Rory Alexander is an i-Learner teacher who’s got plenty of experience of applying to schools overseas. He had moved country with his family six times by the age of thirteen, so when he came back to the UK from Australia, he was well-attuned to the process of school application. He’s shared his experience with us of a successful application to Sevenoaks, one of the top ten independent schools in the UK.

I began my application to Sevenoaks in the second half of 2009, several months before my family planned to move from Sydney to London. I travelled to the UK in September 2009 to look at schools, including a series of other independent schools such as Whitgift. During this trip, my family and I had a tour of Sevenoaks, after which I attended an interview and took a couple of relatively informal tests. Once we had completed our move to the UK, I was invited to take the international entrance exams in early 2010, to start at Sevenoaks in Autumn 2010.

Due to the varied educational background of applicants, we were not expected to have covered all of the concepts in the exams. The school asked us to try all the sections of the exam papers but make a note against sections that we hadn’t been taught in school. There were a couple of concepts I had never been taught in the Mathematics paper, so I noted this on the exam paper. The examiners must have taken this into account, as I passed the entrance exams. I was surprised by the long wait to get the results but very glad to have a place.

As I had moved to the UK half a year before I was due to start at Sevenoaks, I attended a nearby preparatory school called New Beacon near Sevenoaks for part of Year 8. At this school, my classmates were studying to take the UK Common Entrance exams (an assessment used by many independent schools). The school made me study for the exams and sit them along with the other pupils, even though I had already been offered a place at Sevenoaks. Whilst it was frustrating to have to take unnecessary exams, learning the whole curriculum in half a year and revising alongside my classmates undoubtedly prepared me for the assessment-oriented culture at a high-achieving school like Sevenoaks. This was a big change from my experience of school in Australia, which was much more relaxed.

When I entered Sevenoaks, I really appreciated the international mix of students. I had moved around a lot with my family before we moved there and had spent seven years living in Australia. The great thing about Sevenoaks was that so many students shared the experience of having moved around during their childhood. Previously, I had always felt like the odd one out when I started at a new school. I felt neither British nor Australian, but at Sevenoaks I felt I still fitted in because so many students had experienced similar upbringings.

I would recommend Sevenoaks to a highly motivated student with an international outlook and a wide range of interests. It can seem daunting to apply to such a highly ranked school, but Sevenoaks does their best to put applicants at ease, and I’m glad I went through the process to earn my place there.