Navigating the final years of high school, and successfully finding the path into the right university degree is a challenging, if not daunting, prospect or any student and their family. Well, it is said it takes a village to raise a child, and that is at the heart of the ethos at the European International School Ho Chi Minh City (EIS).

Guiding students to the right university for themThe term ‘educational village’ is used by students and staff to describe their physical campus environment, which comprises 13 colonial-style villas spread around a lush tropical garden environment, giving it an intimate, community feel. The low-rise village has recently received a new addition in the form of a modern multi-story mixed use building featuring learning and recreational facilities.

However, when it comes to guiding students through the sometimes fraught process of choosing programs and activities for their final school years, and then turning those decisions into successful applications to the right universities for them, a place more akin to a village than a city certainly has its benefits because of the individual attention that each student can receive.

Students in Grades 11 and 12 at EIS study the International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma Programme (DP), a qualification recognised by universities in more than 140 countries. An academically challenging and balanced program, it emphasises the intellectual, social, emotional and physical well-being of students.

The school’s Diploma Program Coordinator Erin Tacey said she usually begins working with students in Grade 10, and sometime Grade 9, to begin explaining how the program works, what subject choices are available to them and why they should make their choices.

The process begins by looking at what a student’s basic interests are, what they are good at, and these are your options in those areas, she said. “If a student has a low level of English, then a humanities subject like psychology might not be a good fit for them because of the amount of reading involved.”

Erin’s position involves the educational element of working with teachers to ensure that the appropriate material and curriculum is being covered, as well as ongoing regular communication with the IB organization and ensuring that students are properly registered for exams. However, in line with the school’s small-community approach, she also acts as something of a shoulder to lean on at times.

“I know every single student, and I know all the DP kids quite well, so I can know from looking at them when they might be stressed, where their pressure points are,” she said.

As the students move into their final year, they see a lot more of EIS University Guidance & Counsellor Don Phan. Himself a graduate of Yale University in the US, he has first-hand experience of clearing the highest of Ivy League admissions bars.

Much of Don’s work is the unglamorous but necessary tasks of assisting students fill out admissions application forms, financial aid paperwork, reviewing admissions essays and explaining the details of various visa rules in different countries.

Importantly, Don also takes on a much more significant role in steering students towards a degree, and possibly a profession which represents a ‘good fit’ for each student, that they (and their parents) might not see so clearly. This also means taking into account the shifting forces of global industries and labour markets.

“I talk to students about where I was at their age, and the economy has changed a lot,” he said. “The really safe jobs that appear to be low hanging fruit may ultimately be eliminated through automation. Professions existing today could mostly be replaced by Artificial Intelligence in the future.”

He pointed to the gaming industry as an example, which is now bigger than the film industry yet was marginal only two or three decades or so ago.

One of the best pieces of advice Don said that he could give students was to start working early. This way, you could not only start saving money, but also figure out what you like and what you don’t like.

“There are a lot of differences between school and work. If you only learn things academically, everything will seem theoretical. When kids ask me ‘how do I combine theory and practice?’ I tell them to get a job.”

Contact EIS at or call (+84 28) 7300 7257 for more information.