Gavin Machell has been counseling students on university admissions for over 30 years, so he knows a bit about what it takes to receive that prized acceptance letter. 

“The way students and parents view the admissions process is very much at odds with how university representatives approach it,” says Mr Machell. “Students and parents believe it’s all about the numbers – grade point average, total IB score, SAT results. But they’re wrong.” 

In reviewing an application, Mr Machell says admissions officers are looking for the answer to one question, “How likely is it that this applicant will complete the course they have applied to if we accept them?” 

Grades and scores can only tell them so much. “Harvard rejects applicants with perfect SAT scores every year,” Mr Machell says. “Why? Because the student may be extremely intelligent and be a test taking machine, but Harvard wants more than that.” 

Mr Machell says university admissions officers want to see a sense of passion in the applicant. “Not necessarily a passion for biochemistry or engineering. The applicant may be passionate about the volunteer activity she participated in as part of her CAS programme,” says Mr Machell. “This sort of thing can be as influential as a perfect SAT score.”

At EIS, teachers begin talking to students about potential career paths in primary school, but Mr Machell begins seriously counseling students in Grade 6. He asks students to reflect on the things they like or are good at. Do they like working in teams or on their own?  Do they like solving problems? Do they like making things? He often uses surveys and other tools to help with this personal exploration. 

In Grade 10, students start looking at specific undergraduate courses and universities that that interest them. “This is usually when the paralysis of choice rears its ugly head,” Mr Machell says. “Because for any reasonably able student with an IB Diploma, the world is their oyster. Thousands of universities will be interested in them.” 

To help narrow their choices, Mr Machell spends one-on-one time with each student to discuss their aspirations, abilities, goals and finances. They visit university websites, attend admissions fairs, and use resources such as Naviance to learn more about specific universities and courses. He develops an individual plan for each student that specifies exactly what the student needs show on each application, and how the student will fill any gaps. 

“The best and easiest consultation is with someone who has a clear passion for something, is considering university options that are in keeping with this passion, and has the academics to support it,” says Mr Machell. “Think about what matters to you, take advantage of the many opportunities available to you at EIS, and you will build an impressive university application.” 

Mr Gavin Machell currently is EIS’s University Counselor and Science Teacher in Middle & High School. 

For more information, please contact Admissions Team via or (+848) 7300 7257. Parents and students can visit for more information about EIS Merit Scholarship of up to 75% off tuition fee



EIS students at an US Universities workshop