Knowing Yourself in the University Search Process
by Hillary Hewins, Director of University Counseling
Applying to university. These words can elicit a flurry of emotions in the hearts and minds of teenagers and their parents: joy, opportunity, excitement, anxiety, curiosity, confusion, confidence, enthusiasm, and ultimately - we hope - happiness in the outcome.
For many parents and faculty members, the process of seeking our career and university paths after secondary school were a bit more straightforward than what our YIS students may navigate. In my own process, I simply looked at a map of California and chose the school that provided the environment that would be most dramatically different than the one I had grown up in. I traded the urban landscapes of Long Beach and Los Angeles, for the rural, remote, and wooded environs of far Northern California. I knew myself well enough to know that I wanted something different in my college experience. My path was also made clearer by the fact that the California system was a financial necessity for my family. When I made my college choice over dinner with my mother one day, I could have never predicted that my career would lead me to supporting young people as they choose from a seemingly infinite array of future paths and university experiences.
At YIS, we believe that the process of applying to university is full of excitement and opportunity, and that it begins with knowing yourself. Integral to the process is an authentic commitment to self-reflection and personal growth. It involves students reflecting on their strengths,examining what sparks joy for them in their learning, and asking themselves, "what is it that I truly value?"
Our high school program provides opportunities for students to reflect on these questions, so that important decisions about the future are made thoughtfully and honestly. We believe that the goal is to find the university that will provide the best fit for a student's unique personality and desires.
Our mission of Live, Learn, Lead encourages students to become good people who want to live lives of meaning and continuous learning. These are precisely the qualities that universities are seeking in their future students; by focusing on our mission, YIS is preparing students for their futures from the early years onward.
Some tips for thriving in this discovery process are provided below. These suggestions may be useful for those seniors and families who are in the midst of engaging in this process, as well as for our younger students who are beginning to think about what their futures may hold.
Focus on yourself and your needs. Through the many challenges that senior year will provide, try to take some time to engage in activities that you find relaxing and calming. Notice when you are feeling stressed, and ask for help when you need it.
Focus on relationships. Take the time to actually know the people around you. In the long run, these connections may end up being what matters to you most. Spend quality time with your family and friends. Give your parents some extra time with you, especially toward the end of the school year.
Stay curious. Choose to maximize your opportunities to learn, and understand that curiosity is something that can be cultivated (in fact, you can choose to practice and cultivate any personal quality or strength you wish to develop). Also, choose to be an informed consumer of information about the universities you are exploring.
Choose happiness. Attempt to approach his process with an attitude of positivity and open-mindedness. A smile is a tremendously powerful tool, so choosing to find the humor in situations can actually make your life better. As a student said the other day, "I look to find the beauty in the IBDP."
My desire to seek change and positivity in my life led to a career as a school counselor (always dynamic environments!), and my propensity to dive into new environments led me to hop across the globe to live in Asia, after thirteen years of living, learning, and working in New York City. I am thrilled to make my home in Japan and to support our YIS students as they prepare for their futures.