The Pros and Cons of Studying Abroad in the U.S at Different Stages of Life

As everyone pays more attention to international education, many parents have started planning their children’s education routes early. “When should my children go to America?” has become a concerning question for parents to consider. Today Ivy Talent Education will dive deeper into the topic, giving parents general guidance on when parents should allow their children to study abroad.  

Looking at the current study abroad market, it is mainly divided into three stages: Junior High, High School, and Universities. Today we will discuss which stage is the best to go to the US, and what the advantages and disadvantages are of each. 

Studying Abroad in the United States During Junior High School ​

Junior High School refers to grades 6-8 in the US. For applications in this stage, we can divide them into two types:

Study abroad in grade 6: In grade 6, the students are relatively young and usually require parents to accompany them. However, in this case, parents who are in the United States need to have a visa and other legal documents proving their legal status in the U.S, such as a green card, work visa, or student visa.

Study abroad in an American Junior Boarding School: In the second option, parents usually consider letting children study in a Junior Boarding School. The junior boarding schools that accept international students are mainly members of the Junior Boarding School Association.

The association has 10 member schools, concentrated in New England and New York: The Bement School, Cardigan Mountain School, Eaglebrook School, Fay School, The Fessenden School, Hillside School, Indian Mountain School, North Country School, Rectory School, and Rumsey Hall School.

Additionally, there are a small number of cases where middle school children stay with American host families to attend school. Since the children are still young and immature, along with parents’ uncertainties about the host family, there are few parents who are willing to choose the latter option.

The advantages of studying abroad in the US during Junior High School: 

1. Through studying and living in the United States, students can adapt earlier, especially by taking the language and humanities courses in US junior high. US college applications require four years of good grades in high school. International students from Vietnam, China and other countries generally need one to two years of adaptation to be comfortable with the coursework. This results in unsatisfactory grades during ninth and tenth grades for some students. We have found this to affect the university applications of some students. If you come to the US to study in junior high school one or two years earlier, you can have an adjustment period in junior high school and this be better prepared for high school.

Generally speaking, the course load in American junior high schools is not particularly rigorous, so you can prepare for high school studies in the United States in a relatively relaxed environment. Therefore, many parents consider sending their children abroad during this time period so they can adapt to the learning environment, along with practicing their English skills. Many American junior high schools also have ESL courses for students to receive a good foundation in English. Additionally, since there is still language formation occurring, many international students who study in the US for junior high school develop authentic sounding American English accents, whereas this is significantly more difficult for older students who come abroad during high school or college.

2. Private high schools in the United States attach great importance to students’ sports and art activities. These activities are also one of the important factors for admission into the top universities in the United States. Relatively speaking, many public schools in Vietnam and China have a large amount of academic pressure even at the junior high school level, which makes it difficult for children to really have time to develop their hobbies.

Through studying abroad in the US, students can use their time in junior high school to actively participate in various sports and cultural activities to develop their interests and passions, leading to participation in the varsity sports team and school bands in private high schools. With this method, students are able to have well-rounded development in academic and extracurricular activities.

3. A large number of Vietnamese and Chinese students apply for limited spaces in private high schools in the United States, making admission to the top private high schools very competitive. If students have study abroad since junior high school, they learn to be familiar with the rigorous demand of academics, extracurricular activities, and community activities. Therefore, top private high schools highly recognize the teaching style and community management of private junior boarding schools. In recent years, a large percentage of the children who are enrolled in junior boarding schools have been able to achieve acceptance at top boarding high schools. Many international families consider letting their children enter the junior boarding schools to increase the probability of being accepted to top boarding high schools.

Over the past few years, Ivy Talent Education has worked with junior boarding school students to support their applications to top boarding schools in America: from Bement to Milton Academy and Deerfield Academy, and from Cardigan Mountain to Lawrenceville, Choate Rosemary Hall, Middlesex, and other top ten US boarding high schools. The experience of studying in the US at a younger age combined with the development of positive personal traits and interests for each student at the American Junior Boarding Schools provided these children a great advantage in the application process.

4. Junior Boarding Schools also push students to practice self-management, self-discipline, and perseverance. At these schools, students are allowed to spend a certain number of hours on their mobile phones each day. Since the children aren’t accompanied by their parents in junior high, they learn to deal with many things on their own, and gain the skills of communicating and getting along with others in an English-speaking environment.

Disadvantages of studying abroad in the United States during Junior High School 

The disadvantages of Junior Boarding School mainly lie in the limited self-care and self-protection abilities of relatively young students.  

Parents must do a good job of research about Junior Boarding School programs available in the US. From our experience of consulting with many families during this stage, parents are generally satisfied with the results once their child has been at the junior boarding school for a semester or two. Many students have also provided feedback that they were grateful for the education they received at their Junior Boarding School, because it prepared them for boarding high school in the US 

Another possible drawback is that students leave their home country’s cultural environment early, especially for students who left in the 6th grade. If parents want their children to return to their home country in the future, they should also pay attention to instilling own their culture, heritage and as well as current updates about the home country to their children. 

Studying Abroad in the United States During High School

High School usually refers to applications for grades 9 to 12, but most high schools do not accept applications for grade 12. So, most high school applications are for grades 9 to 119th grade is the entry level to high school and is where the number of applications is the largest. Other grades require transferring from another high school or junior boarding school. 

The advantages of studying abroad in the US during High School: 

1. Students are relatively mature, and have the ability to take care of themselves. Parents will not particularly worry about their ability to deal with personal and social problems.

2. Students have been nurtured by their parents until 14 or 15 years old and have a strong foundation in their home country’s culture and language. Parents do not need to worry about their child’s ability to get along with people from their home country, since they have already learned about the values of their home country.

3. American high schools provide a platform for students to quickly adapt to the American environment and improve their English ability. This allows many students in American high schools to reach the level of native American English proficiency. Students also gain a deep understanding of American culture and have similar competitive advantages with their American peers for college applications.

4. US high school resumes, recommendation letters, transcripts, etc. are more likely to be favored by US universities. Compared with their peers in domestic and international schools in their home country, students studying in American Boarding High Schools have a greater advantage, leading to the high probability to enter a prestigious college.

5. Familiarize themselves with the educational system of American universities. International students will be more comfortable with teachers’ teaching methods and evaluation systems through high school and American universities.

6. American high schools, especially good boarding or day schools, are relatively strict. Through the intense schedule, students will gradually learn to manage their time, schedule, and focus on developing their abilities. This instills good life-long traits that can continue to be used in college and beyond.

7. Great boarding high schools and day schools have a large variety of courses. There are schools with more than 400 courses, and students have the freedom to choose the courses they are most interested in, or activities that can unleash their potential. Many schools also provide students with opportunities for independent research, internship, externships, and study abroad opportunities.

8. Boarding high schools encourage education with a rigorous curriculum. This principle runs through all aspects of learning and life. Students can feel their sense of value, which in turn stimulates the desire and drive for self-realization, and ultimately personal gains.

Disadvantages of studying abroad in the United States during High School: 

So, what are the risks of studying in the US during high school and how can parents avoid them?

1. In some highly competitive American high schools, especially the top American boarding high schools, students need to face a lot of academic pressure, so they must balance themselves between studying and doing other activities. High School in America is not about grade ranking like it is in most countries in Asia. Therefore, students should find a balance to be able to excel in both academics and other activities and the social aspects of school.

2. For day school, students need to live in a host family. This experience of learning how to get along with American families can increase the student’s understanding of American culture. However, due to cultural differences, students may have a hard time connecting to and getting along with the host family. Students need to be sure to learn about American culture in advance as well as learn how to deal with different people in various situations.

3. If the student is not very active and has no motivation to study, they may struggle in American high school. Be sure to communicate well with your child before studying abroad in high school to ensure that the child chooses studying abroad voluntarily and is willing to receive a different education than what would have in their home country.

4. Students don’t have the ability to live independently, they will struggle to adapt to life abroad. Parents need to teach their children from a young age to live and learn independently, as well as about self-control and self-protection.

5. The feeling of loneliness during the early stage of studying abroad may also hinder students from doing well, at least initially. They may feel homesick due to language and culture differences. Therefore, parents must pay close attention to their children in the early stages of studying abroad to help their children adapt as soon as possible.

6. Students and parents may choose the wrong high school to attend. There is a big gap between top US high schools and other US high schools. Therefore, parents must help students apply for US high schools, by understanding the college matriculation data from each school. Parents should choose schools that match their children’s abilities and whose reputation and teaching quality are excellent.

If parents and students are fully prepared and know which colleges and universities to apply to, studying in a US boarding high school will generally have a positive outcome for the students’ overall abilities, values, and advancement.

Studying Abroad in the United States During Colleges and University

First, let’s look at the advantages:

1. If students study abroad after high school, they already formed their own outlook on life, and have hopefully developed some ability to judge the right from the wrong. So, students won’t as tempted to do inappropriate things during college as they might be in high school.

2. Education in their home country, especially at an international high school has already laid a solid foundation for some subjects, so students won’t have a large amount of obstacles when entering their freshman year of college.

3. With a large number of best colleges/universities in the world, American undergraduate education is the essence of American higher education. Students can choose any major that they’re passionate about.

4. American undergraduate diplomas are very competitive for further graduate studies and employment in their home country.

Disadvantages of studying abroad in the United States during college or university

Compared with students beginning to study abroad in middle school or high school, the disadvantages of beginning to study abroad during college and university are:

1. Students may have inferior American cultural integration, language skills, and reading and writing skills. Children in international schools can generally adapt faster than children who attended ordinary public schools in their home country. Public school students need a longer time for language and cultural transition in American colleges and universities. Therefore, students should start learning about American culture as early as possible, and exercise all aspects of English listening, speaking, reading, and writing.

2. Except for some well-known international schools, colleges, and universities in the United States may discount the credibility of the transcripts, letters of recommendation, activities, and other materials submitted during the application process. This is caused by fraudulent/fake application materials submitted by many international countries. Students and their parents should determine whether or not they want to study abroad for college early on and choose a suitable and known to be trustworthy high school to study at.

3. Undergraduates in the United States have great academic pressure, especially in core liberal arts courses in literature and history such as American History. It is not easy for international students to get high scores, especially when transitioning from public schools to American universities. Students are required to adjust and adapt quickly, otherwise, it will affect their college GPA and adversely affect subsequent learning as well as the graduate school application process.

The specific stage of sending a child to study abroad in the United States must be carefully considered in advance based on the situation of the entire family, the child’s own situation, economic factors, and the child’s perception of going abroad. 

Generally speaking, the earlier a student goes abroad, the deeper they will understand American culture. Correspondingly, this will make your understanding of their home country’s culture shallower. It will be more difficult for students to integrate again into their home country’s living situation after college/university or graduate school. 

For families whose goal is an international education, parents can also plan for the general direction first. By planning, the family can be ready to look for opportunities, as well as educate their children about possible life problems they may encounter when studying abroad. 

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