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The Admissions Process: A Guide for Students

What should I be doing now!?


Grade 9: 

Knowing about yourself and your passions can make a big difference in how you approach your high school years.

If your goal is to attend a university somewhere in the world, you will fit right in with your peers who are working towards admission into selective colleges and universities. If you are able to perform at a high level academically you too can be an ideal candidate for universities anywhere.

NIS is a community of go-getters. It will be important for you to get involved in any of the opportunities that NIS provides for extra curricular activities. High school is a time to develop your interests and hone your skills. Academics is just one important aspect of high school life.

Your course selection in ninth grade should be one that challenges you to work hard in all your classes. You should be taking a course at the highest level of rigor that you can handle. If there is an honors course that you can succeed in, you should take that option. University admissions officers want to see that you are taking the classes that are the most difficult options available at your school, and, of course, doing well in those courses.



  • Do the absolute best you can while the classes are less intense (compared to upper grades)
  • Join the clubs and sports that interest you.
  • Start thinking about your interests and your favorite subjects. These will become your ideal major/course selections in university. To start deciding, try this website for career guidance.
  • Grow up. You are now in charge of your life. Use your planner, start good study habits. Your clock has started for the time you apply to universities and head off to university.
  • Take time to decide on the pathway through high school that will take you where you want to go in university. NIS has options, make sure you know and consider them before you commit to courses.
  • Focus on your writing and reading skills. When you take tests in a few years for university admission, you will be judged on your ability to understand and critically analyze a variety of texts, and also how expressive your writing is. For international students, reading comprehension skills and writing ability are traditionally weaker than math skills. Understanding grammar and improving your reasoning ability will benefit you more than anything else when it comes to testing in the future.
  • NIS will offer a variety of courses, but we can not offer everything. There are plenty of resources online to find courses you are interested in, and to receive high school or university credit. Taking supplemental courses can create a well rounded transcript beyond the NIS courses offered


Grade 10:


  • Pick your extra-curricular activities and try to stick with them if you can. Try to be as active a member as possible, and even try to take on leadership roles in those activities.
  • Start looking at universities in your corner of the globe. Decide on the countries you will apply. Look at the majors offered, and the costs of those universities
  • Start thinking about future careers. Share your thoughts with your parents. Talk at home. 
  • Get comfortable with Naviance and other university searching websites
  • Be prepared to discuss course options for your junior and senior year based on the needs for the major/course you want to study
  • Think about supplementing your education with online courses if you are capable.
  • Use your summer to do something academic or prepare for testing in your junior year.


  • Sign up for summer programs. This can include internships, volunteer opportunities, or camps. Taking a course that will give you high school or university credit is a great idea if you can handle the rigor. Summer programs register as early as February.
  • Visit potential universities over winter and summer break. There is no real substitute for being on a campus to get a feel of what it might be like to attend there.
  • Get a summer reading list from your teachers.
  • Do something in the summer that will be useful for your future. Join an activity or volunteer in something that yo might want to to later in life. These experiences  are valuable for essays on applications and to narrow your choices in potential careers. 

Grade 11:

As you begin your junior year, you may feel that you are only half way through high school, but you are in the final year for preparing your transcript for applications next fall. The better your focus and dedication in your junior year, the better your odds of getting admission to the schools you are thinking about going to after high school. Your transcript is the most important factor in admissions, and the readers of applications are looking at the junior year to have improvements from your previous years, or maintaining high grades as the courses get harder. You will be challenged to practice time management and study skills as the coursework takes more of your time and energy.

The junior year will be a year of tests that will shape your applications in the senior year. You will take the PSAT in October once again. You should take subject tests in areas that you are strong in, or tests that your prospective universities desire you to take. If you are applying for a math oriented field like business or sciences, you should take a math subject test. Go to collegeboard and register if you have not done so already. Once you register, you can sign up to take SAT tests, and you can use their website to search universities. You will register for all your SAT and ACT tests online, if you miss a registration deadline, you can take a test as a standby tester for a fee if there are extra tests (just ask the counselor). A solid application will have two subject tests, some schools will require that number. If you are planning to take a language based subject test, remember that listening tests are only given in November. 

For U.S. colleges and universities, the ACT is another brand of test used by admission offices. The ACT is popular on the U.S. West Coast, but most schools will accept either the SAT or ACT test. Each university in the U.S. has different requirements or suggestions. You will need to see exactly what the colleges you intend to apply to will require, and have those testing requirements completed ideally before the end of your junior year. If you wait until grade 12 to do your testing, you may not have results ready for your application deadlines. 

Another reason you should plan on taking the SAT or ACT in the spring of your junior year is that it gives you plenty of time to study for the test. The counselor office has books that can help you to preapre, and you can use online resources like PrepMe to have comprehensive test prep. 


  • Ask teachers for recommendations before the end of the year
  • Decide on a final list of schools to apply for
  • Take the SAT in the fall, and again if you need to in the spring
  • Take a leadership position in a service club or sport if possible
  • Contact the admissions department at your prospective schools and determine if an interview is possible
  • Add your school choices into Naviance
  • Have a money talk with your parents about how school will be paid for and the need for financial aid


Grade 12:

The fall semester of your senior year can be the busiest of your high school career, or it can be productive and stress free. If you have done all that you should have done in the past three years, you can feel good about your applications and prepare things in the first three months of the year without having to worry about testing or figuring out where to apply. The goal for your senior year is to get our applications out at least two weeks before they are due to the university.


  • Find applications on the websites of the schools you want to attend, and determine if they are “Common Application” schools (one of the many colleges or universities that uses the same application).
  • Apply for scholarships.
  • Send test scores to U.S. universities from Collegeboard. Send TOEFL score from ETS if you are required to do so.
  • Have a copy of your passport and bank statement ready for the school counselor.
  • Decide if you are applying early to any school, send out applications before winter break.
  • Maintain performance through graduation
  • Make sure your immunizations are up to date; many colleges and universities have strict rules on submitting immunization records, particularly for students who will live in dormitories. 
  • Don’t forget to leave NIS without giving us a contact address! We want to keep track of where you go and where you end up and hope you come back to let us know how you are doing!