Best-Fit University Advice from Yale Student and DCB Alumnus

Yale University student and Dulwich College Beijing alumnus talk about UK and USA universities and best fit

It’s all about best fit.

You hear it from the teachers. You hear it from the counsellors. Now, let’s hear it first hand from a former student.

While popping by DCB two weeks ago, Class of 2017 Head Girl Johanna Shen spontaneously agreed to give a talk to Senior School students and parents about university selection, application, and life at Yale University. She has just finished her first year studying Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology and was eager to share her knowledge and experience from the perspective of someone who had walked these hallways not too long ago.  

Johanna described her university and the opportunities offered there. She then presented some top criteria to consider when choosing your college or university, differences between big universities and small liberal arts colleges, and differences between U.S. and U.K. universities and applications.

One point Johanna wanted to drive across was that parents and students should not be preoccupied with university rankings. Getting into a top-tier university does not guarantee future success. In fact, there are many outstanding, smaller liberal arts colleges with better, dedicated teaching staff than big, top-ranking universities who owe their status to having a graduate school and professors that publish a lot of research.  

So if you don’t look at university rankings, what should you look at? Criteria to consider are subjects of study, school size, class size, location, quality of teaching, extracurricular activities, research labs, and opportunities for internships or summer jobs. It is also important to know if the college or university requires the students to take core subjects before studying courses specific to their major.

On that topic, if you don’t know your major yet, you probably should not be applying to a U.K. university. That is because there, you apply to a specific programme, so university admissions look for students who are passionate about their subject and are engaged in activities pertaining to that subject. In comparison, American university admissions take a more holistic approach. Leadership skills, extracurricular activities, summer activities, and community service are all taken into account in a college application.

In the end, Johanna emphasised that students should not waste time applying to a college or university they are not suited to; the time spent on the application will impact their results and their other applications. Besides that, who wants to end up in a place they don’t like for three to four years?

So that’s why it’s so important to find your best fit university!

If any other returning or visiting alumni would like to come in to speak or get involved in planning alumni events in Beijing, please contact Mr Hawkins at