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“I got straight A’s. Shouldn’t I aim high and apply for law/medicine at Cambridge?” Common dilemma of over-achieving students

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By Tiffany Wong | Admissions Counselor

 “Wow!  You’re likely to attain 36 points in IB.  Don’t let it go to waste. Just apply for engineering”.  Sure, go for it, only if that is what you really want to study.   One shall never underestimate the amount of pressure such ‘compliment’ might have exerted on a student (who is often confused about he/she can do and what he/she wants to do). 

There is nothing more tragic than wasting years (and school fees) on a subject you are eligible to apply for but have zero interest in.

You might think anyone would be sensible enough to make an informed choice.  Yet, the sad reality depicts a rather different picture.  Having conducted test prep courses over the years, I have come across with many students who are academically strong.  They have the so-called perfect report cards.   Often labelled as the ‘top achievers’ in school, they almost feel obliged (if not pressurized) to pick universities or courses that have the highest grade requirements.  These bright students, are often the ones who might seem ‘indecisive’, unable to make up their minds what they want to be when they grow up.  It is no surprise that they have spent the majority of their time preparing for public exams and building an ‘all-rounded’ extra-curricular activity-profile.  Ironically, little do they know what fuels their passion and what truly motivates them to study hard (and further their higher education).  

If you are deciding which course to go for, I challenge you to think twice and ask yourself again.  Is that what you really want to study?  Are you applying only to prove that you can get admitted to a really difficult course?

Just because you are eligible to apply for a certain course does not mean that you should or want to take that course.

Let me remind you again.  You would be immersing yourself into that field of knowledge for at least the next three years.  I urge you not to just think about the shiny labels attached to it, but also the skills and expertise that are associated with that subject field, as well as the type of coursework and related experience eg. field trips, experiments, projects, etc.  

Surely you can make use of online tools to filter courses and universities based on criteria like fees and grade requirements.  

The real question hits when it comes to identifying a student’s academic passion and interest – often an area where parents and students struggle to see clearly because they have fallen into a blind spot. 

You are studying for public exams, preparing for IELTS, and taking piano lessons and probably worrying about COVID19 too.  It is unlikely that you’d wake up the next morning, and all of a sudden, find your calling in life.  Often, this process of understanding what you want involves more than just completing a personality test or starting an intellectual conversation with the neighbor next door.

A good education consultant spends time and effort in understanding a student to suggest courses and universities that make a good match. 

A professional education consultant (and an attentive mentor) would connect with students on a deeper level and learn about who they are, beyond the classroom and their exam grades.

It is absolutely important to find out, or be empowered by your trusted advisors, to identify what you would like to accomplish.  That shall then, open the door to limitless life opportunities, way beyond jobs traditionally associated with a certain university degree or the so-called guaranteed career prospects. 

UK counselor Tiffany

MS TIFFANY WONG

Admissions Counselor

NACAC

BA Law & Business, Warwick University (UK)

TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages), Trinity College London

Marymount Secondary School (Hong Kong)

  • Over 8 years of experience in admissions counselling and test prep
  • 100% success rate in securing at least 1 university offer from top 3 choices (UK universities)
  • Formulated a unique strategy in creating competitive advantage for international applicants

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