You have to be in England to see it. Every morning, at each corner, you notice a parent on their way to take their child to school, all dressed up in his nice uniform, most likely wearing a tie, and if a girl, a skirt by all weather, maybe a cap or a hat and always their blazer with the name of their school.
Indeed, unlike a lot of countries, most British children are studying in a private school. They are renowned for their efficiency, quality of education and serious. Since the beginning of primary school, students seem to already be prepared to their futur work life, educated with discipline and exhaustive annual programs. To access secondary school (the equivalent of middle school for americans), they have to pass heavy exams at the end of their final semester and apply to different establishments, again private and for most of them unisex, which for they will, for some of them, pass an interview. Yes, it is like applying to University. Speaking of which, is a major preoccupation in English teenagers’ life since year 12, junior year.
All students wanting to apply to a British University have to pass throughout the website UCAS (Undergraduate Courses At University And College). Applications in the UK are early in the school calendar, most deadlines for British universities are around the 12th of October. In England, you can apply to a maximum of 5 universities. That is why most of students are recommended to apply to two high-leveled establishment, one or two average and one or two back-ups. The website also asks for predictive grades on your final exams, and recommandation letters from the teachers giving out these grades. It is also ask to write a personal statement, one page on which you have to ‘sell yourself’ to the universities, putting forward all your non-academical achievements and why you are perfect for the course. The difficulty is to seem attractive, without being arrogant, and global enough to be considered by the five universities, because the same personal statement is send to all of them.
Finally, for students considering a gap year, as 7% of British students are, it is possible in the UK to still apply the year you finish high school and to ask the university if you can go the the year after. Good luck if you are applying this year, are helping your children to apply, or even if you are still figuring out where you want to go!
by Paloma B.