A student needs clear and wise consideration when choosing a major in college. This is not a piece of cake because the decision taken will influence the person’s future.

Student, parent and school are three determining factors in the process of choosing the right major for the student, with different percentage. “School is a supporting factor. Everything lies on the hands of the students and the parents. Students and parents should discuss to determine what the child wants and what is the best,” explains the University Placement Counselor BINUS INTERNATIONAL SCHOOL Simprug, Ellie Ruslim.

Can you explain about the role of Counseling Department in BINUS INTERNATIONAL SCHOOL Simprug, especially to prepare the students for a higher level of education?

Counseling Department Simprug is created in “one roof” from the level of Early Years to High School. There are two kinds of counseling. The first is academic (personal social emotional) and counseling from the side of university placement and majors. Especially for university preparation, the information has been given since 10th grade, and it becomes intensive in 11th and 12th grade.

What kind of role does the counseling play?

For the 10th grade, we make sure that they choose the right subjects in class. If at one point they chose the wrong subject, they might not be able to continue their study on the major that they want. For instance, if they want to study in Medical School, they are obliged to take the subjects of Chemistry and Biology.

The 11th grade is an exploration class, and they haven’t made the decision yet. Here, they should know about the universities and the majors. We guide them in their study, which supports their abilities, but we haven’t ruled out other possibilities for the majors.

For applications abroad, we always suggest eight universities as their options. From the eight options, they should have 2-3 dream universities, and three others which are relatively suitable with the student’s ability. Meanwhile, two other universities are the safety net, decent campuses with entry requirements under the student’s ability. This way, the student will have a bigger chance. All of these decisions must be discussed with the parents because they are the ones who have the financial planning. After the family agrees with the eight options, we will help with the applications.

What kind of communication does the Counselor make with the students’ parents?

We are adopting open communication policy. Parents have a huge access, they can visit, e-mail, or call us. For each of the supervisions and steps that we take, we will always involve the parents.

What kind of preparation does BINUS provide for the students?

From an academic preparation point-of-view, IB has a very good program. The load which is given, the curriculum and process of study in IB, all of those are helping the students in preparing themselves. More or less, this is on the same level with freshmen students in the university. Meanwhile, for mental preparations, we are inviting alumni to visit and share their stories to the juniors about life in college.

What are the challenges?

Very technical – it is about time management. From year to year, the heaviest task which we face most often is the preparation of study with a tight deadline, especially for specific countries or majors which takes long preparations. Kids tend to do things on the last-minute, when they’re on the 12th grade, they make decisions and it turned out, they left out several important requirements.

For instance, if a student wants to go to the United States, they need to take the SAT, a standard test used by all universities in the US as the standard illustration for each of the students. This test is conducted six times a year. Meanwhile, if a student didn’t take the test, the risk is quite big, since they might fail to go to their dream college. The second is the TOEFL.

What do you do to avoid things like these?

We are trying to give better socializations. We are providing better education, for instance, we let them know that they should take the SAT more than once, we tell the parents and we invite other parties to our school. We can only remind them by providing more information. Meanwhile, the final decision on the SAT lies on the hands of the parents and the student.

What about colleges in Indonesia?

Because they cannot participate in SNMPTN, they participate in the international class. For the past two years, the number BINUS students who want to continue their study in universities in Indonesia are increasing. Maybe this is because more schools in Indonesia are conducting ‘twinning program’. Two years in Jakarta, a year abroad, and the student can obtain double degree. This is a very interesting program, because geographically they can stay near their parents, they will have international exposures and they will have network in Indonesia.

From the financial side, this program is relatively expensive, not too different with continuing the study abroad. However, with this program they can reduce the living cost.

Either way, the IB curriculum has provided mental preparation for them so they are ready with the system on college.

How do you approach the kids and make sure that you can embrace everyone?

We are trying to inform to the kids that counseling is not identical with problems. Yes, we need to be proactive and make time, stand by on the areas often visited by them. Even so, counselor will not be able to position themselves as a friend. A counselor is an expert with the obligation to guide the child. If we become their friends, we will only be able to listen to their problems. If we are in the area of counseling process, we will have respect from the students.

What should the students do to prepare themselves before going to college?

Everyone should help the child to make the decision. They must plan accordingly. The parents play a major role when the child is in exploration stage. Being confused is quite normal, because it means they are thinking. What is important is they need a guide. On this stage, the school plays a minor role because when the child is at home, they can explore more, considering the amount of time they have with their parents. Second, do not limit the child’s interests. For instance, the parents don’t agree if the child wants to become a writer because the profession is considered not worthy. Meanwhile, the school plays a supporting role and not the key role.

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