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Being a young expat and having to make choices about higher education

Registration on Parcoursup and others

lycéens passant le bac, l'IB avant d'entrer à l'université
lycéens passant leur examen final avant d'entrer à l'université

Is your child in the final year of secondary school at a French school abroad or at a foreign school and would like to return to France to study? Discover my advice and tips to ensure that this stage is not a source of stress and conflict.

As a young expat, your teenager has become a citizen of the world. Bilingual or even multilingual, he or she has grown up in a variety of cultures and has developed a sense of openness to others. Wow!

Most of the time, you'll find that your teenager adapts to and understands the customs and habits of the countries you're travelling through much more easily and quickly than you parents, who sometimes find it difficult to adapt.

However, there comes a time when the question of higher education arises. Being abroad and having a profile that doesn't "fit into the classic national education boxes" increases the complexity of the orientation process.

1. Studying is OK, but where?

According to a study published in 2019 and carried out by Expat Communication, 54% of French expatriate children study in France. The remainder are split almost equally between those who stay in their host country and those who leave to study in a third country.

The question of where to study is one that families need to think about together. It's essential to take into account your teenager's wishes and plans, while considering the impact of this choice on the family. Is it better to stay in the host country or return to France?

And if your child doesn 't want to study in France, there are solutions that better match their aspirations. There are international courses that are just as demanding as those in France. But you need to plan well in advance. Recruitment abroad is not just based on academic results. Your teenager will also have to show genuine motivation and interest in the field in question.

Anticipation is the key word. This means that they can do a work placement as soon as possible, both to confirm their choice and to support their application, or even at an interview. It should be noted that sometimes work placements are compulsory in order to apply for certain courses.

If your young person does not wish to return to France to study, I invite you to reflect together on the following themes:

  • language. What language do you want to study? Many courses are offered in English, but it is possible to study in other languages such as German, Spanish or Portuguese, for example... or even dual courses.

  • Distance learning. Perhaps your child would like to study on the other side of the world. Ask them if they feel able to cope with the distance or even isolation from the rest of their family.

  • the cost of studying. This is something to bear in mind whether or not they decide to return to France. As in France, where there are inexpensive courses, it is possible to study abroad without breaking the bank. Canada and the Netherlands are two examples. You should also consider the cost of living in the country (rent, healthcare, cost of living, etc.).

  • study grants. Find out about possible grants. For example, some courses in the UK offer grants to European students to maintain their attractiveness. 37 study grants are available in Germany for 2024.

Où étudier quand on est jeune expat
Où étudier quand on est jeune expat

2. Stay informed and be proactive

It's not easy for families living abroad to keep abreast of developments in the guidance systems set up in different countries.

What's more, it's often difficult for these young people to take advantage of traditional information networks such as open days, higher education fairs, etc., although it should be noted that the pandemic has had a positive impact by making these types of events more digital.

If you're wondering how to help your teenager during this phase, then I'd advise you to scour the web for as much information as possible, and to draw up a timetable of deadlines and tasks that they'll need to complete in the meantime. Make a note of the application deadlines, the written and/or oral exams if there are any, and any language tests.

This is an opportunity to team up with your teenager and help them get organised.

And if your child decides to return to France to study , the following will give you step-by-step advice

3. Applying as an expat on Parcoursup, here is my essential checklist to guide you

1. Find out how the platform works.

As a first step, I recommend that you familiarise yourself with how the Parcoursup platform works, the key stages to be aware of, the documents required and the sections to be completed. To help you, I invite you to listen to the Azimut podcast - on which I collaborate - which is a mine of information for parents and secondary school students on the subject of guidance.

2. Mark in red on the family calendar the dates you don't want to miss

  • Up to and including Thursday 14 March 2024: registration on the Platform and deadline for formulating wishes on the Parcours Up platform

  • Wednesday 3 April 2024 : finalisation of application and final validation of wishes

April to May 2023: Examination of applications by the institutions

  • Thursday 30 May 2024: launch of the admissions phase (responses from institutions)

  • Tuesday 11 June: launch of the complementary admissions phase, during which your teenager can make up to 10 new applications for courses that still have places available

  • 1 to 3 July: ranking of pending applications

  • 12 July 2024: end of the admissions phase

Refine your child's career plan

There are family activities and games to encourage questioning and define your child's expectations.

Among the questions you can ask your child that take account of their international profile, I suggest the following:

  • Is he looking for a school with an international dimension?

  • Would they like to follow courses in French, English, German, etc. or a bilingual programme?

  • Would they like to maintain an international link during their studies in France and work in a multicultural environment?

  • In which city do they prefer to study?

  • Do they want to study at an international school?

  • If they want to keep an international link, which French schools are open to the world?

5. Create your application

They have until 9 March inclusive to create their online application and select their wishes for the courses they want to study.

When you create your application online, some information is already pre-entered. Check that they are all correct and fill in the empty fields.

The Parcoursup application consists of 4 main sections, in which you will need to fill in various items of information:

  • "My profile": where you can enter your marital status, applicant and parents' contact details, any special needs, etc.

  • "My schooling": this category contains information about my schooling (schools attended, baccalaureate grades, school results, etc.);

  • "My activities": this is where you should list your interests, extra-curricular experiences and activities, language skills, etc.

  • "My wishes": this is where all the wishes selected will be listed, together with information about the courses chosen.

Your child can select up to 10 wishes. For some courses, it is possible to select multiple wishes (sub-wishes) in order to apply for similar courses: your child will then be able to choose a maximum of 20 sub-wishes.

Each wish list is accompanied by a reasoned study plan, a key element of the Parcoursup application. This can be compared to a short covering letter. It must be unique to each course. Its main aim is to explain how the chosen programme is consistent with the applicant's project and profile. It's important to take great care with this document. Your parent's eye can then correct any spelling or syntax errors, for example. I would advise you not to write these documents for your child. Because what you want to above all is for them to develop their independence.

Their file also includes the Avenir form filled in by the teaching staff and the head of the school. The head teacher gives his or her opinion on all the wishes made by the final year students. Your child will not be able to consult this form until 1 June.


4. What do you need to know and what mistakes should you avoid?

Above all, avoid waiting until the last minute to register and make your wishes known. There's a risk that the platform will be saturated. Which will add to the stress for you and your teenager.

I advise you to read the information sheets for each course on Parcoursup or the school's website carefully before making your choices. Ideally, select 10 choices to maximise your chances, including a few non-selective courses (bachelor's degrees). For the application form, write a neat, error-free, personalised text for each course.

Lastly, don't forget to fill in the 'My preferences' tab, which allows you to describe in a few lines what you would like to study and the courses you would like to take. This will be useful if you are turned down by a school for the complementary phase.

5. What to do if your child has only been rejected

If you have only selected selective courses and have not received any offers of admission, don't worry: you can always make new wishes during the complementary phase.

And if you're in a panic and have little time to devote to supporting your child, or if a nervous breakdown is poisoning family life, or if you just want to maximise your chances, then get help and advice.

The sympathetic eye of an outsider can make the process much more stress-free.

But how do you go about it? Who can help? I invite you to watch this short video explaining how I can be that person.

If I've aroused your curiosity and you'd like to find out more, I invite you to book a free coaching session where you, your child and I can get to know each other and ask any questions you may have.


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