International School on the Rhine

Grades + character = basis for success: ISR enhances its formula for success

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Good grades are and will remain a decisive factor to start on a successful path to a desired university. This is reflected by the fact that the 'numerus clausus' often decides if prospective students are allowed to study certain subjects. But the focal point is shifting. [Contributed by the International School on the Rhine]

Germany has begun incorporating practices that have long been used in other countries. The so-called Assessment Days test potential students to see if their personalities and characters fit the university’s ethos. Innovative and new courses particularly place more emphasis on obtaining the student’s complete profile.

Sam Lundquist, vice dean of external affairs at The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, confirmed this shift during his visit to ISR in January.

“Universities are no longer asking just for grades or extracurricular involvement,” he said. “The universities want to get to know the person behind the grades. And it’s not just about ‘who you are’ but ‘how your life experiences have shaped you’.”

University counselling

University counselling from the start

Whereas students once went through an Assessment Day only after vocational training or university, nowadays it is often used as tool to determine entrance to a university course.

In order to better prepare our students, our UCC – University and Career Counselling Department starts advising students at the end of eighth grade. It assists students, in cooperation with their parents, in choosing the right courses to increase the chances of gaining admission to their university of choice.

Through the use of student-friendly and individually specialised modules from assessment centres, students learn about the format of the student assessment tests. This includes elements of self-presentation (how do I best market myself), logical reasoning, critical thinking and group work. Students have to demonstrate their skills and knowledge in various situations and in different roles.

Public speaking and debating (Model UN) will continue to be anchored in our the curriculum in order to encourage students to build on the aforementioned elements. Furthermore, internships and various school projects with leading companies in the region such as UPS, Deutsche Bank, Deloitte or McKinsey also prepares students for acceptance to top universities in Germany or worldwide. The goal is to foster students’ soft skills in order to prepare them to be well-rounded individuals for their future companies.

Career counselling

Preparing students for university life

Additionally, the UCC Department plans to organise trips to universities to allow students to get a feel for real campus life. Cooperation with universities, such as Heinrich-Heine-University in Düsseldorf, are very valuable to students. During a recent visit by the university president, Dr Anja Steinbeck, it became clear that such a cooperation would be beneficial to both parties. For instance, students have the possibility to listen to lectures in various subjects in order to determine if they wish to enrol in these courses and if the classes meet their expectations. Furthermore, current university students could also speak openly to our students about their experiences regarding the different facets of university life. This would help ISR students to obtain a more realistic view of life as a university student. 

Another essential part of the ISR culture that contributes to the character building of our students is SLO, or the “Student Life Organization®”, a student-run enterprise. Students gain valuable experiences through different leadership and organisational tasks and projects and take responsibility for their own “position.” Character building, leadership skills and social involvement are the main focal points and are continually developed and strengthened.

These possibilities aim to strengthen the overall personality of ISR students and form them into confident young adults who are able to choose any course of study they desire. Of course, grades remain important— but grades do not solely define a person. Students are much more than that: they are the personalities that have been nurtured and developed over time.

University life


The international school on the Rhine gGmbH (ISR) based in Neuss is a privately owned non-profit organisation. Students from the region and from all over the world are prepared for internationally recognised certificates. Academic excellence and characterbuilding are in the core of ISR education and qualify for studies in leading universities in Germany and worldwide. For younger children, the ISR campus offers an international kindergarten on the ISR. School buses allow safe transportation to the ISR from Düsseldorf and the entire Rhein Kreis Neuss. Registrations for kindergarten, primary school and secondary school accepted all year round: and



Contributed by the International School on the Rhine

ISR: University life   



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