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Nathan Huynh receives offer from the University of Pennsylvania

The Australian students bypassing local unis for an ivy league deal

Studying at a local university didn’t appeal to Nathan Huynh. The Balwyn East teenager wanted the prestige of an ivy league college.

“College life looked really appealing,” he said. “There is a real sense of identity, community and pride involved in going to these US universities.”

Balwyn teenager Nathan Huynh is heading to the ivy league University of Pennsylvania this year.
Balwyn teenager Nathan Huynh is heading to the ivy league University of Pennsylvania this year. Photo: Penny Stephens

So in the middle of Year 11, as Nathan was completing his VCE at Camberwell Grammar School, he decided to embark on the gruelling US college admissions process.

He enlisted the help of Crimson Education, a company that helps students secure admissions to the world’s best universities.

Nathan Huynh.
Nathan Huynh. Photo: Penny Stephens

It provided Nathan with tutoring to improve his scores in the SAT, the standardised test used for college admissions in the US.

He sat the three-hour test three times in examination halls in Geelong and Melbourne.

The company also took Nathan on a tour of US colleges during his summer holidays, and helped him improve his college applications.

He spent two months crafting a 500-word essay about his identity, and what it was like to grow up as the son of Vietnamese and Malaysian migrants in multicultural Australia.

His application detailed all the extracurricular activities he was involved in, including tennis, fundraising for charities and volunteering for an environmental group.

Three days before the VCE results were released, Nathan accepted an offer from the University of Pennsylvania.

Admissions staff at the ivy league college did not know about his 99.20 ATAR, or base their decision on his impressive result.

“They don’t have a cookie cutter ideal of the students that they want,” he said.

“You need good academics, good out-of-school activities, a good personality. They have a more holistic approach.”

The 18-year-old, who will begin studying at University of Pennsylvania’s college of arts and science later this year, is among a growing number of Australian students who are bypassing local universities and choosing to study overseas.

In the past five years, the number of Australians heading overseas for study has increased by more than 70 per cent.

According to the latest data from the federal Education Department and UNESCO, 38,144 Australian students went on exchange and 11,985 enrolled in overseas tertiary courses in 2015.

The Grattan Institute’s higher education expert Andrew Norton said the federal government’s New Colombo Plan, which aims to boost engagement in the Indo-Pacific with internships and scholarships, was driving this increase.

Universities are also using overseas exchange programs as a marketing tool, he said. The top five overseas study destinations are the USA, China, Britain, Indonesia and Canada.

But Mr Norton said that the overall proportion of Australian students studying overseas remained relatively low, due to our isolation and the cost of overseas study.

“We have good universities here with income contingent loans and Australian degrees are recognised overseas.”

New Zealand-born Jamie Beaton dreamt big when he finished high school. He applied for 25 international universities and received an offer from all of them. He settled on Harvard University, completing a bachelor of arts and applied mathematics and a masters of science and applied mathematics. The application process inspired him to co-found Crimson Education.

“I found the process very stressful,” he said. “It is very thorough and holistic but it requires you to be committed to the process.”

In the past two years, the company has helped students secure 90 offers at ivy league universities, and 26 offers to Oxford and Cambridge universities.

It has also helped these students access $24.3 million worth of scholarships. While the bulk of its clients are in Australia and New Zealand, the company also works with students in Singapore, South Korea, Vietnam, Thailand, Russia, Britain and the US.

Click here to read the full article online. Published in the Sydney Morning Herald by Henrietta Cook on 11 April 2017.

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