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        Mission And Philosophy

        The mission of the University and Careers Counselling Office is to educate Pao School students and families on higher educational opportunities, help students navigate the vast selection of global colleges and university options, introduce them to schools and programmes that best match their interests and abilities, and successfully assist our students in the eventual application process.

        Beginning in Year 9, services are offered to support students in their search for a university and to also identify worthwhile summer programmes, internships and a wide range of other enrichment opportunities.

        In line with our whole person education philosophy, the University and Careers Counselling Office believes strongly that students have a diverse and wide range of talents. As such, there is no 'one size fits all' when it comes time for students to make the next step in their educational journey. We encourage students and parents to embrace the university process with an open mind, and to look closely at both the student and school profiles to determine the 'best fit'. We want our students to thrive in university and achieve great results, and finding an appropriate school that matches the student's strengths, interests and skills is a crucial part of the university search process.

        Meet Our Team

        Emily Benoit, Director of University and Careers Counselling


        Emily graduated from the University of Chicago in 2011 with a Bachelor's degree in Political Science. Right after graduation, she spent two years teaching first and second grade in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Since then, Emily has been a part of the Admissions Office at the University of Chicago, where she recruited student primarily from the greater Los Angeles area as well as ran all of the on-campus programmes for prospective students, admitted students, and high school counselors. Most recently, Emily graduated in June of 2019 from the School of Social Service Administration at the University of Chicago with a Master's in Social Work with an emphasis in Social Administration. Emily enjoys helping students navigate the college search process and helping them learn more about what colleges and universities have to offer. Emily was born in Northern California but grew up mostly in Michigan. She loves playing soccer, traveling, and coffee. Emily joined YK Pao School in 2019.

        Sarah Magnussen Link, University and Careers Counsellor


        Sarah graduated magna cum laude from Brown University with a BA in the History of Art & Architecture. After working as a teaching assistant at Brown, Sarah confirmed her interest in helping young adults pursue their educational and personal goals. An American citizen, Sarah was raised in Brussels, New York, and London. She moved back to London after university where she worked as an Independent Educational Advisor for international students and their families. After six years working independently, Sarah took a position as the High School Academic Counsellor at a new bilingual school outside Shanghai where she helped build the academic and university counselling programme. She also has an MA in Education from the UCL Institute of Education and is working on her MSc in Psychology through the University of Liverpool.

        Mario Sylvander, University and Careers Counsellor


        Mario holds his Master’s degree in French Literature from Washington University in St. Louis and is working toward his EdD at the UCL Institute of Education, researching undergraduate university application interviews. He began his education career in US college prep day and boarding schools in New York and St. Louis before shifting to international education in Singapore and then Panama. He has been doing university guidance for nearly 20 years while also holding a variety of school leadership roles along the way. He considers working to help guide students in the pursuit of their next educational journey a privilege given students’ personal and family investments in their most optimistic futures. A dual US-Swedish citizen, he grew up in Wisconsin, also living and studying in France during High School. Mario joined YK Pao School in 2020.

        Venessa Zhao, University and Careers Counselling Coordinator


        Venessa graduated from East China Normal University. She coordinated admissions for the Secondary School when she joined us in 2011. As Venessa moved on to the University and Careers Counselling Office in 2015, with her main focus on the 'Careers' part by organising the internship programme and the career speakers series, she also helps students and parents learn more about overseas educational opportunities, such as overseas exchanges, summer programmes and international universities application, etc.

        Bell He, University and Careers Counselling Senior Officer


        Bell graduated from Hunan University of Technology with a Bachelor’s Degree in English. She has extensive experience in admin work, including scheduling, planning, communication and coordination. Bell’s personal goal is to 'Be Professional and Peaceful'. 

        Year 9-12 Planning

        Beginning in Year 10, each parent and student is provided with a comprehensive bilingual University and Careers Counselling Resource Guide that includes detailed information on all aspects of our programme.

        Year 9

        In Year 9, students have a structured academic schedule that allows them to settle into the new routine. The first year in the Senior Secondary School is an opportunity for a fresh start, a time to try new activities, or delve deeper into what really interests students. The University and Careers Counseling Department is here to help the students get settled in and to begin thinking about the future. University and Careers Counsellors will meet with Year 9 students to discuss their four-year plan as well as the importance of their academic records, setting goals. The department will also assist in developing plans for the summer. 

        Year 10

        In Year 10, students begin creating their own individual schedules and make major plans for the future. By the end of the year, many students will make decisions about which IB Diploma courses are most suited for them. This is also the year in which students take the information that they have learned about themselves and start to think about how to use those strengths to their advantage.

        At this stage, students and their parents will be introduced to Cialfo, and will begin exploring the various tools that the platform has to offer. These include interest inventory tests designed to help students learn more about themselves as well as the most comprehensive up-to-date list of colleges and universities around the world.

        In the spring of Year 10, students will be able to write mock SAT and ACT tests to determine which system is most suitable for them and with the help of the university counsellor work on an individual testing plans. There will also be an opportunity for students to complete the Morrisby Career Inventory and attend a feedback meeting with a company representative to discuss results and possible career paths.

        Parents are invited to attend the parent meetings, workshops and monthly 'Coffee with Counsellor' sessions to hear from the University and Careers Counselling staff, learn about the university counselling timeline and ask questions.

        Year 11

        Year 11 is when the University and Careers Counselling programme begins to play a more significant role. Pao School students should hit their stride academically as they begin more rigorous IB coursework. This is also the time for students to start seriously considering their future options with the support of University and Careers Counselling staff. Understanding and setting realistic expectations plays an important role in choosing potential future colleges for further study. For most students, going to college or university is the first time they will take charge of their own education, ultimately choosing their area of specialisation, and determining where in the world they wish to pursue their studies.

        The challenge for the students is to navigate through all of the information and identify colleges or universities that are the best match for them. With support of the University and Careers Counselling Office, by the end of the year, each student will have a list of potential colleges and universities to consider.

        Throughout Year 11, University and Careers Counsellors will hold regular workshops aimed at helping students begin to prepare for applying to university in Year 12. Workshops will cover topics such as US vs. UK universities, Liberal Arts education, personal statements, supplemental essays, admissions deadlines, and many other topics. Our goal is to build a strong understanding of this process in Year 11 so students return to school in Year 12 ready to get started on their applications right away.

        To help guide students, University and Careers Counsellors will begin by meeting with students individually, following with a family meeting to get an understanding of their personal and individual goals in terms of countries of interest and majors they may wish to pursue. They will develop testing plans and begin exploring ideas for their personal statement. University and Careers Counsellors have an 'open door' policy to answer questions and provide guidance, so students are welcome to meet with their University and Careers Counsellors on a drop-in basis, outside of these scheduled meetings.

        Year 12

        Year 12 is when all the skills students have gained over the years will help them in the application process. Together, each student, along with their parents and the University and Careers Counsellors, will create a plan to apply to universities or explore other opportunities. While this is primarily a student-driven process, they will be given plenty of guidance and assistance.

        Throughout the year, students will need to balance their academic responsibilities together with the college application process, so planning and time management are important skills to master. The academic foundation students have built at Pao School will prepare them for the next stage of their educational career.

        In Year 12, students will attend individual meetings with a University and Careers Counsellors for an opportunity to ask questions about their individual application process, obtain feedback on essays, and review application forms and deadlines. Students are also welcome to meet with University and Careers Counsellors on a drop-in basis.


        Admission Decisions

        US universities consider a range of factors when reviewing applications. This is called 'holistic' admissions. The greatest emphasis is always placed on grades and the rigour of the curriculum. The IB Diploma Programme is highly-regarded worldwide as a comprehensive and demanding curriculum that prepares students for the challenges of university study.

        Personal Statement

        The personal statement or essay is the part of the application in which a student's own voice can be heard. Pao School's counsellors work closely with students so they understand the essential features of a good personal statement and how to develop a statement of their own. We provide guidance and editing support for the essay and supplements required by some universities. For most US universities, the essay can be written on a variety of topics.

        Unlike those for US universities, approximately 75% of the statement for UK universities focuses on a student's selected course of study/academic background and the remainder focuses on extracurricular activities and identifying the connection between the two.

        Extracurricular Activities

        US universities practice holistic admissions so a variety of factors are considered in the application review, including extracurricular activities both in and out of school and during summer vacation. US universities look for evidence of leadership ability, while extracurricular activities not related to the student's intended area of study are less emphasised in UK and EU institutions.

        Teacher and Counsellor Recommendation Letters

        Pao School's teachers and University and Careers Counsellors will write recommendation letters on behalf of our students. These letters are sent to the institutions electronically.


        Check the interview policy for each university on their website as practices vary from school to school. Some universities offer Skype interviews. Others offer staff or alumni interviews in Shanghai. Pao School's counsellors assist students as they prepare for interviews. There are a few China-based reputable companies who provide unscripted, unedited 30 minute interviews for a fee.

        Visit to University Campuses

        Check the university website for details about information sessions, campus tours, recommended accommodations and much more. Always sign-up for visits in advance as opposed to simply perusing the campus grounds without an appointment.

        General FAQs

        1. When should my child start the application process?

        While you may be tempted to have your child begin preparing for university admission process as early as Year 8 or Year 9, it is better to encourage your child to focus on goal setting, developing interests, exploring passions and engaging actively in their classes. Only by authentically developing their own strengths and interests during their High School experience will students be able to focus on what university programmes will be best suited for them.

        Beginning in Year 11, Pao School students will begin attending university workshops and visits by university admissions officers from around the world. Families will receive a timeline for the process. Beginning in Year 9 and continuing to Year 10, the first step in this process will be for you to work with your child to chart the educational path for the remainder of his/her Pao School career.

        In Year 11, students are assigned to a University and Careers Counsellor who will discuss overseas studies with you and your child and develop a timeline for the process and related activities.

        2. What should my child being doing during summers to better prepare for the overseas university admission process?

        While there is no one specific camp or programme that is the best for students to engage in over the summer, it is a valuable time for students to explore their interests and passions. Regardless of the activity, colleges and universities are seeking students who use their time productively as a way to develop themselves – either by attending camps, volunteering, participating in an internship or holding a summer job.

        3. How can my child differentiate themselves from other applicants and succeed in their applications to overseas universities?

        There is no doubt that grades and test scores matter. However, they are only one piece in a very large and complicated puzzle. There is no 'magic formula' to applying successfully to overseas universities and, for the most selective universities, excellent grades and scores are by no means a guarantee to admission. In addition to a solid academic record, schools are often looking for students who will actively participate in their own education, enrich the community with their interests and passions and take initiative in the learning process. It is imperative that Year 8 and Year 9 students be given the time to develop these authentic interests and not focus prematurely on the university process.