January 28, 2016
Every year, students from Yew Chung International School of Shanghai (YCIS Shanghai) matriculate into some of the world’s top universities. Karel DeCock, University Guidance Co-ordinator at the school’s Gubei Campus, recently spoke about preparing students, both academically and emotionally, for higher education.
Where are you from, and how did you and your family come to Shanghai?
I’m a Belgian/American citizen, but have lived internationally all of my life. I’ve spent about one-third of my time in the US, one-third in Europe, and one-third in Asia. I’ve been here in Shanghai at YCIS for nine years, and my wife and I had our two sons here; they are ages four and 15 months.
How did you get into the field of university guidance?
Having grown up living in different countries, I wanted to be able to do the same with my children. I completed a master’s degree in Counselling and worked as a school guidance counselor, addressing the emotional needs of students. There was a lot of crossover with this and the university application process, which can be a daunting time for young people, so my interest developed from wanting to help students make these important life decisions.
What does your role as University Guidance Co-ordinator involve?
Our University Guidance Office supports students in Years 10–13 as they work on their university applications, but the process actually begins well before they start filling out forms. We talk with the students and their parents about their expectations for higher education and help guide them through the process. Because our students apply to schools in the US, Europe, and Asia, there are many different application systems to navigate. We help our students discover how they can stand out amongst other applicants, and to really think through their strengths and interests. In addition to myself, our University Guidance team includes two other skilled university guidance counsellors, one of whom has a background in college admissions in the US and provides our students with even more perspective from the “other side” of the application.
How is the YCIS university guidance programme unique?
First, we have a regular class with Secondary students starting in Year 10 about preparing for life after high school. This covers a range of topics, from independent learning and note taking, to discussions about how to handle peer pressure. Many of our students will attend universities in different countries from their families, so they really need to learn independent life skills. Second, we also host regular career evenings and we organise a huge number of university representatives to come in and talk with our students, giving them opportunities to interact with people from a wide range of industries, as well as from the universities they are considering. This access to insight and first-hand discussion helps them form educated decisions.
What are the advantages of starting the programme so early?
It gives our students the added advantage of additional time and awareness to make sure they are making the right decisions about which courses and universities they want to attend; and at the same time, helps keep them focused on the requirements for different institutions. As counsellors, we also get to know the students very well, and this builds their trust and our understanding of their abilities and interests so we can guide them accordingly.
Have acceptances for the current Year 13s started coming in already?
Yes, we are busy all year round, but this time of year is when things start to ramp up in a big way. A lot of the UK universities have already started offering places – one of our students has been made an offer from Oxford University, and several of our students have received offers from Warwick, Leeds, and Manchester. We’ll soon start hearing from the US universities, but several of our students have received early acceptances from top colleges such as University of Michigan, University of Southern California, and University of Chicago.
Even though your children are still young, do you already have some ideas about their own future university paths?
Well, for sure I’d like for them to attend an institution with a global mindset and a large number of international students. College is a great time to meet and socialise with people from a wide range of backgrounds, which gives young people a better understanding of the world. I’m sure I’ll have more to say once we move past preschool!