Blog 🍎 School 27th March 2023

How to Help Students Who Want (Or Need) to Change Their University Plans

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James Leach

James is senior content marketing manager at BridgeU. He writes and directs content for BridgeU's university partners and our community of international schools

Senior classrooms all over the world are abuzz now that university admissions season is upon us!

No matter how excited (or nervous) your students are about the new adventure they’ll be embarking on come September, there’s no escaping the fact that there’s still plenty to do before they’re ready to move away to university!

That’s especially true for counsellors working with students applying abroad, who’ve suddenly found their classroom in a whirlwind of mismatched deadlines, different types of acceptance letters and conditional offers, and more.

There’s the group of students who applied through early decision tracks (like Early Action in the US or Oxbridge in the UK), who’ve had their paperwork in order since the new year.

On the other end of the spectrum, you’ve got students waiting for European Universities’ late-summer deadlines to find out where they’ll be moving in September.

In the middle, you’ve got the students anxiously awaiting their exam results to discover whether they’ve met their conditional offers.

And then you’ve got the students who, unfortunately, have heard back from their applications… but haven’t been offered a university place.

Add to that any final preparations before your school breaks up for the holidays and it’s no wonder that the lead-up to summer (and results day) can quickly become the most stressful time of the year for international schools… with counsellors, students, and parents alike sliding into panic-mode. 

But no matter the outcome of their applications, you and your students have poured an enormous amount of energy into their applications all year. 

It’s only natural to want to support them all the way through to the finish line – the moment they arrive, suitcase in hand, to their new university accommodation excited to begin a degree. 

So how can you help your students navigate the transition from school to university? And, perhaps even more importantly, how can you support the students who want, or need, to make last-minute application plans or changes?

Throughout this post, we’ll cover how you can guide each and every one of your students from application to enrolment – no matter where they currently are in the application process:

We’ll also share handy free resources to help students feel more informed and autonomous throughout this tricky transition period, so that you feel confident in the information your students have, and your students feel empowered to make choices they’ll be proud of.

Related eBook: The Ultimate Guide to Studying in Europe

If your students are interested in finding out more about the course and career opportunities offered by European Universities.

International students’ last-minute university admissions options explained

Your class might have a number of students wishing, or having, to rethink their application plans in order to still enrol on a university course in 2023.

Luckily, plenty of higher education options exist for students who find themselves in need of changing their application plans – without the need to delay their studies!

Whether your students are first-time applicants, have missed their offers, or have simply changed their mind and want to apply elsewhere, students’ summer application options generally fall into the following three categories:

Countries where the regular application & university admissions cycle is still open

Not all countries limit the regular application season to spring or winter. Many universities in Europe, for example, keep their regular application cycle running until July, August, or even sometimes September.

In fact, studying in Europe has become an increasingly popular option for international students, largely thanks to English-Taught Degrees, cheaper fees, and advantageous flexible visas : 

Though both Ireland and Germany have centralised application portals, universities accepting applications into the summer months habitually expect students to apply directly to the institution itself.

Other countries which also accept international student applications into the summer months include Poland, Cyprus, Bulgaria, Croatia, and Hungary. Though a little off-the-beaten-track, they also offer numerous English-taught degrees across a wide variety of subjects.

However, just because applications are open until a certain date doesn’t mean it’s wise to leave it to hold off on applying. The majority of these application cycles run on a rolling admissions basis, meaning that spots are often offered on a first-come, first-served basis.

Other universities, or courses, may have earlier cut-off dates specific to certain subjects (think medicine or architecture). In Germany, for example, this is called “numerus clausus”.

With this in mind, the best post of call is to visit the universities’ website directly. Though this can feel daunting, with the right tools, students can drastically reduce their workload without getting sidetracked, or stressed, along the way.

If your students aren’t interested in Europe, around 300 universities and colleges in the USA are also still accepting applications, with the majority of deadlines falling in June and July.

Countries offering a second university admissions round over the summer

When countries or universities do set earlier deadlines, it’s not uncommon for them to re-open application routes for a set amount of time over the summer.

The biggest difference is that these will be exclusive to courses which still have open places and didn’t fill their enrolment quota in the first application round.

Although students will still have their pick from plenty of prestigious universities, course options are generally far more limited: students might have to compromise on either the exact programme or institution they’d set their heart on.

Though these second rounds do also run rolling admissions, the tighter application windows and limited availability of courses can make it a much more competitive process.

It’s therefore imperative for students to have everything prepared and be ready to apply the day applications open (or the day they have their results).

Due to the short application window (and quick turnaround on decisions) it’s not uncommon for students to have to sit a telephone, zoom, or in-person interview.

Perhaps the most famous of these second application rounds is Clearing in the UK.

Clearing begins on the 5th of July, where universities (including Russell Group universities) advertise the specific programme which still have open places.

To learn more about Clearing visit our Results Hub or learn more about it through UCAS (Universities & Colleges Admissions Service).

Ireland also offers students a second and third round to take up any remaining university places.

Running from June all the way through August, application dates are often published close to the application deadline, so we recommend keeping an eye on both the CAO’s (Central Applications Office) timetable and individual universities’ websites.

Other universities, in other countries, sometimes have their own deadline extensions, often because they’ve still got space on their programmes.

If students are particularly set on studying elsewhere it never hurts to contact a university directly to enquire.

Countries where January and February 2024 enrolment is offered

If students would like more time to prepare their applications, without postponing their higher education by an entire calendar year, January or February intake could be an option for them.

A routine offering for universities in the Southern Hemisphere (hello Australia!), it’s actually a fairly common option in the Northern Hemisphere, too, with university admissions cycles generally taking place in the Autumn. 

Though it will depend from one university to the next, popular countries in the Northern Hemisphere which offer another intake around the new year include the USACanadaGermany, Sweden, and Spain… and that’s just to name a few!

The only thing to note is that, especially in the Northern Hemisphere, January (or sometimes February) intakes are quite small.

Though students won’t necessarily face undue competition, it does mean they’ll likely have less peers to socialise with in class. It also means that the courses and programmes on offer might be more limited.

Students who want more time to make a decision

If a student doesn’t feel ready to commit to any of the three options above, it might be worth talking to them (and their parents) about taking a gap year.

Though often connoted with partying in faraway countries, gap years can actually give your students plenty to write about in their university application essays and CVs.

From work experience to learning a new language, there’s no shortage of gap year activities that can turbocharge a student’s personal and professional development and help them shine come the 2023 university admissions cycle!

Preparing students for the transition from school to university

Once your students have secured a spot at a university, it’s time to ensure they make the final preparations so that they can actually move abroad come September.

Though many might have to finalise these plans over the summer, some students might decide to reconsider their plans earlier on, which is why it’s important to inform your students (and their parents) about their options as soon as possible!

With this information to hand, you’ll now be ready to support students no matter where they are in their transition to university… as well as answer any questions their parents may have.

That being said, the best way to ensure your students are prepared come what may is to build these last-minute applications into your year-long guidance strategy.

To learn more about how BridgeU works alongside your curriculum to support your school throughout the entire university research process, click on the image below to learn more and speak to a member of our team.

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