SIS Futures

News and information from the SIS Careers Team

A New Year’s Resolution for every Year 12 Student

“I promise to spend 10% of the time and effort I put into my studies on Higher Education research over the next 6 months.”

Doesn’t sound like much does it? Maybe an average of 4 hours per week?

However, it never ceases to amaze us how our students spend 13 years of primary and secondary education, working as hard as they can to reach their very best academically, generating grades and developing talents that will open up all sorts of opportunities; and then, they make a belated and cursory effort to identify and choose the college and course that will allow them to flourish at tertiary level.

In our last bulletin, we gave a brief overview of the Careers and Higher Education provision, year by year. January to June of Year 12 is at the very centre of our Higher Education programme. Term 2 is dominated by a structured program of group guidance supplemented by two Parents Evenings, some of which focus on specific H.E. destinations. Friday afternoon attendance at such sessions is not only mandatory but vital for effective research and decision-making; neither of which can wait until Year 13.

Term 3 ends with a month of formal H.E. interviews with Careers staff to discuss the fruits of this research, in the form of shortlists of courses and colleges. The most important element is ‘hidden’: it is the gradual and steady (and thereby pleasurable) research effort over those 5-6 months by the individual students. In a Careers Centre induction, we have already emphasised that they should use a balance of printed, online and human resources and that, in the early stages, they should move from the general to the specific in their research; and not begin with preconceived ideas of which institutions they will apply to.

Most of all, they must take individual responsibility for this process.

This is where we need parental support, in the form of showing an interest, encouraging and periodically asking about the progress of this research. Don’t do if for your son or daughter: they must have ownership over this important life decision and responsibility for it – a reason also not to automatically reach for your cheque book to outsource this responsibility to a private tutor or counselor.

The formal program appears below and is one we hope that parents will support to the full:

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Higher Education Fairs

The "University Shopping Season" kicks off in January, with the ESF Higher Education fair on Wednesday 20th January. This event is for year 12 students to start exploring their options and to start asking questions to find the best fit University or Further/Higher education choice for them.

These events provide a terrific and unique opportunity for ESF students to meet with representatives and academics from universities around the world and ask questions about the institutions, courses, cities and other opportunities available.

This is also the first year where we have created a bespoke programme for our BTEC students with keynote speakers from the business world and academics from universities that are keen to attract more applied learners, for the morning before the fair takes place.

We encourage students to attend these events with an open mind and ask sensible questions. We do give them a sample list of questions but if you can have a conversation in advance to try and encourage them to think about things that might be important to them for their experience such as:

Where in the world would they like to study?

What do they love to study?

What kind of career do they see themselves doing in the future?

Would they benefit from a campus environment or would they be happier based in a large city?

What kind of teaching style do they enjoy - large group lectures or smaller class sizes?

Once they have these ideas clear in their minds it's much easier to spot which universities would be the best fit for them.


For those of you looking to the UK there will be the British Council's Education UK Exhibition Sat/Sun 23rd/24th at HKCEC

We will keep you updated on the dates for the US, Australian and Canadian University fairs when they come around.

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‘Bang for your Buck’ in a USA College Education?

The Economist has released their first ever US university ranking, which aims to give a sense of the ‘value’ of attending university. In addition to a table you can search, the short article also highlights some surprising findings.

The ranking comes after an economics paper by Dale and Krueger found that attending elite colleges does not lead to greater salaries than people who were accepted to the same institutions but chose less selective ones instead—suggesting that, for instance, graduates of Harvard ‘tend to be rich because they were already intelligent and hard-working before they entered college, not because of the education or opportunities the university provided’ (The Economist, 2015).

The Economist uses America’s Department of Education data to compare pupils’ qualifications and demographic characteristics when they entered college with their salaries ten years later. They use this as a basis to attempt to separate student ability from university input, and thus to determine which colleges deliver the greatest return and why. The Economist’s rankings are based on a premise that suggests the economic value of a university is ‘equal to the gap between how much money its students subsequently earn, and how much they might have made had they studied elsewhere’ (Economist, 2015). The article, which can be found here, goes into detail on their manipulation of the data, but what was interesting from the SIS HE team’s point of view is that there are some surprises in their list. For instance, in the top ten only one Ivy League school appears. This is Harvard, but much less competitive Boston counterpart, Bentley, sits one place below. In fact, the Ivies do not do so well in this list with Yale and Brown sitting in the 11th percentile and even Dartmouth, Princeton and Columbia sitting surprisingly far down. In fact, considering Columbia and U Chicago are 4th and 5th most expensive colleges in the States in terms of tuition fees, families would be surprised to see where they sit in terms of return on investment. Equally, some that are not surprises in their high rank, such as Cal Tech, may have a high rating because of factors that once again, do not necessarily come from direct input from the university. For instance, they have the ‘best-in-the-country incoming SAT scores’, and a student propensity to choose subjects like engineering, and a proximity to desirable employers in the Los Angeles area.

Overall, our opinion is that, as with any rankings, they should be used with a careful eye. We agree with the Economist that maximising earnings is not the only goal of a college, but surveys you helped answer as part of the HE department review suggest it is important to many families. For students who want to know which colleges are likely to boost their future salaries by the greatest amount, given their qualifications and preferences regarding career and location, the Economist rankings may prove useful. It is certainly worth looking at the ‘not so famous’ names that appear near the top to consider whether the fit of these institutions could bring a large bang for your tuition fees, without the crazily competitive admissions process.

Unique Institutions

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“Here’s the deal”, as the Americans say:

Hong Kong has a population of 7m and 8 universities, leading many to look overseas for Higher Education. Only a limited number of overseas universities are on Hong Kong people’s ‘radar’: those that are, are often based on league tables or global reputation.

In comparison, regions of the USA have populations exceeding those of many European countries and within those populations, most families would give their proverbial right arm to send their children to universities that aren’t on the Hong Kong ‘radar’. An example would be the University of Miami in the south east region.

New York State has a population of 20m and one of the best-developed public systems of higher education, in the form of SUNY (the State University of New York). Many of that population and many more in adjoining states see Geneseo as the ‘Harvard’ of SUNY (yes, that got your attention!) and often their ‘reach’ college choice. Public systems are often associated with lower tuition fees (even for out-of-state students) but also with very large student populations. While fees at other public systems have gone up sharply in recent years, SUNY is still good value and out-of-state tuition fees at Geneseo remain below U$18,000 in 2015/16. What is more, Geneseo’s student population is around 5,000 and its reputation as a high quality public liberal arts college on an attractive 220 acre ivy-clad campus with a classic college ambience begins to explain its attraction to those ‘in the know’.

Not surprisingly, Geneseo appears on many ‘best college’ lists and rankings particularly those entitled ‘best buys’ or ‘best value’. Two things that put it on such lists are its very high retention and graduation rates.

Founded in 1871, Geneseo is, at one and the same time, proud of its humanities core curriculum but also of its strong reputation in science. As its website emphasises:

The College’s $53 million Integrated Science Center includes the only pelletron particle accelerator in western New York – a key asset for scientific research in the region. Geneseo is among the nation’s top producers of bachelor’s degrees in physics, according to the American Institute of Physics. Among primarily undergraduate institutions, the College ranks in the top 10 nation­ally in the number of alumni with doctorates in STEM fields.

Geneseo is keen to emphasise the employability of its graduates and, fortunately for us, wishes to increase the diversity of its student population, particularly its international intake.

Don’t expect to drive into New York City every weekend – it’s closer to Toronto! Rochester and Buffalo are within easy reach.

Are we saying “apply to Geneseo”? Not necessarily, as it won’t be a ‘fit’ for everyone. What we are saying is; recognise the wealth of opportunities out there and don’t let the limited mindset of many Hongkongers deter you from doing some pleasurable research that may reveal the ‘hidden gems’ that could be out there for you.

Interesting Geographical/Romantic Note:

Geneseo is known for visually striking sunsets, with students and alumni saying the sunset at Geneseo was once ranked by National Geographic Magazine as one of the top ten in the world. This claim has since been proved to be false—National Geographic publishes no such ranking—but lives on in campus lore.

Interesting Personal Note:

Even though I’ve attended programs at over 136 North American campuses and slept at many of them, I have to admit that Geneseo has only recently come onto my ‘radar’. As is often the case, a personal experience brought this about; in this case, the rep. from Geneseo who attended our recent US College Fair at SIS. Clearly a sharp and intelligent young man, he had applied to Geneseo but unsuccessfully. His clearly articulated disappointment said as much as any alumnus could have told me. New discoveries like this are what make this job so interesting and we make them every week, in one sense or another. Let’s hope that the Year 12s emulate that in their research over the next 6 months!

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Coming up next term...

Higher Education Preparation – Terms 2/3 - 2015/16

Sessions take place on Tuesday – 8:30am – 9:45am Friday – 1:10pm – 2:35pm

8/1 All Year 12 Students – HE Preparation 1

15/1 All Year 12 Students – HE Preparation 2

22/1 Year 11 Morrisby Testing 1 - SPACE

ESF HE Fair (Island School) Wed 20 Jan

Education UK Exhibition Sat/Sun 23/24 HKCEC

29/1 Year 11 Morrisby Testing 2 – SPACE

Y12 Higher Education Evening UK/USA – Thurs Jan 28

6pm – SPACE/Diploma Centre

5/2 Y11 – Application and Interview Skills 1 - SPACE

19/2 Y12 - All Prospective UK Applicants - SPACE

26/2 Y12 - All Prospective USA Applicants

Y12 Higher Education Evening Canada/Australia – Thurs Feb 25 - 6pm – Diploma Centre/Atrium

4/3 Y12 - All Prospective Canada Applicants

11/3 Y12 - All Prospective Australia Applicants

18/3 Y12 - All Prospective Hong Kong Applicants

15/4 Y9 Careers Search - SPACE

22/4 Y10 Career Futures (Kudos) - SPACE

26/4 Y12 Oxbridge Prep – Careers Centre

3/5 Y12 Oxbridge Prep – Careers Centre

6/5 Y9 Careers Afternoon - SPACE

10/5 Y12 Oxbridge Prep – Careers Centre

13/5 Y10 Careers Afternoon - SPACE

20/5 All Year 12 Students – CVs

27/5 Y8 – Careers Activity - SPACE

10/6 All Year 12 Students – Interview Skills

All Sessions in the Diploma Centre unless indicated.

Timings allow for a quick snack but students are expected to be punctual.