University Guidance Counselling

Table of Contents

Beginning the Search for the College

With so many college choices available and the wide variety among the institutions that can be found across the world, the college search process can be quite overwhelming.

To start with there are countless books and websites out there to help you navigate searching, applying and deciding on a school. The college search process is an opportunity for you to learn more about colleges, potential careers and yourself. To find your "best fit" college, take the time to learn more about what is important to you. Look at your interests, activities, values and personality. It is a good idea to talk to your school counsellor about what you are looking for. The counsellors will be able to give you the names of several colleges that match you interests. Talk to your parents about what you are looking for in a college. Attend all the University fairs and if possible visit few campuses if possible or else one can do a virtual tour of the campus online. Try to get a feel for the place to determine if it is a welcoming environment—a place where you feel comfortable.

Based on your research, you will probably refine your list of criteria somewhat and your final search list may look very different from your original one. This is but expected as each time you refine it; you will be coming closer to identifying your college options and the schools that can offer what you want, provide you with appropriate intellectual challenges, enrich your life and prepare you for a successful future.

Although some colleges may be similar in some ways, no two colleges are exactly the same. While the differences may appear subtle, they are very important. One good way to start the process is by knowing what college characteristics are important for you. The following list includes some of the important characteristics named by most of the prospective college applicants:

1. Does this college offer what I want? While that is an important question, it should not be your main concern at this point. “Undecided” is a very popular major among first year college students and choosing a major can usually be postponed until your fourth semester in college

2. The quality and rigor of academic study at the institution and the kind of activities (co- and extra-curricular, as well as social) offered.

3. Will I be happy there? You must be convinced that you will enjoy the years you will spend at the college. That is why spending time at the institution’s website, visiting the campus, talking extensively with the school’s admissions officers and current students, etc. are crucial parts of the college search.

3. Support services like academic advising system, counselling, safety and security support that are available to undergraduates,

4. Scholarship and financial aid policies and practices of the college/university

5. How expensive is the college and how many students who attend the college receive financial aid and how much aid do they receive?

6. Is this college out of reach for me or is it one to which I am likely to or might possibly be admitted?

College Planning Timelines

9th Grade

  • Plan your extracurricular activities and pick the right mix of classes.

  • Make the effort to get involved in school activities and join groups, clubs, or teams that interest you. These activities are fun and make you a well-rounded student.

  • Get off to a good start with your grades because they will impact your grades as they really do count toward college admission and scholarships.

  • Explore your interests and possible careers and discuss your skills and interests with your guidance counsellor.

  • It’s a good idea to begin journaling and write about your activities and interests

  • Keep track of all your achievements and events that you participated in as it will come in handy when you will fill out the college applications and build your resume.

  • Plan to attend a Summer School at a University

10th Grade

  • It’s a good idea to take a PSAT at this stage as this will prepare you for the real test next year and will give you time to work on your weak areas

  • Keep up the participation in various extracurricular and community service activities but make sure you keep a track of your grades too.

  • Update your journal regularly with your achievements and activities

  • This is a good time to begin learning about the college admissions process and about general college entrance requirements

  • Read up on potential careers options according to your interest and learn about the work profile, education, and training necessary for each occupation.

  • Work on your reading and writing skills and read the newspaper every day to learn about current affairs

  • Attend college fairs if possible and collect information on possible choices

  • Plan to attend a Summer School at a University

  • Apply for Summer internships and volunteer at NGOs that are in line with your interests

  • Finalize a course plan for 11th/12th based on your possible career choices

  • Meet with your school counselor to discuss your plan

11th Grade

  • Prepare for standardized tests and find out if the colleges you are interested in require the SAT, ACT, or SAT Subject Tests. Register to take the tests you need; you can take them in the winter or early next year. You can take them again in the beginning of your senior year if you’re unhappy with your scores.

  • Plan a calendar for taking your standardized tests and make a separate folder for each college you are planning to apply to so all correspondence is handy for quick reference.

  • Stay on track with your classes and grades. Even if your grades haven’t been that good so far, it’s never too late to improve. Colleges like to see an upward trend.

  • Attend college fairs and try to get as much information about the college options for your potential career choice.

  • Narrow down your choices and make a list of colleges that interest you

  • Update your brag sheet with all your activities and achievements so far and share with your Counselor

  • Have a discussion with your parents/ guardians about the colleges you are interested in. They will learn about what you want to pursue and offer any concerns or suggestions that they might have.

  • Meet with your Counselor regularly to keep them updated of your progress in shortlisting colleges and possible career choices

  • Apply for Summer internships and volunteer at NGOs that are in line with your interests

12th Grade

  • Get in touch with your teachers and guidance counsellor for writing your recommendation letters. Consider whom you want to ask now and let them know so they will have enough time to prepare. Letters of recommendation from a coach, activity leader, or adult who knows you well outside of school are also valuable.

  • This is the time to start working on your college application essays. Compose rough drafts of the essays and have a teacher/counsellor read and discuss them with you so you can see what to work on. Write and rewrite till you are satisfied that it reflects your thinking well and brings out your unique personality traits.

  • Visit university fairs with your parents and visit campuses if possible and finalize your college list

  • It’s important to stay focused on getting good grades in your classes and keep your commitment to extracurricular activities.

  • Finalize portfolios, audition tapes, writing samples, or other evidence of talent if required for admission.

  • Register for and take the ACT, SAT, or SAT Subject Tests as necessary. Be sure you have requested (either by mail or online) that your test scores be sent to the colleges of your choice.

  • Finish the application forms for the colleges you are interested in. Make sure you and your school’s guidance office have sent all necessary materials, including test scores, recommendations, transcripts, and application essays and keep track of the deadlines.

Building your Profile

Universities look for more than just good grades. They are looking for students who have holistic and well-rounded personalities. Along with academic achievements a student needs to focus on extra-curricular activities to build their profile. You can be a sports enthusiast, a music aficionado, have entrepreneurial skills, or can get involved in community projects. One can also develop leadership skills by organizing various events, cultural festivals, tech competitions in the school or the community. Working together as part of a group for the success of such events by organizing, sponsoring managing time and resources offers you a unique opportunity to develop leadership, collaborative, communication skills which are the essential 21st-century skills required in the world today.

Leading and participating in community projects is very important as well. Volunteering your time to support a cause will give you an opportunity to grow as a person and change your perspective towards life.

Online courses in a field similar to your area of ​​interest will help you get a feel for the subject area you want to pursue. Along with developing your knowledge base in that particular area of study, it also conveys your dedication and interest in pursuing studies in that particular subject at the university.

Similarly, a summer internship provides an opportunity for career exploration and the development of various skills. It familiarises you with the requirements in an actual work environment and helps you determine whether you have chosen the right career path for yourself. An internship helps you develop interpersonal, communication, and time management skills and gives you a greater understanding of your strengths and weaknesses.

The universities look for consistency and commitment so it is important to narrow down the activities that you are interested in and ensure regular participation throughout your school years.

What is the difference between the ACT and SAT?

The ACT is an achievement test, measuring what a student has learned in school. The SAT is more of an aptitude test, testing reasoning and verbal abilities.

The ACT has up to 5 components: English, Mathematics, Reading, Science, and an optional Writing Test. The SAT has only 3 components: Critical Reasoning, Mathematics, and a required Writing Test.

The comparison below helps making the choice easier



  • SAT is a reasoning test

  • Test format - Critical Reading: 65 mins; Math: 80 mins section; Writing: 35 mins

  • Content covered is reading, vocabulary, grammar & usage, writing, and math. The questions are often tricky and can be phrased in ways that make them difficult to decipher

  • Maths syllabus includes Algebra I and II, Geometry and Trigonometry,Arithmetic/Probability/Data Analysis

  • The syllabus of English has Grammar/Punctuation,Vocabulary and Editing skills as well as five reading passages

  • Scored on the scale of 400-1600

  • The questions increase in difficulty level as you move through that question type in a section

  • The SAT test is popular with private schools and schools on the east and west coasts; however, every four-year college in the US accepts SAT scores

  • It is offered seven times per year: January, March or April, May, June, October, November, December and registration deadline is typically about four weeks before the test date.


  • ACT is a content based test.

  • Test format - English: 45 mins, Reading: 35-min section; Math: 60 mins, Science:35 mins section; Writing: 30-min essay (optional)

  • Content covered is grammar & usage, math, reading, science reasoning, and writing (optional). The questions are straightforward and may be long but are usually less difficult to decipher.

  • Maths syllabus includes Algebra I and II, Geometry and Trigonometry, Arithmetic/Probability

  • English syllabus includes Rhetorical skills,Grammar/Punctuation and Sentence Structure with four reading passages

  • The science section will basically test your general knowledge with reasoning and critical thinking abilities

  • English, Math, Reading, and Science scores will each range between 1-36.  Composite ACT score is the average of your scores on the four sections; ranges between 1-36

  • The difficulty levels of the questions is random

  • The ACT test is popular with public schools and schools in the Midwest and south; however, every four-year college in the US accepts ACT scores

  • It is offered six times per year: February, April, June, September, October, December (note that some states offer the ACT as part of their state testing requirements; these tests are not administered on the national test dates) and the registration deadline is typically about five to six weeks before the test date


The TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language Proficiency) is an English language test run by ETS, the same organization that develops the GRE (the test for the graduate admissions to universities) and various other tests. It is a standardized test to measure the English language proficiency of non-native speakers who want to seek admission to universities in English-speaking countries. The TOEFL scores are valid for two years and accepted by more than 10,000 educational institutions worldwide in more than 150 countries.

The IELTS (International English Language Testing System) is another English language proficiency exam jointly owned by the British Council and IDP: IELTS Australia and Cambridge English Language Assessment. IELTS has two versions, the IELTS Academic and IELTS Training.IELTS Academic is aimed at those who apply for university education or a career. IELTS comprehensive training is aimed at people who go to English-speaking countries for secondary education or internships. The IELTS score's validity is two years and is accepted by more than 9,500 educational institutions worldwide in more than 140 countries.

The comparison between the two standardized tests of English language proficiency is as below.


  • The TOEFL test consists of four parts, each part assessing your English proficiency in a specific area. The total time taken for the test is approximately 3-3.5 hours.

  • In the Reading section, there will be three or four academic texts for students to read and answer questions. Generally, the excerpts are from a university-level textbook that introduces a subject or a topic. There are three types of questions: standard multiple-choice questions, questions that require students to insert sentences in appropriate places in paragraphs, and questions that require students to properly classify the information in the table.

  • The Listening section consists of four to six recordings, each with a series of questions. Audio tapes are similar to the conversations in daily academic life, such as a lecture in a classroom or a discussion between two students or a student and a teacher. These questions are multiple choice questions that require you to schedule events or steps in a process, or assign objects or text to categories in the table.

  • The Speaking section has six tasks, the first two tasks are independent oral tasks, based on the students' own thoughts, opinions and experiences in the answers.The other four tasks are integrated. Students must use more than one skill to answer these types of questions. These two comprehensive assignments require students to read, listen and speak. In the other two assignments the students have to listen first and then speak.

  • The Writing section has two tasks in the writing area: comprehensive writing and independent writing. For comprehensive writing, students will hear a short recording and read a short essay. Then, you will have 20 minutes to summarize and compare information from the two sources. The ideal length of the response should be between 150-225 words. For independent writing, the students get a topic and must provide feedback on that topic. The text should be clear with examples. Students have 30 minutes and usually write at least 300 words.

  • All four sections need to be completed in the time given on the same day, unlike the IELTS test.


  • The IELTS test consists of four parts, each part assessing your English proficiency in a specific area. The total time taken for the test is 2 hours 45 minutes.

  • In the Listening section, you will hear four tapes (two in the daily social environment, one in the educational environment, and university lectures). After each entry, you must answer 10 questions. There are different types of questions, including multiple-choice, matching, chart markup, sentence completion, and short answer.

  • The Reading section consists of three articles, each with approximately 10-15 questions from books, newspapers, magazines, and newspapers. They can have multiple styles, such as narrative, description, and/or reasoning. There is at least one detailed logical argument. These questions are asked in a variety of forms, including multiple-choice, matching, chart marking, sentence completion, and short answer.

  • In the Writing section, there are two tasks. For Task 1, the students have to describe visual information (such as a diagram, table, or diagram) in their own words. You have to write at least 150 words. It is recommended that students devote 20 minutes to this activity. For Task 2, students are presented with a topic, often a point of view in an argument or discussion. You should write at least 250 words on the subject in an academic writing style and devote 40 minutes to this question. For both assignments, students are rated on how well they answer the question, the clarity of their writing, the variety of vocabulary, spelling, and grammar.

  • For Speaking, you have an oral interview with an examiner. Your answers will be recorded. This section consists of three parts. Part 1: The interviewer asks the students familiar questions about their work, family, studies, and interests. Part 2: The interviewer gives the student a card with a topic for the student to discuss. The student has a minute to prepare, then he has to speak for two minutes, then he has to answer a follow-up question or two from the interviewer. Part 3: The student and interviewer will further discuss the topic presented in Part 2 for four to five minutes.

  • The Speaking section on the IELTS can be taken one week before or after the other sections.

Study Destinations


USA has the world’s largest international student population, with over 800,000 students choosing to broaden their education and life experience in the United States. The US is well known for a state of the art educational institution, highly acclaimed degrees and international work exposure of 15 months in most of the good institutions. It also boasts of an extremely professional yet favourable environment, which is conducive to the overall growth of an international student. The students find US attractive because of the excellent teaching facility, practical knowledge and flexibility in the program. Although many courses are rigorously structured and need to meet specific course requirements, students are usually able to complete course options that meet these needs. Undergraduate art courses include language and mathematics courses, but students have a variety of courses to meet these needs and are free to choose the courses that best suit their interests. If students’ goal is to study for a master’s degree, they can adjust their studies according to specific academic requirements.After completing an undergraduate program in the US, international students have the options to use OPT- Optional Practical Training in order to gain practical experience related o their course of study.
 The application portals for US Universities are Common App, Coalition, University College Application, UC Application, Apply Texas, and direct application to Universities


The Universities in UK offer many options in choice of subjects and specializations. All undergraduate admissions to the UK are via the online system UCAS. Each UG course has a UCAS code thus helping you identify which college offers your subject. For some subjects the colleges will only consider students who have taken A level examinations or IB Diploma. Most British Universities accept grade 12th certificates from CBSE, ISC and some state boards. One generally needs to take an English Language test like IELTS or TOEFL too as a requirement for visa. Undergraduate degrees usually take three years to complete although some institutions offer special four year programs for students whose high school qualifications do not meet university requirements. In these cases, some universities may require an applicant to complete a “foundation year” before enrolling in the full degree program. Professional courses such as medicine, dentistry and architecture may take up to seven years to complete.
 Scottish University degree programs differ from the UK degree programs. They offer four years of study and has a more flexible education system. They allow you to try a range of subjects before specialising. You can also study additional subjects and add depth to your education.


Canadian universities operate much like those in the U.S. Applicants are evaluated on their high school academic preparation as well as SAT and SAT Subject test scores in some cases. IB course work and diplomas are well received in Canada. The application deadlines are usually in mid-February and the notifications for admission, wait listing or rejection usually arrive in April or May. Undergraduate programs in the humanities, social sciences, physical and applied sciences are available at most universities in Canada. However, professional programs such as medicine, dentistry, law, architecture, engineering and journalism are not available in all provinces. Degrees conferred from Canadian universities include Bachelor’s, Master’s and PhD’s.
 The Application portals are OUAC, ApplyAlberta, and direct application to Universities.


As Australia is in the Southern Hemisphere, their academic calendar is different from the United States and Europe. Most universities begin their academic year in Feb/ March, have a semester break during June and/or July, and end the academic year in November or December. Application procedures vary with each university. Generally, however, students complete an application through each university’s admission office (either in paper or online) and submit their application along with a copy of their high school transcript. For Australian universities, the successful completion of an IB certificate program may be enough to gain entrance into the university, although various programs have specific IB scores that must be earned, and the IB Diploma is the most direct route to gain admission. Australia is home to world class institutions, campuses and academics which have multicultural and diverse study environment and leading research and teaching facilities.
 The application portal is UAC or you can directly apply to Universities.

New Zealand

New Zealand has a total of eight universities which offer globally recognised qualifications and all of them are featured in international rankings. The Universities offer assured quality of education as they are public institutions that are partly funded by the Government of New Zealand. The tuition and living expenses are affordable compared to many other countries in the world. New Zealand is a safe country with temperate climate that offers friendly learning environment and post study work rights. Like Australia the University year begins in Feb/March and ends in November or December. New Zealand has a well developed system in place to take care of international students monitored by government.
Useful links:


Singapore offers a variety of learning opportunities evolving into a fast growing hub of tertiary education. Singapore has an advanced education system and has good infrastructure supported by its curriculum to optimize the learning activities of the students. These factors make this country an attractive destination to pursue high education. Singapore does not have a ‘common application’ system for all universities, but as the online acceptance platform is common across the three local universities, namely NUS, NTU and SMU, you may be offered a course of study in each of the three local universities if you have met the admission requirements and selection criteria of each university. The online common acceptance platform will reflect the place(s) that have been offered to you, ie. For example if you are offered a place each in NUS and NTU, the online acceptance platform will reflect the two courses.


India offers a wide variety of disciplines for the undergraduate study and has globally recognized private and public universities. India has the2nd Biggest Higher-ed System Globally with 980+ universities, 40,000 colleges and 11,000 stand-alone institutions. It also has the second Largest Market for E-learning after the USA. Public universities are supported by the Government of India and the state governments, while private universities are mostly supported by various bodies and societies. There Universities in India are granted recognition by the University Grants Commission (UGC). In addition, there are 16 Professional Councils are established that control different aspects of accreditation and coordination. The bachelor’s degree is typically three to four years. Useful links:


The Hong Kong universities are well ranked internationally. Hong Kong is fast becoming an international higher education hub thanks to its high-performing universities, world-class research, safety and attractive lifestyle. The Indian grade 12th certificates are widely accepted as well as the A levels and IB Diploma. The tuition is much more affordable compared to other high ranking universities of the world. A major factor in Hong Kong’s success in attracting international students is the proportion of courses taught in English and offering opportunity to familiarize oneself with Mandarin.
Useful links:,,


Europe offers high-quality education for students with great potential. The cost of education is affordable. The higher education institutions provide a strong support for education. Europe is culturally rich and diverse and one gains the skills you need for the global economy. Europe has more than 900 universities and even more educational institutions, academies and schools that offer secondary and higher education. European education has always been known for its high level of quality. The Universities and colleges offer undergraduate study mostly in local languages, however there are many Universities that offer English as medium of instruction.


Switzerland is home to 12 general universities and a number of other universities of applied sciences and research universities. Swiss universities are generously supported by the government and fees for nationals are low. At many institutions, fees are the same for foreign students or there is only a small premium, reflecting the country’s desire to attract overseas students. Of those studying at university in Switzerland, 21% are international students. Switzerland is rich in cultural diversity andhas four national languages — Swiss German, French, Italian and Romansch.
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Universities in the Netherlands are state-funded and are split into two categories: research universities and universities of applied sciences. There are 14 research universities and 41 universities of applied sciences in the country. The former offer more research-intensive education, while the latter are focused on preparing students for a particular professional field. Six universities in the Netherlands are ranked in the Top 100 of the 2013–14 QS World University Rankings (an increase of two from 2012–13), with the University of Amsterdam highest at number 58. There are two different methods for applying to Dutch universities. In some cases you apply directly to the institution you wish to study at, while in other cases you need to apply via a centralized application system called “Studielink”.
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German universities have a quite good network with universities all over the world. As it is becoming a popular destination for international students, German universities and technical colleges try to provide enough university places for international students and they also make efforts to support them in many other questions concerning the time abroad. The university websites carry the details of the application procedure to be followed and UNI-ASSIST is a body that accepts the application, screens it and forwards it to member University of your choice.
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France provides some of the finest courses in reputed universities and Grand Ecoles. The disciplines are varied and handled by skilled and experienced professors who guide and nurture students towards their desired professional interests. If you attend a university in France, there will be several professors who have achieved Nobel Prizes and other awards in their fields. The French Government, to encourage further studies, gives students affordable degree programs and scholarship honors to promote education. The tuition fees of undergraduate study in with medium of instruction in French at a public university is very nominal, however the fees would be much higher if one chooses the medium of instruction as English.
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Types of Application Deadlines

Early Action

This is a type of early admission process offered by some institutions for admission to colleges and universities in the United States. It is non-binding. The results are declared by universities by Mid-December and you can accept by end April.

Early Decision

Students make a commitment to a first-choice institution where, if admitted they definitely will enrol and withdraw all other applications. This is binding.

Restrictive Early Action

Students applying for restrictive early action or single-choice early action indicate to a college that it’s their first-choice school by signing an agreement that they will file just one early application at a private institution.

Regular Decision

This is the most common type of deadline that applies to most applications.There is no limit to the number of schools you can apply to.  If more than one college accepts you, you can choose which one you want to go to.

Rolling Admission

The colleges evaluate applications as they are received versus waiting to evaluate all applications after a hard deadline. The evaluation of applications continue until all the slots are filled for their incoming class.

Application Deadlines

15th October

Application deadline for Oxford and Cambridge.Application deadline for most courses in medicine, veterinary medicine/science, and dentistry in UK

29th Oct -15th November

Early Action and Early Decision-1 deadline in most US Universities

30th November

Deadline for application to UC System Colleges ( only one intake in the whole year)

1st January

Early Decision- 2 deadline in some Universities

1st -15th January

Regular decisions US Universities

15th January

Application deadline for the majority of UK undergraduate courses.

Creating Accounts in Application Portals

Credits :Step by step guides by CommonApp, UCAS, OUAC, UAC, UBC and UC Application on YouTube