Q: My son is an average student but I don’t want him to go to a low-ranked university. What options do I have?

Moving to university after school is a major transition for every student and is fraught with uncertainties and anxieties. The root of this could be social: leaving home, going to a new place – or academic: grades are not strong enough or study skills need to be improved. Foundation courses are geared to ensure the transition is seamless and address both academic and social concerns. Primarily designed for international students, these courses are very popular in the UK and Australia.

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For students who do not have the requisite qualifications to enter university but have the potential to complete an undergraduate degree, Foundation programmes are perfect alternatives. On completion of the Foundation course and on attaining the required grades, students are guaranteed admission to the undergraduate degree of their choice.

The Foundation programme is designed for international students who may require additional coaching to meet university entry requirements in specific subjects or in English. The programme is normally for an academic year (nine calendar months) and dovetails into the start of college intake.

In addition to improving knowledge and academic grades, Foundation programmes also provide credit towards your University studies and build the confidence needed to adjust to a new culture.

In the US, there are various alternatives students who do not have the required academic grades to enter University of their choice can opt for. These range from first-year programmes managed by private service providers that dovetail into the second year at specified universities. As US degrees are for four years, students are not disadvantaged by choosing this pathway, but actually benefit by improving the academic and study skills. Another alternative is to opt for a community college. Given the flexibility, affordability and diversity these colleges offer, studying at a community college can be an extremely prudent decision. Students enrol at a community college to earn an associate degree and then either take up a vocation or, as in the case of most international students, progress to a university to earn their bachelor’s degree through a 2+2 programme.

Most community colleges have agreements with prominent top tier universities in the region and function as their feeder colleges. By choosing this pathway students now have access to highly ranked universities that may have otherwise been difficult and challenging after high school.

Other advantages of community college would be the low tuition fees, smaller classroom size and industry relevant education. The transfer from college to university is usually seamless. That said, with over 1,500 community colleges, it is important you do your homework before taking a decision. As obtaining an undergraduate degree is your main objective check out the universities the college has affiliations with and which universities the graduates from the college have obtained admission to.

Sanjeev Verma is an international education counsellor (sanjeev@intelligentpartners.com, www.intelligentpartners.com). Got a problem? Our fantastic panel of renowned experts is available to answer all your questions related to fashion, well-being, nutrition, finance and hypnotherapy. Email your queries to friday@gulfnews.com.