Don’t Start Your University Application in Grade 11, try AEP in Grade 9
13 Jul 2018

As the college application process becomes more selective each year, students and parents are facing more stress to be competitive. As university admissions become increasingly competitive, it seems as if it has become too late to start the application process in Grade 11. The best way to be well prepared is then to plan early.  But how does this planning work? How should students most effectively manage their four years in high school to maximize their university opportunities? What is the best way to balance academics and extracurriculars? What opportunities are out there for to discover students’ academic interests? How should students spend their summer accordingly? With these questions in mind, I interviewed two senior university counselors at Foundation, Sean and Nigel, on the program of AEP (Annual Education Planning).
 

 

What is AEP?

 
Sean: AEP is a process of planning each student’s high school life, not only in academics but also the extracurriculars. The end goal is to figure out what major they want to take in college and then we plan backwards. It’s not about us doing the planning for the students but for us to coach the students on how to plan their own lives. Nigel: The AEP product is designed to help students to understand their interests and to guide them in investigating that interests. The goal is not to give them an interest, but rather to help them to figure out what they are naturally talented towards and help them go towards that career.
 

When’s the optimal time to start this process?

 
S: As soon as you receive your high school acceptance letter. It’s getting more and more competitive each year so the earlier we start the better. N: The optimal time to start is right before students start Grade 9 so that we can give them a picture of who they want to be later, so they can plan now. For example, you can have a student whose interest now is in medicine, who wants to eventually go to medical school. AEP can help them go towards that direction. If in Grade 10, that student realizes she does not enjoy biology but instead loves math and economics, then we would help her to recognize that it might be beneficial to go into a slightly different track. So instead of taking all biology and chemistry classes and having summer activities focused on these areas, we would recommend her to look into applied math or economics. Although the planning is not always immediately relevant, it helps the students to be thinking about what they want to do and actively planning for their own future.
    

Does AEP still works for students who don’t have one definite interest or those who would like to attend liberal arts colleges where they want to receive a more “well-rounded” education?

 
N: It still works for them because we are helping them to figure what is their eventual career goal, and that is not something reserved for high school students with more clear career trajectories. For liberal arts colleges where students are not focusing on just one path, we still ask the student the same questions: what do you want to get out of your education? What do you want to be doing? AEP is especially beneficial for people interested in the liberal arts, because having that broad background of knowledge plus a focused planning regimen can really help them with finding directions for internships later in life. It helps them to recognize that there are more career opportunities out there than the “obvious” ones. Instead of thinking that if they don’t get a bachelors in economics and a masters in financial accounting, they have absolutely no career prospects, they are able to look into the varied career options for a liberal arts or humanities degree. 

How exactly does AEP help students to figure out their interest and major?

 
S: We start with their extra curricular — what are some clubs the students have liked in the past? Or academic-wise, what are some subjects they have enjoyed taking? After we gather all the information we give suggestions. It’s okay to be undecided. The main thing is to know there are opportunities and potentials.     

What are the different AEP focus for each grade?

 
S: In Grade 9, we make sure the students do their placement exam well so that they are placed in the correctly challenging courses. Grade 10 follows the natural progression and we reflect on what worked and what didn’t in the past year. Students start their standardized test preparation and we also start pushing for one or two AP courses in that year. N: The main differences between each grade is the summer. The summer after 9th and 10th grade, we generally recommend for students to go to summer schools where they can investigate the subjects that they think they are interested in. In 11th grade usually we suggest an internship or working experience of at least a month. S: For their summer school and internships, we go beyond of just attending those programs. We require students to do reflections afterwards. And we make sure they have a project they would work on during the internship so that they can actually learn soft skills that are useful in the future. 

How is AEP different from regular college counseling?

 
S: College counselors in school only start working with students in junior year. With AEP, which starts earlier, we have the opportunity for trial and error. Sometimes junior year is too late because that’s when students are suppose to take higher level classes relating to student’s intended major.

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