In the course of doing interviews, I found out that university interviews work really differently here, as every interviewee was surprised at how we did it. The exams are different also, and they’re different in about the same ways. There’s no equivalent of the SAT, a general reasoning exam. Instead, everyone takes 3 A-level examinations in subjects of their choice. Meaning, the test scores they use for applications are based in proficiency in 3 specific subjects, nothing general. In a similar vein, university interviews here aren’t really about getting to know the person, but are primarily technical, testing interviewees’ depth of knowledge in specific subjects.
Since everyone here applies into specific majors, that means that applicants have a much stronger sense of what they’re going to do for a career. If you asked me what I was going to do before college, I would have said I dunno, maybe a doctor. Here, you ask them and they know. They’re majoring in such and such in preparation to do something specific. That’s so counter to the US system (and specifically Stanford, which in my experience really values open and broad exploration) that I was taken aback by it. But really, that’s how most of the world works, right? You decide what you’re going to do in high school and apply to schools accordingly. Even in most US schools, you apply into a major and my impression is that it’s difficult, or at least a little tedious, to change.
But I don’t like it. To me, college is where you really find yourself. I have no idea how people can know what they really want to do before even getting to college. Or maybe it’s just me.