Top 3 Post-Secondary Counselling Myths

Separating fact from fiction about AP Exams, SATs, and external consultants


Recently, we have received a couple of requests from our high school students about registering for AP exams or other external courses. Since the school, especially the Post-Secondary Counselling department, wants to give the best guidance possible to our students, we strongly encourage students and families to book a meeting with their Counsellor before making the external commitment. The Grade 10 to 11 students have been assigned a counsellor already, and the Grade 9s may contact any member of the counselling team for support.

There are many common myths today about post-secondary planning, especially for the US-minded students. We would like to clarify a few of these myths and help our families be more informed.

To AP or not to AP?

Myth #1

Writing AP exams can improve a student's profile when applying to universities, especially American universities

Truth #1

Many reputable universities have expressed views on IB students taking APs: “Highly discouraged” (UCLA); “Students should focus on the curriculum they are in.”(Johns Hopkins University); “IB takes up a significant amount of time; taking AP would affect scores and they need to report everything.” (Cambridge); For IB, they “don’t look at anything else.”(UBC). At the Ivy Plus Counsellor Breakfast in September 2019, hosted by Harvard, Dartmouth, Stanford, and UPenn, the group confirmed that they look for “excellence in context.”

Students are “not at a disadvantage because their school does not offer [APs].” Stanford University openly discouraged “trophy hunting” by high school students and its admission is “not about counting APs”. Therefore, our students should not take on other academic loads outside school unless carefully suggested and discussed with one of the school’s Post-Secondary Counsellors.

In most cases, we recommend that Meadowridge students do not take AP courses nor write AP exams.

Should you be an SAT early bird?

Myth #2

Earlier is better. Students should write the SAT exam as early as possible. 

Truth #2

We advise students to carefully check the standardized test requirements for their universities of choice. Even though there are more and more universities becoming test-optional, it is always important to check whether that exemption applies to the specific program and to the student’s status (e.g. international). Choosing to write the SAT or ACT, or when/where to write the test, is an important step for students to consider.

We advise students to take the SAT after November of Grade 11 and not to write any test more than three times.

Please also read the latest update about standardized testing under the pandemic. Mapping out a testing plan is something students should discuss with their Post-Secondary Counsellor. 

Did you invite anyone else to the party?

Myth #3

An external agent is necessary to make an applicant competitive. If we hire an external agent/consultant, we should not tell the school. 

Truth #3

First of all, many universities openly express that they expect students to complete their applications by themselves. Having an agent/consultant completing applications on behalf of the students not only takes away students’ own authentic voices but also may indicate the un-readiness of post-secondary education.

Meadowridge has a very low student-to-counsellor ratio, and our counsellors provide full-service support to our students, from course selection and post-secondary research to  application review and essay editing. With exceptions of elite athlete recruitment or US financial aid application, it is unnecessary to hire external agents for most students. 

However, if your family decides to hire an external agent/consultant to support your child’s university applications, we would like you to understand what support Meadowridge has already provided and how to select an ethical and qualified professional. There are good agents/consultants offering specialty services, but there are also for-profit agents/consultants who provide guidance in order to sell other services (i.e. test prep).

In our experience, there are agents/consultants who properly understand the IB Diploma Programme. We can help you to determine the qualifications and strength of any external service provider. Once chosen, we would like to a collaborative relationship with the provider to best support your child. Our ultimate goal is to help students reach theirs.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR Wenqing Chen is in her eighth year working at Meadowridge School. She works with Post-Secondary Counselling Department as well as the Advancement Department in Meadowridge School. With an educational background in China, Europe, and Canada, she offers international perspectives when supporting students and families. She holds professional memberships with the National Association of College Admissions Counseling (NACAC), International Association of College Admissions Counseling (IACAC), Canadian Independent School Counsellors (CISC), and British Columbia’s Academic Advisors Consortium (AAC).