Program Spotlight: International College Options

A growing number of US students are interested in exploring degree options in other countries, but reliable information is not always easy to come by. NACAC aims to provide reliable information by spotlighting international programs in forthcoming Bulletin issues.

Last November, students, parents and high school counselors in the greater Chicago-area attended one of three programs to learn about international college options. This program, International College Options (ICO), emerged from several conversations generated from the question of how to increase awareness of college options abroad.  Last May, Naomi Ewing of Woodlands Academy (IL) and David Boyle of Glenbrook North (IL) assembled a small committee to explore the interest and feasibility of implementing such a program. The ICO planning committee consisted of Nancy Davis of John Hersey High School (IL), Beth Gilfillan of Deerfield High School (IL), Cindy Kasten of Hinsdale Central High School (IL), Jack Lewis of Lake Forest Academy (IL), and Kim Wiley of Conant High School (IL).  

The committee utilized a survey design, distributed through various NACAC channels, to gauge interest. Responses to the survey were so overwhelmingly positive that the decision was made to move forward and plan the inaugural event for fall 2013.

After several months of planning, two college fairs and one high school counselor luncheon provided opportunities to various constituents regarding specific college and university information and the higher education systems in their respective countries.  ICO focused on institutions located outside the US that provide opportunities for students to earn full degrees. The event purposefully did not include study abroad or gap year programs sponsored by American colleges and universities.

The committee worked throughout the summer and early fall to secure dates, locations, venues, and cost. Dates were chosen that would not conflict with the Illinois Association of College Admission Counseling (IACAC) college night calendar and anticipated workloads for high school counselors, specifically the November 1 early application deadline.  Easily identifiable and accessible locations, as well as venues with ample parking, were carefully selected.  Once event logistics were confirmed, invitations were mailed to international colleges or universities with the understanding that a minimum of 10 participants had to commit to make this financially possible. 

Nagoya University in Japan, Bond University in Australia and Franklin College in Switzerland registered almost immediately.  By late September, 10 organizations had committed.  The other countries represented were Canada, England and Ireland.  Invitations to the counselor luncheon as well as posters to advertise the two evening college fairs were sent to area high school counselors.  More than 100 students and parents attended each of the two evening college fairs and 63 high school counselors attended the luncheon meeting.  

All three ICO programs began with an hour-long presentation related to attending college in each of the countries represented.  At the counselor luncheon, colleges and universities were then given several minutes each to present their specific institutions to the audience. At the college nights, the country presentations were followed by a college fair format that enabled students, parents and counselors the opportunity to visit individually with each college.  Some representatives shared information about the structure of higher education in their countries, including degree options and academic calendars, while others shared videos and pictures of their campuses. 

The planning committee held a wrap-up meeting to discuss evaluations and to determine future directions.  The committee decided to repeat the program in fall 2014 and then to offer it every other year thereafter. Based on feedback, changes and considerations for next ICO include:

  • Coordinating the date of the event with International Education Week, which was identified by counselors as an ideal time. 
  • Providing handouts in a standard format with information about each institution to help constituents more easily digest the new information.
  • Advertising to colleges sooner, prior to the summer months, so that colleges could plan travel around the event.

For more information and resources from the event, contact:

Naomi Ewing
Director of College Counseling
Woodlands Academy of the Sacred Heart (IL)

David Boyle
College Coordinator
Glenbrook North High School (IL)

Additional Models From the Field

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Relevant resources

Counselor Toolkit

A resource for counselors who advise international students attending US high schools as well as secondary schools which are considering enrolling such students

Guide to International University Admission

A comprehensive resource for counselors and students about undergraduate college options abroad.

Trusted Sources: Seeking Advice on Applying to Universities in Another Country

Are you a student who would like to apply to a university in another country? Researching and applying to universities in another country, and selecting an institution to attend can be both exciting and overwhelming. Trusted Sources: Seeking Advice on Applying to Universities in Another Country describes the advisors who can help you through the admission process.