March 15th – Beware the Ides of March

Boarding schools are under threat ...

Boarding schools are under threat from extreme market forces, and today even more so with the reality of a global pandemic caused by COVID-19. We hear of individuals one or two pay checks away from personal hardship. Yet some independent schools are not too far away from such a scenario.This is a perfect storm caused by a diminishing middle class, an over- reliance on international enrolment in this era of globalization, and now a global pandemic.

Independent schools are not immune to COVID-19. Government fiscal packages will not be available to private schools, and they must find ways to inoculate themselves from the possible serious side effects: e.g. falling enrolment as travel diminishes, requests for fee refunds in the event of school closures, falling wealth and affordability indexes meaning even fewer families inquiring, let alone attending, boarding schools.

Scholarships and bursaries must be a priority for fund raising staff at independent schools in order to close the ever widening affordability gap. Swimming pools can wait!

‘March Madness’ in the private school circuit is well under way with decisions being conveyed to students who are slam dunking with joy or slumping to the floor in disappointment upon receiving application decisions. Independent schools are great options for families; they need to keep their fans!

My clients comprise new Canadians in Vancouver, and Hong Kong families fleeing the uncertainties there. They revere top level education. I visited Hong Kong twice this past year and it is heartbreaking to see the hardships people there are facing now on multiple fronts. I also visited administrators and schools in the United Kingdom and the United States.

As of March 15th, my client results this admissions season are as follows:

St. George’s School - Vancouver
Mulgrave School - Vancouver

United States:
Waverly School, Pasadena, California
Philips Exeter Academy Summer Program, New Hampshire

United Kingdom:
City of London Freemen’s School

Wait - List:
The Hockaday School, Dallas Texas
The Hun School of Princeton, New Jersey

I wish these students congratulations! Life’s a pretty resilient thing. As are students and schools!



Broadening School Horizons

The Centre of London: Trafalgar Square.

Westminster School – close to Trafalgar Square and the ISC office – is a leading Public school in London, founded 14th century. Famous alumni include Sir Christopher Wren and A.A. Milne

One of the oldest schools in Wales – founded 1608. Cowbridge Grammar School. Most famous alumnus is Sir Anthony Hopkins

Cardiff and Vale College. The largest college in Wales: 30,000 students. With the Principal Mrs. Kay Martin. (Full disclosure she is a family member – very proud of Kay!)

Independent Schools Council regulatory body. ISC boarding and day schools educate more than 500,000 children in the UK.

Broadening School Horizons

With the spectre of uncertainty for Asian students being placed in US or Canadian schools, I took a trip to Britain in August to take a look at a range of schools there.


The admissions concerns in Canada can be seen in the latest worrying statistics and statement from ICEF:
“Nearly four in ten applicants for Canadian study permits (39%) have been rejected in the first five months of this year. This compares to an overall rejection rate of roughly 28% in all of 2014.Visa officers may deny a study permit application if there are any issues with the student’s medical exam or finances, or if they conclude the student does not have a legitimate study plan for Canada.”


While this is mostly a factor for university applicants, in the boarding school world we are experiencing similar concerns and are carefully monitoring student visa rejections. Toronto-based immigration lawyer Andrew Carvajal has explained that “ an immigration officer may simply conclude that the applicant does not have a legitimate study plan for Canada, and may be using the study permit route as a way to quickly and legally enter the country.”


As a consultant it is my responsibility to have detailed knowledge for students, families and educational institutions around the world. With my clients, I work on a detailed educational plan so that there is a coherent student profile to present to visa officers at consulates for Canada, the US or the UK when accepted at a school.


My trip to Britain saw me have a brief chat with one of the leaders at the Independent Schools Council in London. The staff were very busy tabulating and analyzing the national A Level results the day I was there. These examination results are the major element in university acceptances. The UK has experienced a 25% increase in university acceptances from Asia this year.


Last week the Labour Party conference approved a motion to abolish UK private schools - the schools which generally have the best examination results!  This revolutionary measure will never come to place surely - but more uncertainty! Think Eton, Harrow, Charterhouse, Winchester gone! The history, the talent and the striving for excellence that these private schools (called Public schools in the UK) are world-renowned for are at  risk at the ballot box. I dropped by Westminster School for which I have great memories when working closely with them on the Shawnigan Centennial. They had, unsurprisingly, just achieved a 98 per cent success rate in the A level exams.


The world is getting smaller and families are researching multiple markets for the best schools.




Seen here with the Director of Admission at Berkshire School MA, Dana Anselmi

Students around Canada and the US have returned to school this past week and in August in some parts of the heat belt of the Southern US. I am proud this season to have assisted students with entry to Blair Academy in New Jersey, Berkshire School in Massachusetts, Storm King School in New York State, and Shawnigan Lake School in BC, Canada. I wish them great success and will be checking in with them over the year to see how they are settling in to these terrific boarding school environments.

I had one other student accepted at Landmark School in Massachusetts but he was unable to attend due to the worrisome political sitation in Hong Kong and being unable to get a study visa. These are worrying times for the students in Hong Kong and China wishing to gain study visas for North American schools. In the midst of the trade wars - in which Canada is caught in the midddle - the numbers applying from China to boarding schools in Canada and the US appear to be dropping. Families quite naturally are nervous. Some schools see the drop in applications as a cause for concern while others like my former boarding American admission colleague, Richard Brande, see it as a “correction.” I agree with Rich.

Chinese families value and respect both North American education and the opportunities we provide at stimulating and safe boarding schools. The market will remain strong for schools that provide great programs and a high level of care for International students.

In fact, for me as a consultant this first week of school has seen good activity and I am now working with one top-class student from Vancouver who is a championship fencer wanting a US boarding school - and two talented girls who wish to transfer next fall to one of the leading San Francisco Bay Area day schools. Also I have two ongoing clients looking at BC boarding schools.

So, I’m looking forward with confidence to the new admissions season with these excellent youngsters!


March 10th Madness – Again!

Most leading boarding schools in the United States have a group decision day of March 10th. Families then have a month in which to revisit the schools to which they have been accepted. They are given a month to go through this process and solidify their ultimate school choice by April 10th.

In Canada, boarding schools operate more on a rolling decision basis. Therefore, offers are made earlier, thus settling a family in their school situations for the next year potentially far earlier than in the United States.

Why the difference in approach? The US has over 300 boarding schools. Canada has around 30. The diversity of choice in the US has been the driver of the March 10th deadline, I believe. Families - and schools - need more time, especially when applicants to the US average from 6 to 8 schools. In Canada, around 3 school applications would be the norm.

As the boarding schools’ admission office staff now collapse for a few days after the frenzy of sending out decisions, when opening decision messages on their ever-ready iPhones, students and parents are experiencing emotions ranging from joy to disappointment.

My niche client base is mostly from Vancouver and Hong Kong. In fact, I was in Hong Kong in February to solidify student thoughts prior to the big day. I am very proud of my students who have earned acceptances at the following schools, so far, by March 10th:

In the US: Berkshire, Blair, Gunnery, Landmark, Millbrook, Salisbury, Storm King, Tilton. In Canada: Shawnigan Lake School.