Tag Archives: Admission

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.

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.

Admission – The Movie

I spend quite a bit of time on flights travelling across Canada and around the world to meet our future boarding students. I am usually catching up on reading, trying to adjust for jet lag by sleeping or getting caught up on movies. I love movies. One I had wanted to see when it came out was “Admission” with Tina Fey and Paul Rudd. The film revolves around a Princeton University Admission Officer played by Fey’s character. Rudd plays the director of an alternative school and has a student with an unconventional background he thinks Princeton and Fey’s character should consider.

Admission is a film I could identify with after sixteen years in admissions myself and its content could certainly prompt several blog posts. “The secret to getting in”, “the Admission process”, “parent hopes and dreams leading to over-programming their child’s lives” are but a few. Another is how callus the nature of admission decisions can become when there are more denials than acceptances. I have seen it reduced to formulas or schools using a test score as a cut off when there is too much demand. (I will reserve another post to deal with this one.)

Near the end of the film, Fey is telling an interviewer, “I worked in college admissions for 16 years. I used to spend my days passing judgement on young people who were way more together than I was at their age.” I have felt this exact sentiment when the reason for the denial has simply been too many other more qualified candidates.

Luckily, thankfully, partially due to the rural location of LCS, its smaller size and being one of Canada’s “best kept secret” CAIS boarding schools, our demand usually runs in the three to five applicants per boarding space. If it gets much more than this, I feel there is a recruitment problem in our materials or communications with families that does not help them to self select whether or not we are a “best fit” for them. Marketing independent schools isn’t about ‘going viral’ to get a million applicants, it is about attracting the type of students in the right measure that will build upon the values of your community. Don’t get me wrong, a million inquiries would be great provided we had the personnel available to manage parent and applicant expectations sufficiently to allow appropriate self-selection. You want to remain an Office of Admission, not the Office of Rejection.

Life in Admissions can be exceptionally rewarding and also filled with incredibly sad situations. Near the end of the film the Princeton Admission Officers are flip charting a list of the top negative and positive reactions they get from the applicants while making phone calls on their decision day. It’s not far from the truth from an independent school perspective and I cannot imagine the range of emotions some of the real life Princeton Admission Officers must go through or even some of my US boarding school colleagues that work to a March decision day where all boarding decisions are communicated on a single day. The process avoids schools being played off against one another by candidates and makes life in the Admission Office easier and more predictable for office staff. A big challenge is estimating the number of offers to over offer accounting for the students that will choose another school they are hearing from the same day. This happens in larger day school centres in Canada as well. As soon as a certain number of students decline offers, Admission Directors can begin going to wait listed candidates.

LCS works on a rolling admission process where we gather completed applications and have monthly Admission Committee meetings rendering decisions. Rolling or defined decision day admission processes can be a clue to how closely you may want to look at a school’s materials to see if it truly is a best fit for you or your child. A single decision day may point to a volume issue due to a prestige brand, or where not enough families are realistically able to figure out their chances of acceptance leading to many families being disappointed. Imagine Princeton of the movie but on a smaller scale.

Did you see the movie? What did you think of it?