmanship or community service.
Subjects required for different university courses
By the second year of high school, students have had a good feel of the subjects and can see the subjects they are interested in and/or those that they excel in. Many times this supports their interest in certain careers. There are particular subjects required for certain degree courses- not to mention a specific grade attainment level.
Sometimes students are not sure of the courses they want to take until much later and if this is the case, with the assistance of their teachers they should be strategic in selecting subjects; this is especially true for KCSE students who unlike their A-level counterparts take quite a number of subjects. As an international student, it is important to ensure that you keep your English grade as high as possible. Fluency in speech and writing is crucial
Your final KCSE or A-level grade can earn you a coveted spot in the university of your choice, however, It is important to keep your grades up from the beginning of your secondary school career- this is because some universities can grant admission based on your transcripts rather than your final year examination grade. There are universities, especially in Canada and the US that accept Advance Placement credits which require a candidate to do special examinations. Many star students, especially those studying the British curriculum, get admission into universities before completing their A level exams. As mentioned previously, a solid student profile (in this academic) is consistent and displays a student’s dedication from the beginning.
Getting into international universities, especially those with competitive admissions requires significant time and effort. This is due to the lengthy application process and pre-application requirements. It is therefore advisable to begin preparing, the year before your final year (form 3 or year 12). American universities require applicants to sit for ACT and SATs which are standardized tests that cover general subject areas like English, Maths, Science etc. Excelling in these is a step closer to admission into your dream school and preparation is key. While not all universities require you to sit for these tests, they may use your results to differentiate you from other applicants. Programs like http://www.kensap.org are available in Kenya and help high achieving students (especially the needy) prepare and have a high success rate in getting students into Ivy League universities in the US.
Other requirements may include teacher testimonials, financial preparation for parents, scholarship applications and even learning of a language for non-English speaking schools/countries.
Applications should be sent in well in advance and to several universities that offer courses in your area of interest . For example, for international non-EU students applying into UK universities need to submit applications between 1 September and 30 June in the year preceding the academic year that studies commence, submissions.
Getting into a top international university is a journey that involves well thought considered strategy.
This is why at St Andrew’s School, Turi, we begin preparing our senior school students from as early as Year 11. Our students are aware that it is a privilege to have the University representatives on campus and get insight into the opportunities that are available around the world.
Learn more about more about how you can connect to universities around the world from the CIS website.