Students apply to universities abroad

By Allison Hamburger  

Despite the notoriously hectic testing period before winter break, Wiley Webb ’12 traveled to England for a week. He had been granted an interview at University of Cambridge, part of an international application process that varies from the U.S. process.

“I applied to Cambridge more or less on a whim, but have grown to really like the idea of leaving the U.S.,” Webb said. “Europe offers a rich world to explore. Each major city is so unique and so close.”

Webb applied to Cambridge in October.

Usually fewer than 15 seniors apply to schools outside of the United States each year, Upper School Dean Jim Patterson said.
Overall, the most popular choices from the last five years include McGill University in Canada, University of Saint Andrews in Scotland and the University of Oxford in England.

For schools in the United Kingdom, students submit a variation of the Common App called the Universities and College Admissions Service earlier than most U.S. early deadlines.

Some universities in Great Britain only consider the UCAS application when making a decision, which does not include extracurricular activities.

“You apply directly into a degree program, so the applications are really interested in having you suss out why you want to major in whatever it happens to be, whereas in the United States, they are very interested in the other qualities you are going to bring to campus,” Patterson said.

International schools tend to emphasize academics, particularly standardized testing, Patterson said. These colleges accept common U.S. standardized testing like the SAT, ACT and Advanced Placement scores.

“In addition to high passes in the High School Diploma and the SAT, successful applicants have normally achieved 5s in at least five Advanced Placement Tests in appropriate subjects,” the Cambridge website said.

Oxford also specifies testing requirements, including either an SAT score of above 2100 or an ACT score of 32 or over and three 5s on AP tests or three scores of 700 or above on SAT Subject Tests.

“It’s a pretty high bar,” Patterson said.

However, if a Cambridge or Oxford applicant has not yet met all of the standards of testing, the school may decide to accept the student conditionally, offering admittance if the student meets the expectations by a later date, Patterson said.

Another component of the Oxford and Cambridge applications is an invited interview. After reviewing applications, the Admissions Office narrows down the pool and offers interviews to them.
Unlike those at U.S. colleges, European school interviews are conducted by a tutor in the applicant’s major and are primarily content questions. Webb travelled to England to interview last week.

“My interview consisted of me taking a test on Computer Science, then two professors giving me hints on the problems I missed and essentially timing how fast I thought — very different from a U.S. interview,” Webb said.

The school used to conduct interviews in New York, Patterson said, but the policy changed, so students now must travel to England.

The school used to conduct interviews in New York, Patterson said, but the policy changed, so students must travel to England.
“If you get to that point and you are really serious about Oxford or Cambridge, you’ve got to make it happen because if you don’t do the interview, it’s highly unlikely that they’d be able to offer you a spot,” Patterson said.

Colleges abroad do not provide financial aid for international students, other than some scholarships from Canadian schools.
“For the right kid, I think it’s a really tremendous opportunity,” Patterson said.