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CIS University Counselor

Fall 2013 Parent Newsletter


From Your University and Career Counsellors
The rst University Counsellor newsletter of the 2013-2014 school year focuses primarily on our Year 13 Parents who are now swimming in the college process pool. A quick scan of this issues content, however, will hopefully reveal that theres something here for everyone. Were hoping that you nd these newsletters helpful and informative, and not overwhelming. It cant be stressed enough that no parent can possibly fulll the role of be-all, end-all resource through this process. Of all the things parents can do, however, providing a safe place for students to communicate is, by itself, a great achievement and the most important goal you can set. In addition to these newsletters (click here to access back issues), your University Counsellors have been busy re-formatting and updating our University Counselling Website. Our goal is that it will continue to grow into a comprehensive, easily accessible resource for students and parents. As always, please feel free to email, call to arrange a meeting with your University Counsellor to fully answer your questions and concerns. Remember that your CIS University Counsellors and Career Counsellor are here to serve you as well as our students. Appointments with University Counsellors and Career Counsellor can be made by contacting our fabulous administrative assistant, Ms Brankie Wong, at: bwong@cis.edu.hk Your CIS University Counsellors! ! ! Sow Fun Dawson - sfdawson@cis.edu.hk! Robert Mansueto - mansueto@cis.edu.hk Marc Marier mmarier@cis.edu.hk Your CIS Career Counsellor Catherine Irvine - cirvine@cis.edu.hk

Whats inside Our annual University Counsellor Board Report for 2013-14 Page 2 The Rumor Mill: dont be a victim! Page 4 What should I be doing now? College-related advice for parents of younger secondary students Page 7 Mocks, transcripts, predicted and expected grades: a guide on CIS assessments and the role they play in the college process Page 9 The TOEFL: not a foot disease, nor is it likely to play a part of your childs college process Page 10 Calendar of upcoming UC workshops, Yr 13 Application deadlines and visiting unis Page 11 Humor: While were quoting Twain, heres a favorite... Page 11

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UC Board Report: Where Weve Been and Where Were Going


Just when you think you have a trend, you dont After two years of an upward trend in the percentage of students opting for higher education in the US, numbers for the class of 2013 fell back to gures more in line with historical averages. This year, 47.5% of our students going off to university will be attending institutions in the US compared with 59.5% in 2012 and 57.1% in 2011. So what does this tell us? Basically, we try to make heads or tails out of uctuations (occasionally major, but most often minor) in student country choices from year-to-year, but the fact is there are simply no long-term patterns to be discerned. And in that we should take pride. Overall, our students generally make the best choices for themselves in terms of college/university enrollment regardless of what those that have preceded them have chosen to do. Hopefully, that willingness to make individual choices is a reection of our continual effort to encourage students to not blindly follow the pack, but make decisions that will serve them best educationally, socially and personally. Having said that, here are some college/university related facts about the CIS Class of 2013: Yet again, a signicant portion (19) of our US bound graduates will be attending small, private liberal arts colleges. For the rst time ever, we will have students attending two institutions (both in California) that have never previously enrolled students from CIS; Cal Poly San Luis Obispo (Architecture) and California College of the Arts. An unusually large number of graduates received signicant merit scholarships to attend institutions in the UK (Jardine, Prince Philip, and Dickson Poons KCL Law), Hong Kong (Chinese University-4, HKU and HKUST) and the US (American Chamber of Commerce-2). The largest number of students from any one class will be embarking on medical related studies this year with four students attending medical school in Hong Kong, one in the Republic of Ireland, and one in the UK. Additionally one student will begin studies in veterinary medicine and one in dentistry, both in the UK. In keeping with past patterns, the majority of students who will be staying here in Hong Kong for their studies (this year 9 of 12) will be entering professional programs. Likewise, professional program in the UK still dominate in attracting our students over more academic subjects in the Arts, Humanities and Sciences.

Attached for your information are our updated school prole (including matriculation data from the class of 2013), along with historical enrollment data for both the US and the UK from 2003 through 2012. The real news on the University Counselling front, however, are the new initiatives and services that we have been able to provide to our students and parents as a result of the addition of our third counsellor. Both the reduction in individual caseload and infusion of ideas and experience that came with the addition of Marc Marier allowed us to get to know our counsellees better and once again focus time on expanding and strengthening our programs in support of students and their parents; a sampling of which are listed below.

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Student Support: US University Workshop: during the spring term, 20 Year 13 students participated in Saturday workshops focusing on various aspects of the US college application process. These sessions culminated in evening presentations where each student shared with parents the results of their university research, goals for their college process as well as key factors that will play a roll in helping them determine college choices. Health: this year we began actively promoting the concept of maintaining a healthy approach to the college process. In both large groups and individual sessions, students were made aware of the negative effects of hyper-competition on their college process as well as the importance of approaching this process in a healthy and positive manner. University Counsellors helped design and implement a Transition To College Workshop for all graduating Year 13 students. These sessions focused on such topics as health, money management, dorm life, cooking, and personal safety.

Parent Support: Workshops for parents were designed and conducted on: Successfully transitioning their students to university and how to prepare for their childs departure. Explaining the college process for our Cantonese/Mandarin speaking parents in Chinese. Helping Year 12 parents understand what to expect during Year 13 and adopting healthy goals for themselves and their children for the college process. Communication: The University Counselling Newsletter was created to address the needs and concerns of our parent community around the college process. Four newsletters were published during the school year and are available at our UC website. Click here. The University Counselling Website was extensively overhauled with the ultimate goal of creating a comprehensive resource for all college related matters. Click here.

Surveys: We collected data to help inform various aspects of our work including: Alumni Survey: to help us better understand how our students adjusted to college life and to share their recommendations with current CIS students around how best to select universities. Parent Surveys: we asked parents of CIS alumni to share their insights on successfully transitioning a child to university. We also requested feedback from our parents regarding the effectiveness of UC presentations. Student Surveys: Year 12 and Year 13 students were surveyed regarding their progress through the college process and their concerns regarding transitioning to university. Additional Initiatives: University Counsellors meet on a weekly basis to discuss issues, conduct planning and implement upgrades to our services. The CIS School Prole has been completely redesigned.

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Students now schedule individual meeting times with their counselor electronically through Google Apps. Closer coordination with our Career Counsellor has begun, including inclusion in UC staff meetings. Creation of a year-long calendar listing Career and University Counselling initiatives.

Whats in store for 2013-2014: Were already seeing the benets of emphasizing Positive Psychology in our work with students through the college process. In both individual sessions and large group workshop formats, plans are under way to help Year 12 and 13 students maintain a healthier approach to their college process. In our many parent presentations throughout the year, you will see an increased emphasis on what positive psychology and mindfulness can do for parents as well. Based on a recently completed needs survey of our Year 13s, University Counsellors will be offering group workshops on several topics including completing applications, researching schools thoroughly, interviewing, applying undecided vs. opting for a major, and for Year 11s, a large group session around IB course selection is planned. We are also developing large group spring sessions to help jumpstart the college process for our Year 12s. More information will be forthcoming as plans are nalized. Upgrades to our website will be continuing throughout the year both in terms of content and format.

The Rumor Mill: Is it true that....?


A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes. Mark Twain Working as a university counsellor opens one up to the reality that rumors around the college admission process are weed-like in their ability to spread and difculty to uproot. While CIS is not immune to the rumor mill, perhaps we can at least take some small consolation in the fact that the problem is not unique to Hong Kong. Our university counsellor contacts the world over report that they are frequently called upon to stem a steady ow of disinformation. The bottom line: we all have a responsibility in passing on factual information. Why are rumors so powerful? Humans, by design, have evolved to note what is wrong, what is missing, what constitutes a threat. Its kept us alive as a species. With erroneous information, however, this well-designed early warning system does have the negative effect of needlessly spreading misinformation, anxiety and fear, none of which are helpful to a healthy and successful college process. What do rumors surrounding the college process have in common? In addition to being untrue, rumors typically suggest that our students are being disadvantaged by the status quo, that in the hyper-competitive world of college admissions, they are somehow losing out, or that there are shortcuts to being admitted to prestigious universities. Certainly, their prevalence is a byproduct of the stress and anxiety associated with the college application process.

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In moments of doubt, its good to know that CIS has a highly enviable university placement record. Click here to see our most recent prole as well as record of university matriculations. How do rumors spread? Perhaps part of the challenge in recognizing rumors is the fact that they dont come to us dressed in easily identiable garb. A good rumor has an air of plausibility, even authenticity. We become eager to test its validity by passing it on: Has anyone heard that? Or we may just want to warn others as to the looming danger: Watch out for! Or perhaps, we like the feeling that we have some expertise that others lack, or sources of information others are not privy to: I have it on good authority that A key factor that keeps the college process rumor mill humming merrily along is the fact that they are often challenging to disprove. Look over the collection of rumors below that have recently crossed our desk. How would you research them? Where could you begin to nd the information assuming you even had the time to look? How sharp is your rumor detection radar? Heres just a small sample of a few rumors that have recently come to our attention. Which one is true? (Answers below no peeking!) CIS IB scores are going down compared to other Hong Kong schools. A university counsellor friend tells me that my son needs to take AP exams, even if enrolled in an IB program, in order to earn consideration for competitive universities. Were sending our daughter to Korea because thats where the best SAT prep is. Our university counsellors are anti-Ivy League, anti-SAT prep, anti-clean air (OK, we made up that last one but feel free to spread it!:) Kids attending select boarding schools have a better shot at Harvard. Med schools prefer applicants coming from A-Level programs over IB. And now for the answers! CIS IB scores are going down compared to other Hong Kong schools. We asked Maria Vivas, University Relations Manager at IB Americas, for insight on IB data: IB does not compile and compare IB performance data by school. (CIS annually compiles its own IB performance data and is available on our school prole. Click here.) What does our CIS IB data show? What are the trends? Generally, the IB performance of our students is outstanding. In fact, the graduating class of 2012 had the highest CIS average ever. The Class of 2013s IB results are on a par with 2012, and our current Years 13s MYP results were the highest in CIS history. Other IB FAQs: What are the limitations in making statistical comparisons of IB performance? No two graduating classes can perform at the same level. Also, fractional differences in IB performance from year to year can be explained by many factors. No school is immune to them.

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How do universities use a schools IB performance in evaluating a students admissibility? University counsellors use the prole to help determine the strength of an applicants academic performance in the overall context of his/her school. Do universities track CISs IB performance over several years? No. University admissions counsellors familiar with CIS are well aware of its reputation for producing outstanding students, but no one is tracking individual school performance over the course of time. It would be a hugely time consuming and meaningless exercise. A university counsellor friend tells me that my son needs to take AP exams, even if enrolled in an IB program, in order to qualify for competitive universities. If this rumor did come from an independent university counsellor, he or she is, at the very least, badly misinformed. No university on the planet asks, expects or requires students enrolled in an IB program to complete AP exams or visa versa. Were sending our daughter to Korea because thats where the best SAT prep is. Were not aware of any data comparing the relative strength of various SAT or ACT prep courses. Based on our students standardized test performance, there is ample evidence to suggest that quality SAT prep courses are readily available in Hong Kong, and starting this fall, at CIS. Our university counsellors are anti-Ivy League, and anti-SAT prep. Your CIS University Counsellors are committed to helping our students nd the schools most appropriate to their interests and abilities. Given the increasingly hypercompetitive admissions rates at highly selective universities, we also need students and parents to understand the importance of applying to a balanced list of schools. Click here (Spring 2013 Newsletter) for a discussion of the importance of considering admissibility in formulating a list of potential universities. And click here for a thorough discussion on SAT/ACT prep as well as a recommended timetable for completion (if necessary). Kids attending select boarding schools have a better shot at Harvard. We asked Robin Worth, Harvards Director of International Admissions for her insight. Her response: I know of no HK based student who transferred to a US boarding school who gained admission to Harvard as a result. Robin went on to explain that a boarding school experience can be helpful to a students admissibility depending on his/her background or experience. A student, for example, from a less privileged background who gains admission to and takes full advantage of a quality boarding school experience might produce a more compelling application. This would not be the case for students applying from HK, however, where there are already ample opportunities for rich educational and extra-curricular experiences. In other words, it would be a mistake for our parents to see elite boarding schools as a fast-track to competitive colleges. While there are valid reasons for HK parents to consider sending their children to boarding school, raising the likelihood of admission to hyper-selective colleges isnt one of them. Med schools prefer students with A-level rather than IB backgrounds.

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Not true. In fact, at a recent admissions workshop held at Oxford this past summer (2013), Dr. Alexander Lumbers of Jesus College stated that Oxford prefers IB program graduates over A-level students as they are better prepared.

Our recommendations for parents when confronted with dubious university-related information: 1. Understand that rumors push our buttons. They tell us something about our fears, vulnerabilities and insecurities. Its normal to nd them annoying, unsettling, perhaps even threatening. 2. Simply internalizing information without questioning the source makes you an easy mark. Theres such a thing as healthy skepticism. Its OK to ask, Where did you hear that? How do you know for sure? 3. Students, if anything, are more susceptible than their parents to the power and credibility of rumors. Rumors and how we deal with them offer teachable moments for us as parents. Be alert to the fact that your son/daughter may be occasionally affected by rumors during their college process. 4. A rumors spread is curbed if you dont spread it. Seems simple but its true. 5. We all have a responsibility to make sure that information we pass on to our children as well as other parents is accurate and truthful. Its worth getting the facts straight. Bring your university counsellor in on the conversation whenever you have a Is it true that?

In reality, none of the rumors cited is true. If you take anything from this article, we hope its that you will be proactive in getting facts. The college process is stressful enough without having to rely on half-truths, rumor and outright disinformation. Please reach out to your CIS university counsellor whenever you have a Is it true that? If you tell the truth, you don't have to remember anything. Mark Twain

What should I be doing now? College process advice for the parents of younger secondary students.
Your CIS University Counsellors are frequently approached by parents of secondary and even primary students expressing anxiety over the looming college process. Usually, these are parents who have never been through the process before and are understandably anxious about what they perceive as a huge learning curve lled with critical life-altering (not to mention very expensive) decisions. Typical questions include: What does the UC ofce do to prepare kids for college?

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When should we start SAT preparation? When should we consider a college tour? Do we need an outside university counsellor? How many of our students earn acceptances at Ivy League colleges? Can we come in for a meeting?*

*All of the questions above are addressed on the University Counselling Website as well as in our UC Newsletters. And please dont feel you need to wait until Year 12 to come in for a chat with a University Counsellor. Mainly, our parents are expressing a need for information and reassurance that they havent missed the boat and that their son/daughter will be well served by our UC ofce. We understand that these questions and anxieties are by no means unique to CIS or Hong Kong. University counsellors and college representatives the world over will tell you that theyre hearing these questions with ever-greater frequency and urgency and from parents of younger and younger students. Whats driving this ramping up of parental anxiety? There are obvious factors as well as more subtle societal forces at work including: Economic uncertainty A rapidly changing career and job market Pernicious effects of college rankings Cultural values Increased nancial burden of a college education Increased competition for admission to highly selective universities While there are probably many other factors energizing this wave of parental anxiety, the effect of this growing tension on parents and students is increasingly unhealthy, and sometimes, frightening: Some highly competitive universities report an increasing number of students arriving for freshman year, burned out by the academic, extra-curricular and college application pressures and unable to perform. Increasing concerns around issues of academic integrity with cheating and falsifying of application documents on the rise. A distortion of what a college education means and can accomplish. Overemphasis on grades and university prestige as the ultimate arbiters of future happiness and success. Helicoptor-parenting wherein parents take on inappropriate degrees of involvement in the college process and even in the students university life. (Click here for a recent U of Arizona study indicating how over-parenting is harmful to students, as well as here for an article outlining 5 signs of over-parenting.) Weve even heard of university admissions ofcers being threatened with lawsuits or receiving personal threats from outraged parents whose children were denied admission. A famous incident occurred a few years ago in NYC where parents jostling for position in a queue to enroll their children at a prestigious Manhattan pre-school promoting itself as a fast-track to the Ivy Leagues actually got into sticuffs. Your University Counsellors strongly feel the need to urge parents and students to keep the university college process in perspective. We feel that our community will be best served by:

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Providing accurate and timely information for parents and students. Being available to respond to parent questions and concerns. Encouraging and promoting a healthy approach to this college process in both our students and parents.

There are no secrets to helping your child through a successful college process. Everything you read here you will in all likelihood have seen elsewhere. Generally, these are some of the common qualities of our most successful parents: They communicate very well with their sons/daughters. Theyre very good listeners. They understand whose process this is, how to move it along without taking charge, how to make sure the student learns about decision-making, dealing with uncertainty and disappointment. They see the college process as a teaching opportunity. Theyre well-informed. They dont buy into competition or the rumor mill. They network with experienced level-headed parents. They read our newsletter and avail themselves of our UC website. They have a balanced perspective on university prestige. They value t over fame, and theyre consistent in conveying this message. There are no mixed messages, no hidden agendas. They understand our University Counselling program, its goals and philosophy. Theyre proactive in communicating with the University Counsellor when questions arise. They understand that some anxiety around this process is normal and not unhealthy. They model and instill good stress management techniques for their children. Finally Studies show that gratitude may be the most powerful positive emotion in our arsenal. Take time to count your lucky stars. Be grateful for the fact that you have a healthy, intelligent and beautiful child. Seriously. Its so important for parents to acknowledge this to themselves and to their children that as parents, we have been blessed. Tell them. Click here for an interesting video experiment on the power of gratitude.

Mocks, transcripts, predicted and expected grades: a guide on CIS assessments and the role they play in the college process
Were frequently asked: what exactly do universities see in terms of each applicants academic performance? The answer isnt straightforward as there are several assessments in Years 12 and 13, and depending on the applicants country(ies) of choice, answers can vary. Hopefully, this will help clarify! Year 12: Progress Grade Based on exam results and formal assessments. Includes teacher comments. Sent to parents and students at end of each semester in order to monitor academic progress. Universities do not see Progress Grades. Year 12: Final Exams Completed by Year 12 students in May.

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Teacher generated exams. Results are used by teachers to help them determine Expected Grades, Transcript Grades and end-of-year Progress Grades. Universities do not see Final exam results.

Year 12 & 13: Expected Grades Generated by teachers at end of Yr. 12. Reviewed in Fall of Year 13. Based on the students performance to date. These are sent to all universities that a student is applying to regardless of the country. It is these grades upon which universities (UK, HK, Canadian) will base their conditional offers of admission. Year 13: Mock Exams Administered in February-March of Year 13 following Chinese New Year. Results of these mock exams are used by IB teachers to help them generate Predicted Grades. Mock exams are teacher generated but meant to duplicate the IB exam experience. Parents and students see Mock Exam results, universities do not. Year 13: Predicted Grades Applies only to Yr 13 students. Generated during 2nd semester of Yr 13 following mock exams and are sent to IBO only, not universities. Based on Mock Exam (see above) results and internal assessments. Predicted grades are used to identify students who might benet from a remark - a remark can be requested from IB if a student underperformed signicantly from the Predicted Grade. Year 10-13: Transcript Grade Record of a students performance in each class. Grade includes summative and formative assessments incl. participation, etc. Transcript grades are sent to US, Canada, HK, Europe and Singapore applicants but not to UCAS applicants.

Is a TOEFL in my childs future?


The short answer: probably not. Remember what the TOEFL is for: it helps colleges understand a non-native English speaking applicants skill level with English. The fact that our students attend CIS, an English-curriculum school, eliminates the TOEFL requirement for most universities. An obvious exception would apply to students attending CIS for less than two years from a non-English language school. Occasionally, a university website indicates that a TOEFL is required for all international applicants. Usually, in those instances, a call to the universitys admission ofce with an explanation that CIS is an English language curriculum IB school eliminates the need for a TOEFL. There are some universities who will insist that the student still needs to complete the TOEFL. In that instance, the student should obviously do so.

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We have, on rare occasions, recommended that students complete the TOEFL because of an unsatisfactory SAT verbal score. Generally, in these instances, the TOEFL score helps enhance the students SAT score in the eyes of the admission committee by underscoring his/her English language prociency.

Calendar of Fall (Oct-Nov) UC Events, Deadlines and Visiting Universities


DATE By Sept. 30th: Thursday, Oct 3rd: EVENT Deadline for informing UC office of intent to apply EA/ED. All recommendation forms and worksheets to teachers. Deadline for notifying counsellor if student is applying to HK under Fast Track (HKU), Early Decision (HKUST), or Advance Consideration (CUHK). UCAS/Common App Workshop - assistance on completing applications. Mindfulness and a Healthy College Process: Tools to help our Yr 13s through the coming weeks. PSATs administered. Submit completed UCAS application online for processing. EA/ED US application deadline. US and HK essays submitted to U Counsellor for review. U Counsellor informed of university choices. U of California Application Workshop - assistance on completing UC applications College Interviews Workshop. Career Fair

Wednesday, Oct. 9th:

Wednesday, Oct. 16th: Wednesday, Oct. 16th: Friday, Oct. 25th: Friday, Nov 1st: Monday, Nov. 4th:

Monday, Nov. 11th: Tuesday, Nov. 19th: Thursday, Nov. 28th:

Click on Visiting Unis for the schedule of schools coming to CIS in the coming weeks.

Humor: while were quoting Mr. Twain, heres a favorite...


When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years.