Preparing my children for USA studies

By Posted on 25/07/2015
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I had the opportunity to go for an students exchange programme when I was in University. The experience opened my eyes to the effective learning a project-based learning environment allows. Now that my children will be in University-going age in 5 years’ time, I am curious if there is anything I should know to prepare them. I heard from someone that a girl waiting to go after A levels or IB is too late. Any sharing please?

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I had the opportunity to go for an students exchange programme when I was in University. The experience opened my eyes to the effective learning a project-based learning environment allows. Now that my children will be in University-going age in 5 years’ time, I am curious if there is anything I should know to prepare them. I heard from someone that a girl waiting to go after A levels or IB is too late. Any sharing please?

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Forum's Seed
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Posted on 27/07/2015

By waiting to go after A levels/IB, I’m assuming you  mean waiting until then to apply? I think it’s good to start making preparations beforehand (even if it’s just researching options and getting familiarised with the SAT/ACT), and if your child is not planning to take any gap years between IB/A levels and university then he/she must start the application process at least a year before he/she plans to attend university. But it’s never “too late” to apply–it’s always possible to take a gap year and apply during that time.

I personally did the IB programme and am about to start my 4th year at university in the States. I grew up in Singapore and Shanghai and was quite used to moving around / adapting to new places, so the culture shock wasn’t terrible for me in the US. (I think it depends on where you go too–some places are more diverse and comfortable for Asians than others.) But actually one of the most valuable things I’ve learned being overseas is how to relate and connect with people of various ethnicities and cultural backgrounds. Before college, my “international” friendships were mostly with other Asians; now, I have good friends of various races and ethnicities.

Re. the project-based learning: yes, this is true (although I understand that Singaporean universities are now doing more of this, too). My learning doesn’t just stay in the classroom–I get to apply course theories and concepts to tangible community issues (that I actually care about) and consult with local organisations to help improve their practises. I’m not much of a public speaker, but as so many of my classes require giving presentations I’ve been able to nurture the speaking skills that are so valued in professional settings today. I even spent a semester abroad completing my course’s capstone internship, a mandatory academic internship in which we applied all the theories and skills we had built up throughout our previous studies to a real-life organisational setting.

t also appreciate that in most US universities, you don’t have to declare your major/course until halfway through your second year. Even if you already have an idea of what you want to do, this gives you much more time to explore different interests and subjects that you might not have had the chance to before, and maybe fall in love with a new subject. I also have the freedom to take all kinds of classes from the other colleges and departments in my university–from art history to African drumming to special education to engineering.

About the higher crime rate: unfortunately this is true. Definitely not as safe as Singapore! But self-defence classes are helpful, as are practical things like not walking around campus alone at night.

A few final considerations for studying in the US:

  • Pro: Networking opportunities to connect not only with Americans but with people from all over the world who go to the US to study (since many of the best universities in the world are in the US)
  • Con: Expensive!!! And difficult for international students to get financial aid/scholarships. But it’s not impossible (my university awarded me with a full-tuition scholarship, which I have always counted a tremendous blessing).
  • Pro/con depending on how you look at it: Weather – it probably won’t be warm throughout the year like in Singapore! On one hand, you get to escape the constant humidity here, but on the other hand, if you’re afraid of winter… maybe stay in the West Coast. :-)
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Forum's Seed
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Posted on 26/07/2015

I went to the US to study for my post-grad degree. It too was an eye-opening experience for me too..
1. I think one thing that needs to be done to prepare them is the potential for culture shock wrt to the American culture. Asians are known to be a more passive and closed. So unless your children are a bit more outspoken and confident, they may need to be acculturated somewhat.
2. Another one is the high crime rate there. I taught self-defense as a PE class there, and even the Americans are highly aware of their “open” culture wrt gun use.
3. Learning to be independent and make one’s own decisions also is something your children will need to be able to do when they are there.
Hope this helps! :)
EDGAR
Sport & Performance Psychologist
http://www.sportpsychconsulting.com

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