This is one of the case studies from my book, “The International Family Guide to US University Admissions”. I work one-on-one with a small caseload of families every year to help students and their parents understand as best as possible the specific options that the world offers to them. Please feel free to contact me directly with questions on my consulting work. You can read a review of my book here.
Country: Singapore and Indonesia
Started process: 14 months prior to applying Early (November)
Programme/Rigour: Mix of AP and IB courses along with general courses
Standardised tests to date: SAT taken twice: 1150 the first time; 1100 the second
Subject Tests: None
TOEFL/IELTS: Not applicable as she had always been in English language schools and spoke English at home.
Michelle is a niche applicant. She’s a highly talented musician and her grades to date are on an upward trajectory with some loose cannons. Overall, they are pretty strong within a range.
Clearly, the fact that Michelle had “bounced around”, having been in three different high schools, with no transcript for the second half of her 10th grade, and she had switched from Northern to Southern to Northern Hemisphere calendars. She also started her last high school a month after classes started, entering into AP and IB classes late. There was a lot of catching up to do, not to mention the social challenges. Michelle is a niche candidate, a very talented musician, which made time management a challenge.
About six months into the IBDP, Michelle “changed her chip” dramatically and started really prioritising. She took Instagram off her phone. She wrote schedules for herself that even included dinner, when to go to bed, etc. A very social young woman, she was not a stereotype. And she was not willing to fit into any stereotype. But what that meant was learning how to manage time and to become very directed, not just with her instrument but with her studies as well. Michelle incorporated Korean dance and jazz into her routine as she became aware that she wanted to become a pop strings performer. Again, thanks to her time management, dedication and drive, she was able to accomplish such a demanding schedule.
Absolutely did not want a conservatory. Did not want anything other than Boston, New York City or Los Angeles. Michelle was not even willing to look at some of the best music programmes located outside of these geographic areas. Frustrating [for me], but she was determined! She also knew the risks involved in this strategy.
Niche candidate who was focusing on the strings but not to play in a chamber. Michelle wanted to be a performer and knew this.
Michelle grew up in Indonesia and Singapore. She related these two cities to her artistic/music style – contrasts and coincidences – as well as to her personality – many contrasts and then coincidences. This then tied to what she wants to do with her music as a career.
Interviews: Berklee. She flew to Korea for the audition and interview.
EGI (Efforts of Genuine Interest, or “Demonstrated Interest”):
Very good. Very directed. In particular, with Berklee where she established a positive “working relationship” with the Admissions officer of her region.
Dream school, if any:
After a long road, it ended up being Berklee, but was not determined until after her audition with them in November.
Michelle and I “fought” about this often but she was determined and knew by October what she wanted. I relinquished my appeals, seeing that she knew what she wanted. She would apply Berklee Early Action and complete the other two applications, request auditions and fill out the SlideRoom supplements as requested but she would not submit them, if possible, until she heard from Berklee if it was before the 1 January deadline. I would have much preferred she just send everything in for all of the reasons I discuss in my book, “The International Family Guide to US University Admission”. Michelle got her way in the end.
I have over 20 years of experience in the field of international education spanning four continents from teaching, admissions and fund-raising to educational publishing and university management.