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The College Process

Of the many elements of the College Process at the Taipei American School, the major parts are Self-Assessment, College Search, Application for Admission, and Transition to College. The overall goal of the College Process is to help each student develop the skills and confidence to identify, gain admission to, and adapt successfully to independent life at an institution that is a good match for him or her. For this reason, TAS emphasizes throughout the process that students “take ownership” and do everything they can for themselves – taking advantage where necessary of help and support from the College Counseling Office.


Amazing college and university study options are available to TAS graduates. The first step in the college process involves assessing interests, learning style, and areas of academic success or difficulty to identify the kind of college or university academic experience where one could thrive personally and academically. TAS begins the Spring semester of 11th grade with a College Week of information and activity sessions for students. College Counselors provide general information and answer questions to get each student off to a good start. Subsequently, with the assistance of a College Counselor, each student generates a list of his/ her criteria for a college or university that could be appealing and a good match. Selection criteria vary widely, but often include:

  • quality of faculty, and institutional reputation for undergraduate teaching and research
  • reputation in particular areas of study
  • student diversity and community atmosphere
  • collaborative or cross-registration arrangements with other institutions
  • study abroad or cooperative education opportunities
  • programs/facilities for extracurricular involvement in music, theater, art, athletics, debate, etc.
  • geographic location, and urban, town, or rural setting
  • college cost, and availability of need-based or merit-based financial aid
  • special equipment or facilities
  • residential housing options

In our experience, motivated, responsible, and persistent TAS students can navigate, take advantage of resources at, and learn effectively in institutions of any size – even where most teaching is by lecture. However, some students tend to learn more effectively, connect better with faculty and peers, and gain greater skill and confidence in smaller institutions featuring interactive classes, multi-sensory approaches, group projects, and hands-on learning. The key is for each student to reflect on school and personal experiences in identifying the qualities of colleges and universities that would make them potentially good “fits” for him or her.

College Search

After each student establishes initial criteria for appropriate colleges and universities, his or her College Counselor helps the student identify institutions that generally meet these criteria and that the student should research and then discuss with the College Counselor. Counseling is tailored to each student’s needs and style. Some students have a clear idea of what they seek and why, and for these students, a single meeting gets them going in a productive college search; for others, additional counseling sessions help the student sort through what is important to him or her and why qualities of specific colleges and universities could make them especially appropriate places to live and study. Individual counseling sessions with students and parents are supplemented by a series of required counseling classes throughout the Spring semester that familiarize students with:

  • planning standardized testing, which tests to take, and when to take them
  • participating in meetings with college representatives who visit TAS or the Taipei community
  • researching colleges and universities via the internet, the College Counseling Center, and Naviance resources
  • building relationships with teachers to enable them to write effective letters of recommendation
  • achieving balance while building a satisfying academic and extracurricular record for college admission
  • planning dynamic summer experiences featuring college visits, community service efforts, internships, or special interests to be pursued in depth

11th graders at TAS finish the Spring semester having 1) taken the SAT or ACT at least once, 2) planned for standardized testing in the Fall of grade 12, 3) created a tentative list of colleges and universities to which they will apply, 4) asked teachers to write letters of recommendation in the following semester, and 5) started thinking about and gathering information for college application essays.

College Application

In the Fall of grade 12, TAS students have individual and group meetings with their College Counselor to establish final lists of where they will apply for admission. Each student meets eight times in group sessions during academic days and numerous times in individual sessions with the College Counselor to establish a strategic plan of application for admission. Topics covered include:

  • assessing likelihood of admission to specific institutions
  • meeting requirements and deadlines for online and paper-based applications
  • taking final standardized testing and having official score reports sent
  • writing effective college application essays
  • applying for programs requiring special applications or portfolios
  • creating an effective resume
  • talking to college and university admissions representatives at TAS and in Taipei
  • preparing for on-campus or local interviews
  • solving application problems and dealing with special circumstances or issues
  • applying for need-based or merit-based financial assistance
  • discovering distinctive people, programs, facilities, and qualities of community at the institutions to which the student will apply to reinforce why each institution is a good “fit,” and to identify elements to which the student can refer to strengthen the application
  • organizing themselves and using time effectively in applying to college while maintaining balance and success in academic and extracurricular responsibilities
  • respecting the commitments of regular and early decision or early action applications
  • understanding how and when TAS processes and sends application support materials
  • receiving college admission decisions, choosing which offer to accept, sending a deposit to hold one’s place, and handling the process of staying on a “wait list” should one choose to do so

Transition to College

The final part of the College Process focuses on anticipating and preparing to adjust to the differences of life in a college or university and what it takes to be successful academically and personally in undergraduate life. With the joy and excitement of living and working independently of parents and most friends come challenges and stresses that each TAS graduate must face and handle responsibly to succeed in college. A January panel with TAS alumni/ae starts the transition process as seniors hear about what TAS graduates have enjoyed or found challenging in their college experience. Issues typically raised in such discussions are:

  • dealing with large, lecture classes
  • responding to unusual and sometimes challenging people and issues
  • sharing a place to live with one or more roommates
  • experiencing homesickness and making new friends
  • establishing and sticking to a schedule for class preparation
  • dealing with financial issues and managing money
  • leaving behind a high school grading system valuing quizzes and homework for a system emphasizing substantial reading, long papers, and major, essay-based tests
  • deciding when to work, go to bed, get up, and eat meals
  • missing what one used to eat and getting used to what the cafeteria serves
  • setting up a healthy regimen and dealing with occasional illness
  • reflecting on and having the courage to live by one’s principles
  • finding a good way to contribute to the new community
  • getting to know one’s roommate(s) before arriving at the university
  • balancing keeping in touch with parents and friends while committing one’s self to the new community
  • taking advantage of the opportunity to pursue new academic interests

For each TAS student, the College Process has general elements as well as issues and conversations that perhaps only one person considers and experiences. It starts in January of the junior year with an introductory session that helps the student to get to know his or her College Counselor and to start taking ownership of a process that can lead to extraordinary places, opportunities, and growth. The process widens and deepens as students research and discuss with the College Counselor what they are learning and what they seek to understand better or learn more about. TAS College Counselors are excited about their role in supporting that journey.