Tag Archives: CAIS

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.

A matter of size – “the right size” school for every student

School size can be a key factor in school selection. It can also be a defining characteristic of a school, so much so that in LCS’s case, the Trustees have decreed that the school shall not have a student body of more than 365. Sometimes we end up at 366 when the dust settles at the end of our offer period, but to end up with 367 we have to get Board Chair approval. We don’t bother asking about 368 as we know that is out of the question. Why is size so closely guarded? It can matter in so many ways when choosing the right school.

Overall School Size
Overall school size limits what classes can be offered. It is great to have a high school of over 400 or 500 when offering the IB as you need more students to ideally and affordably offer everything at the higher and standard levels. But if you could have a more intimate school experience wouldn’t you want to? LCS’s Trustees recognize this as a hallmark of the LCS Difference, where the Head of School can know each student and every student can be known by their teachers and classmates.

A school needs to be just large enough to easily offer the courses that matter to getting into the best schools worldwide in any field of study – this is what LCS does. Too small, and students have a very limited range of courses. LCS may not have quite as many course offerings as larger schools but we have everything that gets you to where you want to go.

Size of Residences
LCS averages 23 students in its eleven residences, most other schools I have worked or consulted for have had 40 or more students per house. LCS uses Head of Houses and Assistant Head of Houses to provide supervision and continuity that most closely approximates a family environment with two adults interacting daily with the students in the residence. Larger residence setups of forty or more often have ‘duty teams’ of teachers or dons who take turns providing supervision sometimes working one night every two weeks in a rotation, supervised by the Head of House.

Size of Class
LCS averages between 16 and 17 students per class on a year to year basis, not 12 or 24. Sometimes, but not always (such as the case with a few schools with very large endowments) class sizes averaging 10-12 students can represent a school for students with greater learning support needs. Smaller classes give teachers and students more one to one time and time to digest course content.

Class sizes averaging 20 to 24 or more can sometimes indicate large grade sizes with multiple sections of every course. More students in class means less time for discussion or one to one time with teachers. Students need to be more self-directed and proactive about seeking assistance and more comfortable with holding up a larger group to clarify understanding of content. If students are less inclined to do so, this is when parents might like to pay closer attention to class sizes when selecting a school.

The middle ground seems to be a class average around 16 to 18 students. There is still time for one to one clarification, students will be called upon frequently to contribute in class, it is difficult to hide or get lost and teachers can easily differentiate their instruction to meet different learning styles and needs within their classrooms.

If parents can effectively gauge the self-directedness* of their child (homework completion, organizational skills, curiosity, and maturity), average class size can be a very useful indicator of a potentially good school to bring out the best in their child.

*Note: For parents with students with identified learning differences, average class size can still be an indicator. Generally, the smaller the class size the less time a student with learning support needs will need to spend outside of regular class time with resource teachers, tutors, and supervised study. Generally, the larger the average class size, the more the student with identified learning needs may need to spend with learning support resources outside of classroom hours. This can make daily participation in after school activities difficult to manage.

Size of Grade Level
The overall size of a grade level can have an impact on how much that grade mixes with another grade level. At LCS, thanks to the small residences which are a mix of boys and girls from Grade 9 through12, they are closer to their housemates in different grades than when they are in a large house where grade level distinctions can sometimes have younger students excluded. Outside of their house, older and younger housemates bridge the “grade divide” and lead to a school community where anyone can feel comfortable hanging out with anyone of any grade level.

Size certainly matters in defining school culture. It makes a difference in the residence and in the classroom. Luckily, it is one of the easiest things to look for when researching schools as most schools will mention the size of their student body or average class sizes in their short descriptor. These two websites help parents quickly find information about school size and average class size. The first for the Canadian Accredited Independent Schools allows you to search by overall school size. The second for Our Kids provides average class size and overall school size in each school profile.

http://boardingschools.ca/school-finder/

http://www.ourkids.net/school/

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.