Monday, August 20, 2012

UWC Admissions in a Nutshell

On this blog, I assume that people somehow understand exactly what everything I'm talking about is, because there's this weird group of people that somehow just know everything about these sorts of things. But, that's a very limited group of people, and I've found that more people are confused when I try to explain to them my plans than anything else.

So, this is an explanation from square one - everything about what has lead me to Swaziland, and what exactly the school is. If you want to apply to a UWC, this is pretty much how applying and being accepted goes. I wish you the best if you're applying - don't let the application process deter you. However complicated it seems, it's not that bad :)

In the summer of 2011, I went to Jordan on a full NSLI-Y scholarship to study Arabic. I was only there for the summer, but that's what started me on really wanting to go abroad for a longer amount of time. The instant I got home, I started bugging my parents about doing a year abroad. The problem was, most programs were really expensive, and/or didn't guarantee a decent education over there, therefore most likely meaning I'd wind up a grade behind because of the exchange. Instead of taking a year off from high school, my mom said to try for a gap year, so that I could graduate with my class.

Funny how things never work out like planned...

A few months later, I received an envelope in the mail containing a single flyer. I was never sure how they got my name, but I'm very, very glad it ended up in my hands. I skimmed over this strange brochure, looking for the tuition. It wasn't unlike the other fliers I received daily - most for short term programs, or university enrichment for high schoolers. Anyways, all the other ones cost thousands of dollars. But this? According to this flier, this one was totally free.

Criteria one? Checkmark.

I read on, and found that the United World Colleges (UWC) were twelve international boarding schools, spread across the continents. With campuses in the USA, Canada, Costa Rica, Swaziland, China, India, Singapore, Italy, Wales, Norway, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and The Netherlands, it quickly dawned on me that this could be my ticket. Students from over a hundred countries attended each of these schools. It wasn't quite an exchange program, but it was a chance to me to learn about a bunch of different cultures, while living in another country. The UWCs aren't quite a high school, as most students have already finished or almost finished their high schools at home, but they're not university either. The name comes from the British system of education, where students go to high school for a couple years, two years of "college," and then university, or American "college." The diploma offered is an IB (International Baccalaureate) diploma, which is essentially an internationally accepted high school diploma, comparable in difficulty to a normal American diploma with a bunch of AP classes on it. It was a two-year program, which meant that, because I was applying during junior year, I'd be graduating a year late, as if accepted, I'd attend during senior year, and then an extra year.

I showed my parents the pamphlet. They sort of raised their eyebrows at me, and pointed out the acceptance rate. I said that it was free to apply, and asked if I could, undeterred by my chances. After all, NSLI-Y had a crazy-low acceptance rate, and that worked out for me, I figured.

So, I applied. The application process was kind of ridiculous, but here's my summary. In the winter, I sent a few short written responses, one long personal statement, my test scores, my transcript, a teacher recommendation, my 4H leader's recommendation, and my guidance counselor's recommendation to the US admission's office in Montezuma, New Mexico, and filled out a three or four page form online.

And then I waited, and waited, and waited, until I finally received an email from said admissions office, saying that out of 600 applications, I was selected as one of 125 students across the US to be interviewed for one of the US spots.

At that point, I did more research on the actual selection process. To apply to a UWC, you have to apply through a national committee. In sending all those things to New Mexico, I was applying to the US national committee, not the schools themselves. The national committee reserves a certain number of spots at each school across the world. For the US national committee, they had 25 spots at the US campus, 8 at the Wales campus, and either one, two, or three at each of the others.

The grand total of applicants the national committee would finally choose? 50 out of 125 interviewed.

I had my interview, which was splendid. It was a group interview, and I have to say that the fifteen other students at the interview were really quite amazing. I had some really great discussions that day, about current events and ethics and international issues, and it only made me want to be accepted to one of these schools even more.

After the interview, I waited to find out whether I'd be nominated for a spot. My dilemma at that point was whether or not I'd accept a spot for the UWC in New Mexico itself. From the beginning, I'd put Swaziland as my first choice campus, and USA as my last, but there was still the chance I'd be placed in the US, as they select the 50 students, and then place them between the campuses - 25 in the US, 25 abroad.

But thankfully, when my acceptance email arrived, it was for Swaziland. And boy, did I scream with joy! I HAD BEEN ACCEPTED! My mind was literally blown - I kept thinking to myself, "You're actually moving to Swaziland... for two years... for free... you're moving to Swaziland. You're going to finish high school in Africa." I didn't believe it was possible, but hey, anything is possible, right?

I filled out some more papers to confirm that I wanted the nomination, and about a month later, I was done dealing with the US national committee, and I received my first emails from Waterford Kamhlaba United World College of Southern Africa, with my joining papers - essentially enrollment forms, class choices, and immigration papers.

Now, I'll be attending the first semester of my current high school, starting Wednesday, and going until right before Christmas. I'm not required to attend high school for this semester, but figured that it'd be really difficult to take that much time off of school, and then start the IB program. Also, I'm finishing all my graduation requirements at my current school, so if anything were to go wrong in Swaziland, I'd be able to come back and get a diploma here without taking any more classes. Swaziland is on the southern hemisphere school schedule, and so the first day of the term there is January 14th, 2013 for me. The school year is on trimesters, with month long breaks in between the terms, and no summer. Essentially, the school year is from January to November each year, and I'll be attending on that school schedule in 2013 and 2014, graduating November 2014. I will then (hopefully) be starting university in the fall of 2015, assuming I go back to the northern hemisphere for university - NYUAD insha'allah :)

Yup, that's the story. Hope that's comprehensible - I know it's long, but this is the extended explanation!


  1. That's fantastic! I'm also going to give it a shot too. I'm really excited about this and well I would like to know a bit more about this. Like how were your grades, the interview and such. What kind of community service have you done? I'm just another young hopeful girl with not much clue where she's headed. Come what may, it will be a wonderful journey. Maybe you could email me? :)

  2. Don't label yourself as "just" another hopeful - everyone is a hopeful at some point for these things.

    My grades were good, but when applying, they're more looking at grades just to make sure you can handle IB. Don't even worry if they're not perfect - nobody's are.

    The interview was really laid back - it took all day, but was really interesting to meet everyone else applying.

    Um, I'd prefer not to post my email on here, just for spam's sake... I'm not sure of an alternative to get it to you, but if you can think of something then I'd be happy to answer any questions you have :)

    1. Thanks. Also I won't label myself. :) As for email, I understand what you mean. I can't think of a good alternative at the moment... perhaps a messaging app?

      Another thing, are you going to blog about Swaziland? Because I would love to read about your experience.

  3. I am definitely blogging about UWC and Swaziland - if you just go to the main page, the more recent posts should all be about Swaziland.

    1. Yes, my mistake. My phone was not working properly. I saw your posts shortly after. And I must say I do enjoy them. :)

  4. What kind of extra curriculars were you a part of when you applied to UwC?

  5. Just get involved with what you are interested and excited about, and that will show on your application. Remember, quality, not quantity, and there is no "ideal" combination of activities. Just be yourself! Good luck!

  6. Hello! Seems like you had are still having an absolutely wonderful experience, one that I hope I can have as well. Just a few questions though... 1. What were your grades like? GPA? PSAT? I am also applying from the U.S. which I am aware is quite difficult. 2. Where was your interview? Was it local? Or did you have to fly somewhere?, and lastly, 3. Why Swaziland? :)

  7. Hi Diana! I am really interested in applying to UWC and have a few questions. What is the most important criteria for applying (i.e. grades, standardized test scores, extra-curriculars, essays)? What is your favorite part of having attended a UWC school? Thanks! :))

  8. there have absolutely great experience share by this article blog to UWC Admissions in a Nutshell. i am also agree with Borders Are Imaginary Boundaries.

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