Category Archives: Admission Process

Seeking Russian Agents? Here’s a good one.

The waters required to navigate while applying to an independent school, especially for an international student can be tricky. You can hear horror stories about bad agents and then really great stories about agents who really help their clients find, apply, enrol and even travel to see schools.

This past Fall I travelled to Ukraine and Russia with an agency called IQ Consultancy. We have worked with other agents in Russia and Ukraine to be clear, so this is not a unique endorsement of IQ Consultancy. On this trip, we travelled to Kiev, Novosibirsk, St. Petersburg, Ufa, and Moscow and met with many families.

In Russia, for the most part since the collapse of the Soviet Union, we are dealing with the first generation of students studying abroad and families traveling more widely than the borders of their former state. Many of the students I met spoke English quite well, however, their parents did not. This is where agencies in this part of the world really help their ‘parent’ clients navigate the tricky waters. They translate for them and most importantly, advise on individual schools in different countries based on their clients’ needs. As more and more Russian students are studying abroad, we are hearing from Russian families that there are too many Russian students in some UK and Swiss schools. A good agent can help a family avoid disappointment upon arrival at a school and help them find the right ‘fit’ for their clients.

If you are looking for an agent, in any country, make sure that you ask the agency how many students they have placed in university preparatory boarding schools, making the distinction between schools that have local students as well and not just students coming from abroad. Ask what services the agency is going to provide to you, will they assess your needs, recommend options, help you apply, help with study permits and study permit renewals? What services are free and what services carry an additional fee? Finally, ask if someone from the company has visited the school. Oftentimes, frontline staff may not have visited a school personally, but they rely on another member of the company who has. Some agencies have policies that they will not place a student in a school unless someone from the agency has visited the school. This is a good thing.

IQ Consultancy staff members have visited LCS on three separate occasions. They understand our school, our education system and the small number of Russian speakers within our community. They get the LCS difference and will help you understand what makes us unique and a special option for the right student and family.

All types are needed in boarding

I was asked today at lunch, “What type of students do you attract?” I answered, “no one particular type”. The person asking wasn’t asking about personality type but it got me thinking again…

I have been a Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) practitioner since 1993 and love that it can be applied to almost every interaction I have with people. Some of the most interesting have been observing my colleagues speak about students I know or have interviewed myself. The interaction almost always goes better when the interviewer and student share similar ‘type’ and have had an easy time establishing rapport. So much so, that I was inspired to offer an MBTI session at the SSATB Annual Meeting a couple of years ago to help admission professionals explore their own type to ensure that there wasn’t any personality type bias in their interviewing and admission processes overall.

The danger simply is that an extraverted or introverted interviewer may get along better with a like-typed student. More often I have heard extraverted colleagues speak about how difficult it was to get a student ‘animated’ in the interview or an intuitive type (future creative) trying to get a more sensing student (grounded in the present) speak about their future. Independent schools need all types just like in society.

Depending on their culture, schools can miss out on the quiet deep thinkers in favour of the more vocal spontaneous types or vice versa.

For prospective students, expect that the person interviewing you may not be just like you. Therefore a little advance preparation can’t hurt, think about things that typically may not be ‘you’ on a day to day basis:

  • a subject you can speak about with animation
  • something you care deeply about
  • How you ‘feel’ about certain events, what you ‘think’ about different subjects
  • how you have handled challenges in the past
  • how/where you see yourself in the future
  • how do you respond to structure, what do you do when there is no structure?
  • what is your ideal environment for getting down to school work?

Having answers will help. What energizes you – action, people, ideas, rest; how do you take in information – through your five senses or from seeing patterns and possibilities; how do you make decisions – through logic or their impact on people; and what type of lifestyle do you prefer – structured or more go with the flow? Stephen Covey echoes the sentiment in his, “first seek to understand, then be understood”.

Just as in hiring an employee, MBTI should never be used for candidate selection purposes. If interviewers understand their own preferences, they will ensure that they are getting the best out of their candidates and all ‘types’ at their school.

For more information on MBTI and MBTI and learning.

What is the difference between an ‘educational agent’ and an ‘educational consultant’?

Many families, once they have decided to pursue a boarding education or even just a short term educational experience abroad, turn to a local contact to help them find the right opportunity. Let’s face it, if you are in a foreign country or even a major city, and even if language isn’t an issue, finding a school that is appropriate to your child’s wants and needs is a daunting task. Often times, it is easier to have someone who deals with schools and education opportunities on a daily basis give you a hand. There are two options available to most families: consult an agent or hire an educational consultant. Like any decision to engage someone for advice, paid or otherwise, it is best to do a little homework before making your choice.

Educational Consultants are generally professionals who charge a family a fee for service which usually includes interviews, learning and personality assessments (sometimes a complete psycho educational assessment which may or may not include a diagnosis of a learning difference), a list of recommended schools to match the needs/wants of the student/family, facilitating visits to a short list of schools, and then assistance in preparing for applications, tests, and interviews. Educational Consultants work for a family and therefore are considered to be impartial because they are hired by the family to help them with their needs and they do not accept a commission from the school where a student earns a space. Educational Consultants may belong to a professional organization such as the Independent Educational Consultants Association . IECA consultants are available to help with college advising, day and boarding advising, learning disability advising and therapeutic advising.

Educational Agents are found throughout the world and collect a commission from education providers (schools, colleges, language programs) for each student they place in a school, on a course or program. Like a travel agent, they sell ‘seats’ and can book you on almost any course. In fact, much of the industry has developed out of the sector of the travel industry that caters to those looking for an educational ‘trip’ or experience. If price is your biggest factor in choosing an opportunity, an agent can counsel you on a wide variety of options varying in location, length of stay, and your budget. The biggest distinction between a good agency and a bad one is the training of their workforce. Some agents or agencies specialize in boarding school programs and some rarely place students in boarding schools in favour of less expensive public school programs that do not have the academic requirements of independent schools. Apart from charging much less, public schools often offer shorter and single semester stays as well.

‘Private’ schools on the internet can be deceiving as anyone can design a pretty website or have a catchy slogan, you need first hand knowledge through an educational consultant, or an agent if you cannot visit a school yourself. In looking for a recommendation, try to ask your agent to put you in touch with a representative from within their agency who has visited the school you wish to attend. Agencies that can provide first hand knowledge or testimonial from other clients they have placed in a program are your best bet for finding the right program or school for you. If the agency is collecting a ‘commission’ from a school, then they are in essence working for the school. However, they also see themselves as representing the interests of their student and family ‘clients’ as most educational institutions such as LCS reserve the right to accept or deny their students. Many consultants and agents also help with study permits, guardians, travel arrangements and may continue to represent the parents to the school. Who an agent truly represents in the market (family or school) can be a grey area, therefore it is best to run a few scenarios past your agency to see how ‘independent’ their recommendation of a program might be (for-profit private schools often offer bonuses to agents after a certain number of weeks or programs have been sold).

LCS works with Educational Consultants and Educational Agents from around the world. As we reserve the right to accept or deny all of our students based on their applications (and their understanding of our school), we do not perceive a conflict with paying a commission to an agent for a student we have accepted in an area of the world that a) prefers to seek advice locally, and b) where we do not have an ongoing presence or cannot travel to recruit on a regular basis. We see agents and consultants as an extension of our reach to promote the value of a truly world class Canadian education at LCS.

In our experience, educational consultants and educational agents can be very helpful partners to families (especially those with limited English), in finding and enrolling their children at LCS. In some countries however, e.g. China, we do not pay a commission, we work with Educational Agents who may charge a client family a premium for their work in placing a student at LCS. In this case, they are working very much like an educational consultant, helping and coaching their families to gain a space in a very competitive environment.

Educational Consultant Contacts (I apologize for this list requiring scrolling)

Japan

EDICM Tokyo

Turkey

Erka Group Istanbul

USA

IECA Directory

Educational Agency Contacts

Brazil

BIL Intercâmbios

CI 

ICI Intercâmbio

IE

China

Can-Achieve

EGI

JJL

Colombia

Estuviaje

Grasshopper International

Teducamos

Germany

LearnOut

Töchter und Söhne

Japan

ISES

ALFA-AC

Korea

EdComCanada

Mexico

EH Global

One-to-One

Viajes Interlag

Romania

World Education

Russia

IQ Consultancy

Spain

ASTEX

Foreign Study League

RedLeaf

Thailand

Born to Consult

Turkey

Biltur Educational Travel Agent

LMK Consulting

Vietnam

Canadian Education International

Delta Education Advisory

EAA Edulink

So you have been accepted to an independent school wait list, now what?

Waiting to learn of an admission decision or hearing from a school that you have been found acceptable but that they don’t have a space for you can be frustrating, stressful and nerve wracking. Once you have been waitlisted for a school, what does it mean and what should, can you do?

First, let’s look at what being put on a wait list means. If you are in a “wait pool”, it is the same thing. Some offices use “wait pool” instead of “wait list” as they do not want families to think that a “wait list” is prioritized. In my experience, whichever term is used, parents still want to know where their child ‘is’ on the wait list or where they ‘are’ in the wait pool. At Lakefield College School, we use the term “Accepted Pending Space” to also mean the same thing. All of these terms mean you are acceptable to the school, there just wasn’t a space for you at the time of the decision. You may be wait listed at different times of the year based on your application type, e.g. day student, boarding student, and international student. Schools generally have ‘cycles’ and day spaces may fill first. Eventually, particular grades levels fill, and occasionally spaces for a particular gender are filled as the school tries to balance the number of boys and girls.

Once on a wait list, many families want to know what they can do. Schools use each admission decisions to enrol the best candidates for the needs of the school at the time. For this reason, most will return to the ‘list’ or ‘pool’ and evaluate all candidates at the time of an opening. Schools with rolling admission processes continue to accept applications for most grade levels, which can give latecomers to the process as great a chance for entry as someone who has spent a while on the wait list. For this reason alone, families are generally not discouraged from ‘padding’ a file after being wait listed with new material, achievements, report cards, etc. Universities dealing with thousands of applications generally discourage this practice, as might some larger independent schools that have a more ‘numbers’ based rating process. They simply don’t have the time or means to incorporate additional materials in their ‘scoring’ of your application. Generally new material will not increase your scores, however, a report card showing improvement for example, may improve your standing the next time your file is read. Usually in first rounds, schools only rate the specific components that they ask for in the admission process in an effort to provide a level playing field. Once you are on the wait list though, don’t be shy. A school may not look at anything new, and may have a policy enforcing this. Personally, I read everything in a file.

The hardest part about being on a wait list is, of course, the waiting. During that time you can feel doubt in your abilities and your fit with the school. For schools that accept and then wait list students, you are essentially being told that they would want you if they had space. Unfortunately, during the wait you are placed de facto in a new competitive process which then pits you against unseen competitors with no control over your future. So what do you do? My advice is to communicate with the admission office. Short of harassing behaviour, calls to the admission office to see when the school might experience openings are not held against you. Knowing that the school is completing its reenrollment within a few days, weeks or a months for example gives you a horizon, one on which to wait, but also to make decisions if you need to. Do you accept another school’s offer? Register somewhere else? Pay a non-refundable deposit? These are all decisions you have to make in case you do not get the offer you are waiting for, and knowing the timeframe helps in making these decisions. If the timeframe passes, don’t think all is lost. Some schools have elaborate plans and capabilities to communicate with wait listed students, others do not and have not forgotten about you, but do not have the time or personnel to communicate they don’t have a space yet. My advice again is to call or email the admission staff and try to establish a new timeline for communication from the school so you can make the decisions you need to.

I can be quoted for saying, “Never say never”, especially in a boarding school environment where many things can happen before a student leaves home and arrives in a new setting come September. Some get cold feet, others might have a student visa issue, or another’s parent gets transferred to a new city for work. There is always movement in the summer, that is why it is always good to stay in touch with the admission office if you still want a space. A wait list that is twenty students long can quickly dwindle to four or five as families in ‘limbo’ make decisions to enroll elsewhere. Once these decisions are made, they often cannot accept a space. The family in contact with the admission office and known to be waiting patiently in the wings can sometimes be the first person the admission office calls. Admission personnel develop relationships with you and genuinely want to help you into the school. Never feel you can’t contact the admission office and let them know you are still interested.

Being waitlisted isn’t fun. Keep yourself aware of the timeframes in which to expect decisions and make other arrangements as necessary. Take solace in the knowledge that you have been found ‘acceptable’ by the school and feel good about that. Keep the lines of communication open with the school and let them know when anything new and exciting happens you think they should know about. And good luck.

 

In Praise of Small Senior Elementary Schools

As a consultant and a Director of Enrollment I have encountered the problem of parents second guessing the value of a small school for their children as they approach the senior elementary years.

It is usually a question of balancing a tween’s social needs with their educational needs. Socially, senior elementary students are looking for more activities like dances and more athletic opportunities, things smaller schools can struggle with or are unable to provide. Yet Grade 7 and 8 students are not quite ready to be mainstreamed with Grade 11 and 12 students. Academically, smaller schools generally produce students well prepared for secondary school because they have had all important teacher time in an environment appropriate to their age level. They also have more opportunities to begin experiencing leadership roles as the ‘senior’ students in a small school.

Parent anxiety about their child gaining entry to selective secondary schools can be the primary reason for leaving the benefits inherent in a small senior elementary program. If a private secondary school offers an elementary program that feeds the high school, they will want to take students as soon as possible to secure their secondary enrolment. This has made it difficult for many small schools I have worked with as the high schools siphon off students at Grades 5 and 7 or wherever they add a section of students to their enrolment.

Parents take a position earlier, not because they doubt their small school, but they are afraid of space scarcity at the Grade 9 entry level. In these instances, I suggest families contact the high school and ask about the typical profile of a student gaining entry at Grade 9 and ask about the projected number of spaces that will be available. A good number of our Grade 9 day students come from three small private elementary schools. Often, the Directors of the schools can give a family a good idea of whether their child is on a path to be admitted to a particular independent high school or whether they might be better to try to gain entrance to the school at Grade 5, 6 or 7 because they may not be strong enough for Grade 9 competition.

One of the indicators of the strength of a small school is the number of their ‘graduates’ who have gone on to selective entry high schools.

What about the sports and the dances? Ask, is the sports program at the bigger school better than you can find in your community for this age group? For the truly athletic, community athletics up until at least the varsity high school level are going to be essential for a student with college bound or greater aspirations. I have yet to meet the school Director who has solved the small school challenge of holding a dance with a dozen Grade 8 classmates that doesn’t feel like dancing with your sister or brother.

To IB or not to IB? That is a question…

Having headed up the recruitment and enrolment mission at one of Canada’s best International Baccalaureate (IB) schools for three and a half years, where all students have no choice but to take the IB Diploma Programme (DP), I know the challenge faced in recruiting boarding students in particular. The worst thing you want to do as an Admission Director is place a student in a position where they are not successful. As often as I was encouraging a family to apply for the IB, I was discouraging another when a student did not fit the experience of the school in delivering the Programme. Likewise, I would meet students so suited to the IB that simply were far too happy and successful where they were to undertake it (and good for them for knowing their best fit.)

The IB DP is growing in popularity and the number of schools offering the Programme increases every year, yet it is often misunderstood. This past weekend in Romania for example an older brother who moves from year to year with work, was looking for IB schools for his younger brother, so that he could easily switch schools. The lesson for him was that the standard of the IB is the standard. You make it or you don’t, the curriculum is the same around the world. What is commonly understood is that you can start the IB Diploma Programme (DP) and then switch schools easily in between the first and second year of the DP. This is not the case. It can be done, but as teachers and schools are allowed to determine the order and pace of how they deliver the DP, switching schools invariably means significant catch up or repeating on the part of a student changing schools. At the IB school where I was, most students were encouraged to repeat the first year of the IB DP and were happy for it.

The IB has a consistent standard around the world, different schools however have a different ability to deliver the Programme. My spouse’s former high school instituted the IB Diploma Programme with seventeen students in their first IB class. Five of them achieved the Diploma. The pass rate got better in the second year as teachers began to appreciate the programme requirements. The main problem for them was their school size. For ‘small’ IBs (read number of students in the programme) often students are forced into taking a Higher Level Science or subject that is not a strength. A question most families should be asking is what courses does the school offer at the Standard and Higher Levels and what is the ideal selection of 3 HL and 3 SL courses for their student? Furthermore, in assessing an individual programme, ask:

  • What percentage of students achieve the Diploma? (You can still graduate without successfully achieving the DP requirements – albeit without the IB Diploma.)
  • What is the average IB score of all students taking the Diploma? (You can compare to national averages).
  • What is the highest individual score? Achieving the Diploma is an accomplishment, very rarely do students come along who can achieve perfect scores, but when they do, it is also likely a mark of a school that has mastered the delivery of the DP curriculum.

As the IB continues its growth, and more schools jump on the train as a means to overhaul their academic program or to distinguish themselves from the school down the road, parents may want to ask what percentage of students are not Diploma Candidates? This is especially for the parents who want the IB for their child because they have heard it is the ‘best’. If a school is offering an “IB option” it often means that many of its students are not suitable IB candidates. Be sure that your child fits the IB mould or choose the ‘other’ option at the school if it produces university qualifications. Some schools start students attracted by the IB in the DP and let them “fall back” if the student does not perform to standard (this is often not a healthy option for the student.) Others at the school will have been identified ahead of time as not being IB candidates, which does not necessarily mean they are not university capable or university bound. My personal recommendation to any family would be to move to an IB DP school at least one full year before the school starts the IB DP in order that teachers can help the student decide if the IB is right for them. Starting the DP fresh at a new school leaves little margin for error.

Most independent school high school programs like LCS’ deliver almost all of the benefits of the IB program already without the rigidity. Our history, membership in Round Square, success in the Duke of Edinburgh Award Program, not to mention our outdoor education prowess, the “LCS difference” and our university placement record offers it all, in a flexible menu of opportunities and experiences. Many parents are choosing the IB for their children with the impression that it is going to help their child’s university chances. The reality is that the more selective universities want a student to take the most rigorous curriculum offered by the school. Students with Ontario Grade 12, APs and the IB Diploma are accepted to Ivy schools every year. Three curriculums, three approaches, for at least three different types of students to choose from. Explore with your child and a choose the best fit curriculum for them.

Choosing an independent school – respect deadlines but don’t feel you need to jump the gun

While searching for a boarding or day school, many parents and students get anxious and cloud their judgement by perceiving pressure or a need to conclude a process as quickly as possible (maybe just to be done with the stress of the search). My advice would be to remember that ultimately, the choice rests with a family over which school to attend.

Ideally, a family should try to manage their various admission processes to coincide with one another. If say you have decided to apply to three schools, try to end up sitting with all three of your decisions at the same time so that you can make a decision without the pressure of conflicting response times.

Toronto Day Schools/USA Common Offer Dates

Toronto day schools and many US boarding schools coordinate their offer dates to coincide with one another to help them manage their admission process. It also helps families to end up sitting with all of their offers at the same time. Many schools offer a re-visit day prior to the response required date (usually a week to ten days for day schools and about a month for boarding). These schools also have specific application deadlines to be met!

If you are also planning on applying to a boarding school with a ‘rolling’ admission process (no set application date), as a back up, or you just aren’t sure about readiness for boarding while also applying to local day programs, ask the boarding school if applying to coincide with the day decision date is possible, i.e. would you lose out on a space if you waited to apply for boarding. Most schools should be straight forward with you. While we like to complete our enrolment as soon as we can each year, we all begin to run out of spaces at different times of the year. Most often, this coincides with the location of the school and their specific enrolment practices, e.g. do they have all of their day students complete a year of mandatory boarding, or are they recruiting a small number of students a year due to the relative size of their boarding program, etc. Hopefully it will work in your favour to have all of your offers in your hands at the same time.

Accepting multiple offers (sacrificing deposits to ensure choice)

A practice that is not uncommon is accepting multiple offers from schools because they are all on different timetables. For example, while at a former school it was not uncommon to have a family accept an offer from the Canadian school in January when they really wanted a school in New England that didn’t make its offers until March 10. In order to hedge their bets the family paid a non-refundable deposit to hold the Canadian space until they heard from the school in the US. My advice would be to speak to the Director of Admission and ask if you can have an extension on the reply date until after the other school’s offer date. This accomplishes two things, it lets the first school better manage its enrolment and second, it also lets the first school know that you may need more information to better assess the Canada v. US school choice. In the end, you are going to end up making a decision based on what is best for the student without duress and with ample information.

If there is no possibility of extending an offer because of a tight enrolment picture, then families sometimes do need to be prepared to lose a deposit to keep their options open. Again, it may not hurt to inform an Admission Director you are prepared to do this. The chance of having your money refunded is greater this way if it is not a surprise in April when the Admission Director is scrambling to fill the space you have just created by withdrawing. Most schools want students to get into the school they feel is the best fit for them and will be understanding of your final decision.

Playing one school against another

A final scenario is more common in situations where student athletes are involved, many families view their son or daughter as the next CIS or NCAA champion or professional sports star and, like an agent, feel they should be trying to get them the “best deal.” Certainly, a student that brings a special talent in athletics, academics, or arts to a school is a desirable thing.

As a former head of admissions at two competitive boys schools, it was not uncommon for parents to be shopping their son around to multiple schools. Most schools use the same third party financial assistance process and should come back to the family with a similar offer (Apple Financial Services in Canada and SSS by NAIS in the US). What usually backfires on a family is saying School X is offering $X in financial assistance and looking for more assistance from a second school.

Ultimately schools want students to make decisions based on where they most want to be and where they feel they will do their best both academically and athletically. If parents have a firm amount of money in mind that they can afford, they should be upfront with a school about this amount. Sometimes the difference between what a family wants to pay and what they can actually afford does not match. Often, the family feeling their child is a commodity, feel they should be compensated to have their child attend a school and are disappointed with the financial assistance recommendation. Some schools will pay for play, however many CAIS schools have Boards of Directors to answer to with specific policies regarding their endowed funds supporting only needs-based financial assistance. These schools often have a higher academic level compared to the schools that offer “sports scholarships” v. “needs-based financial assistance”. This can be difficult for families to understand that the way to an NCAA scholarship also has an academic component, it is not just about playing the sport. What seems like a deal or free may not qualify their child academically to attend the school of their dreams.

Most Admission Directors and Directors of Financial Assistance I know refuse to get into a bidding war. We prefer that it come down to a family decision about where they feel their child’s needs and hopes will be served best. Many times, I have been “out bid” with respect to a student and ultimately had the family choose my school because it was where the student really wanted to be. This student and family came more invested because they were having to pay a little more, make a few more sacrifices, and ultimately wanted to be there. This is the scenario that most often works out best for all involved and contributes to Admission Directors avoiding bidding wars.