“Scholarships are hard to come by,” says Gavin Machell, a middle and high school teacher at the European International School (EIS). Which is why the Ho Chi Minh City-based institution is proud of its connection to the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) in Australia.
This academic year, EIS has become the only IB World School in Vietnam to offer scholarships to Vietnamese students enrolled in UTS. University education is expensive — the average tuition fee in the US is around US$33,500 per year. So, the scholarship increases choice for some of EIS’s students.
“Australia is a great university destination for Southeast Asia,” adds Gavin. “Not only is it more proximal to the region but it has a cultural connection with Asia. UTS is Australia’s number one young university and they have invested heavily in innovative degree programmes.”
Extra-curricular activities at EIS
What Universities Look For
Working as the school’s university counsellor, Gavin has first-hand experience of helping students get into university.
“The opportunities that universities are looking for range from the traditional academic to the increasingly important extra-curricular,” he explains. “They want to see students who have challenged themselves rather than students who have followed the line of least resistance.”
This is particularly important in a global education market where it has become harder for international school students to stand out from the crowd.
“So [students should] maybe spend a summer as an intern in a company whose line of work is related to their proposed field of study,” says Gavin, “or have a track record of involvement with a local charity or NGO. Something that represents long-term commitment.”
He adds: “Academics and rankings… aren’t the sole determinant in the decision to accept or not. In the US, the admissions process takes about 20 minutes per applicant. What are [the admissions reps] doing? Well, reading the personal statement — typically about a thousand words written by the applicant about themselves. They are looking for evidence of leadership, independence, resilience and community responsibility.”
Besides offering scholarships to UTS, through their varied extra-curricular programme, EIS goes out of their way to provide such opportunities for their students. Their after-school activities encompass everything from badminton through to robotics and a Model United Nations. The various departments also run initiatives including maths and logic competitions, science fair competitions, a Shakespeare festival, and a creative arts week.
“Sure, academics are important,” says Gavin, “but they are not the only consideration. In fact, there is a move in the US, among 100 private schools to go way from grades and get rid of transcripts. The idea is to replace the transcript with a report on the qualities that a student has been able to demonstrate in High School.”
EIS also benefits from a low teacher to student ratio. As a fairly new international school, this year they only have eight students graduating and next year the number increases to 18. This allows Gavin to devote a lot of one-on-one time to each student to help them work on their application. Plus the institution provides merit scholarships to students from not-so-wealthy families who show strong academic credentials.
Says Iain Fish, Head of School of the merit scholarships: “The school also puts emphasis on candidates who demonstrate strong ethical values and make positive contributions to the school and the community.”
He adds: “Our staff are selected not only for their teaching credentials and experience but because they are caring, nurturing and responsive to each individual. Our teachers are community minded and create a culture of low stress but purposeful learning, a place where students are celebrated for their individual successes.”
For more information on the European International School (EIS), click on eishcmc.com