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


College Counseling Countdown: Part Three

By Shwetangna Chakrabarty
College Counseling Countdown: Part Three

It is the time of the year when a small percentage of students have gotten a response to their early action or early decision applications. Many universities, including Oxford and Cambridge, have made their choices leading to some students and schools celebrating their successes. However, not everyone has cause to celebrate. With acceptance rates as low as two to three percent in top universities, there are bound to be big disappointments as well. This leads to the most challenging time for a college counselor, working with students who did not receive positive decisions from universities. For college counselors, it is the time of the year to reflect on the successes and channel students to overcome challenges; it’s time to guide the students who got into their dream schools to their next steps and time to take a step back and consider the alternatives for students who did not get into their dream school.

Advice to Students Who Made It to Their Dream School

  1. The acceptance offer always has a few conditions. Advise students to plan for staying organized and meeting all the conditions.
  2. Create a timeline for achieving all conditions. For example, if the conditional offer has specific grade requirements, make a revision plan to achieve those grades.
  3. Complete financial aid applications. This is the time to start researching the financial aid options offered by the university and complete them. This will require information about parents’ finances. Start early and get the parents involved.
  4. Considering visa application timelines. Mark your calendar for submitting the visa application as well as visa requirements like taking the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) exam, medical tests, etc. It is a time-consuming process; hence, a specific timely plan is necessary to ensure students make it to their dream school on time.
  5. Complete the housing application to confirm a place to stay in the first year of university.

Advice to Students Who Did Not Make It to Their Dream School

  1. Start again or focus on back up applications. Remind students they already have most of the documents required to apply somewhere new. Do not lose time over disappointments. Make the most of the situation and get started.
  2. Select at least two or three safe choices that have high acceptance rates and realistic entry requirements.
  3. Keep a track of upcoming deadlines as they are just round the corner.
  4. Since you are pressed for time, start the research for financial aid opportunities simultaneously.
  5. Write down the decision deadlines to create a plan for accepting offers as this will impact the visa applications.
  6. Once finished with new applications, follow the same steps above for “Advice to Students who Made it to Their Dream School” to be on track with university admissions.

Remember university admission process is a marathon, not a sprint!

Many deadlines have already passed and rolling applications are underway. Universities with rolling applications have no set deadline so their admission process is a bit more flexible than those with hard fixed dates. Either way, the period from January to March is critical as most decisions are made and conveyed to students during this time.

January to March

This period can end up being much of a waiting game. Here are a few reminders for during this time:

  • Most regular decision application deadlines for United States universities are over by 15 January.
  • The Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) deadline for most courses is also 15 January.
  • Most Canadian universities also have final application deadlines between 15 January and 15 February.
  • The Netherlands also has a 15 January deadline for Numerus Fixus programs.
  • The Hong Kong university's regular decision applications have begun, and it is crunch time for completing all requirements.
  • The Korean university first-round applications have also commenced; hence, students will spend a considerable amount of time completing these applications.
  • Most university decisions will be made sometime during the month of March.
  • By early April, students should have a decision from all the universities to which they have applied. 

Advice to College Counselors

Students will need support and help to navigate decisions with their offers. In most cases, the options are limited. This can be a challenging process for the students and their families. For example, a student may have received an offer from a top university, but the financial aid has not been approved. In this case, the student and their families need to be guided to consider other financial aid or second choice options. There are also situations when many students may not have received any offers and they will need to consider rolling deadlines. The counselor will need to guide them through this process. This can be a time when students feel rejected and demoralized. Approach these students with care and concern. Keep the morale high by reminding students that there is a place for everyone in higher education, they only need to keep looking until they find where they belong. Options for students with no university admission offers will be addressed in the next College Counseling installment.

Overall, in the college counseling profession, there is never a dull moment. We have seen it so far from all the organization and responsibilities listed from August to March. In the next edition, we will look into the months of April to July and wrap up the academic year of university admissions. Stay tuned!

Shwetangna Chakrabarty is the editor for The International Educator and the assistant head of secondary and university counselor at Utahloy International School Guangzhou, China. She has been a university counselor for over 10 years, actively advising students and families for university application and selection. She has toured over 60 universities across the world to develop a wealth of experience in college counseling. She serves in the Council of International School’s Global Forum Planning committee 2022 for university guidance and admissions.


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.



College Counseling Countdown: Part Four
By Shwetangna Chakrabarty
Mar 2023

The Importance of Building Your Story in Secondary School
By Joachim (Kim) Ekstrom
Apr 2024