BECOME A MEMBER! Sign up for TIE services now and start your international school career


College Counselors, International Schools Vital to Universities

By Diane Glass
College  Counselors, International Schools Vital to Universities

Western universities are increasingly turning to international schools as a reliable source for quality, degree-seeking overseas students as competition between higher education establishments grows.
International schools not only produce students with many of the qualifications and competences Western universities desire in undergraduates, they also consistently produce a large number of them. In recent research by The International School Consultancy (ISC), 82 percent of the international schools surveyed said that over 95 percent of their seniors plan to move on to higher education. Their top choices are universities in the United States and United Kingdom, but a growing number of international school students are also looking elsewhere for options.
This reflects a global pattern. According to data from UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS), the number of students pursuing degree studies overseas continues to soar as higher education institutions around the world vie for the best and brightest minds. But international students are no longer only seeking out traditional destinations for tertiary education; there is growing competition now from universities in emerging regional destinations that are offering more affordable, appropriate, or culturally relevant programs of study.
Widening destination choices for higher education
In 2013 (the latest data available from UIS on the global flow of students at the tertiary level), over 4.1 million students went abroad to study; this is up from 2 million in the year 2000. In 2013, six destination countries hosted 50 percent of the total mobile degree-seeking international students. The U.S. led with 19 percent of all international students, followed by U.K. (10 percent), Australia (6 percent), France (6 percent), Germany (5 percent), and Russia (3 percent).
While these traditional destination countries remain strong magnets, their combined share of international student enrollment declined from 56 percent in 2000 to 50 percent in 2013. New destination countries and regional hubs are now competing for a share of the revenue and intellectual capital among internationally mobile students, and many are turning, as a priority, to the English-medium international K-12 schools.
International schools increasingly important for universities
English-medium K-12 international schools are a very specific sector within the international student market for higher education establishments. Because of the curricula and qualifications, as well as the language of learning offered by these schools, they are considered a crucial supply chain of quality international students for many Western universities. It is also a sector that continues to grow at pace. ISC data currently identifies 8,659 English-medium K-12 international schools globally, 4,831 of which are offering learning to 16–18 year olds. By 2026, the number of international schools is predicted to have doubled, providing learning for at least 10 million children, most of whom will be on a pathway toward Western higher education.
“International schools are very important for us,” says Robert Arcangel, International Recruitment Specialist at San Jose State University in California. “The students are usually very academically qualified; very often taking challenging courses,” he explains. “We trust the curriculum and there’s no need to question the English capabilities of someone at an international school studying International Baccalaureate or Advanced Placement. The students are taking set courses that we require; they have at least three years of Science and Math, and they have a good level of English writing and history courses. Students from these schools are also well prepared for their university application; they have a grasp of what type of academic major they’re looking to study and they’re familiar with the system. Some of this understanding comes from their parents, but a good deal of it is coming from the schools’ college counselors,” he says.
A crucial link for universities
Robert has specialized in international undergraduate recruitment for 15 years and works closely with over 100 college counselors from different English-medium international schools around the world. “The really good international schools appreciate how important their college counselor is,” he says. “You can see those schools that realize this from the very experienced people they hire. The rapport I have with the college counselor is beyond important; it is extremely, extremely crucial,” he says.
Joanne Ganderton-Smith, Director of International Development at the University of Kent in England agrees. “For numerous reasons, international school students are very well qualified for university, which is why we seek them out,” she says. “And their experienced college counselors help the students make an informed selection of the right subject in the right university that best suits them,” she says. “This support is vital for both the students and the universities, and it shows in the considered choices many international school students are making,” she continues. “Skilled college counselors open doors. They open students’ minds to opportunities that they might not be aware of, or may not have considered. They know the students well enough to know what courses and what universities are right for them.
International school students aren’t automatically pigeon-holed into their national universities; they are far more prepared to consider the whole world for their higher education options. But that requires a lot of knowledge and understanding by the college counselors, including knowing different application procedures. It’s a huge job to be a college counselor and a big responsibility to remain well informed; you’re dealing with people’s futures,” she adds.
Impartial, expert support for students
With higher education options expanding, and the competition for students increasing, more international schools are investing in college counselors to guide and support students in an informed and impartial way.
A few leading international schools boast a college counselor ratio of one counselor to 20 students per school year. More typically the ratio is about 50 students per counselor per school year. There remain some international schools where the college counselor is responsible for hundreds of students each year as well as teaching, scheduling, lunch duty, and discipline.
Brendon Fulton, Head of Secondary at the Dubai British School in the United Arab Emirates, where students head to universities in North America, Europe, Asia and Australia, says “The role of the college counselor within international schools needs to take into account all the global opportunities that exist for our already global citizens; aligning a student’s profile with the best possible opportunities for them – internationally, or back within their home country. Our college counselor has developed, and continues to develop, good relationships with universities and groups of universities to ensure that we have access to the most up-to-date information and to ensure that we are able to best advise our students on nuances within application processes.”
Elisabeth Marksteiner, college counselor at the International School of Zug and Luzern in Switzerland agrees and adds, “The college counselor role is as much a job of marketing the school to the external world as it is working internally with students. Highlighting the school to the universities is crucial to in how the school and its students are perceived,” she says.
Head of European Recruitment for degree-seeking students at London’s New College of the Humanities, Marie-Anne Martin says that once a relationship has been developed with a college counselor, it creates a true competitive advantage for both the school and the university. “They are my direct channel to all the students in the school and this helps me to spread my efforts,” she explains. “I make sure that the counselors I work with know me and my product and, as a result, there’s more chance of me reaching the right students.”
To facilitate the relationship between college counselors and universities, ISC has this year launched a dedicated higher education calendar accessible to all international schools enabling them to identify relevant university fairs and tours, and to promote their own events to international higher education professionals. For access to this higher education calendar which is free to all international schools contact Diane Glass at ISC [email protected].
Diane Glass is the Director for Higher Education and Business at The International School Consultancy (ISC).

Please fill out the form below if you would like to post a comment on this article:


There are currently no comments posted. Please post one via the form above.



University Visits in a Post Covid World?
By Robbie Jefferiss
May 2021

A Ferry Crossing from Love to Loss and Back Again
By Kathleen Naglee
Apr 2021