I have just returned from a fascinating trip to Perth, Australia. En route I had excellent planning meetings in Hong Kong with my associate, Johnson Cheng. Seen here at dinner with my wife, Jean. We provide advice for parents in their school search.

From Hong Kong we travelled to Perth where I visited a number of fine schools. The school structure there is marked by a public-private partnership system. There are many single sex schools and some co-educational ones. With the far-flung nature of the Australian topography, boarding schools in cities provide great service to the country.

Tradition at the Australian schools very much came through the British influence in the country - just about all schools have formal uniforms, and cricket, rugby and rowing dominate the sports offerings. Academic standards are high, and tuition fees are very reasonable due to government grants to private schools.


I was particularly impressed by Sacred Heart College, a co-ed day school in the Catholic tradition: located across the road from the beach, the setting was spectacular. The other two schools I visited are also excellent. Scotch College is an International Baccalaureate (IB) school and was founded in the Protestant tradition, somewhat similar to the United Church of Canada. Hale School, a boarding and day school, is the oldest boys’ boarding school in Western Australia and was founded in the Anglican tradition. 

All of these schools are highly competitive for entry. It is the same everywhere - competition for the best abounds.

Jean and I were also able to enjoy a couple of Indian ocean sunsets!

I had a fascinating time last week touring just a few of the many excellent New England boarding schools, and ending with meetings at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. I am in close contact with the leadership there.

On the trip, I was able to reconnect with former colleagues at Berkshire School from when I was Dean of Enrolment and Head of School. You will see photos from a range of schools, including the individualized education for boys at the Woodhall School, to leading traditional boarding schools from Choate Rosemary Hall, Berkshire, Trinity-Pawling, Salisbury and the Gunnery to a highly regarded junior boarding school, Rumsey Hall.

It was great to see my former associate director at Berkshire, Matthew Woodhall, who has taken on the mantle from his parents, who founded the Woodhall School, of meeting boys where they are and nurturing them well. I was able also to spend a half day at Choate, one of the leading schools in the United States with a global brand presence, where I had excellent meetings. They were set up by Chris Reichart, a member of the Choate advancement office, and who I had the pleasure of admitting to Berkshire when I was there. Always good to see alumni doing well!

On this trip, I met many other staff from admissions offices. My knowledge of US schools, and the network of contacts I have there, enables me to advise families effectively who are looking to the United States.

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J. &A. has developed working relationships with a number of excellent educational advising organizations, to provide collaborative advice in guiding students and families. One of these new relationships is with KEY Education, a Vancouver-based admissions guidance and learning enrichment group.
Their team consists of qualified professionals who are passionate about education, making KEY the trusted source in Vancouver for families wanting high-quality supplementary education services and guidance in applying to independent schools and universities around the world. KEY was the first consulting company in Vancouver to create their own Early Childhood Education program, meant to promote classroom readiness for young students. They also offer subject specific tutoring, SSAT preparation, and after school programs. Learn more here: www.keyadmissions.com
J&A is pleased to help families working with KEY who are seeking specific advice on boarding schools, both in the United States and in Canada.
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After a glorious summer here on the west coast, this week sees those first nervous days at a new school for students. These feelings are heightened when travelling from across the country or around the world to attend boarding school.
It’s exciting but nerve -wracking at the same time - and that’s only the parents!
To help students adjust, I asked my Hong Kong associate and boarding school/ Ivy League alum to share some of his thoughts from his early days at Berkshire School. I met Chi Fan (Johnson) Cheng in Hong Kong in the mid 1990’s and knew immediately that he was destined to be a winner. Here is his company’s profile as background and evidence of Johnson’s early successes in life: 
Here are Johnson’s excellent .........

Three Key Things to Remember - When Starting Boarding School

As prep school students are preparing to start their Fall semester, I looked back at my days at Berkshire and wanted to share a few things that I learned as an international student. To give you some context, I went to a local school in Hong Kong and was a socially and culturally awkward kid (my friends and teachers would testify to that). I did some things right and some things wrong, and although it’s hard to define and measure what “success” means for a high school life, the following pointers can help you make the best use of your time and resources available. 

1. Plan Ahead

In his bestseller “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”, Steven Covey urges his readers to be proactive and begin with the end in mind. I can’t stress how important this is to life and especially to high school life in the States. We - international students – are supported by the sponsorship of our loving parents and blessed with the rare opportunity to study in and enjoy the American boarding school system. It is only natural that we want to get the most out of our experience. But “to what end?” one might ask. Some consider success to be admission to a prestigious college while others may seek to have the most fun. Knowing your end goal helps you prioritize your life and strategize. There will be a myriad of academic, athletic, and extracurricular pursuits available screaming for your attention and vying for your time. Setting your end goal can give you the courage to say “No” to the activities that don’t contribute much to your goal while helping you focus on the things that really matter to you. Survey all the opportunities, courses, and activities available and chart your course. 

When I was a Freshman, I realized that if I worked really hard, it was entirely possible for me to get into a prestigious university, even an Ivy League. That opportunity and hope – which was previously not available to me – motivated me to figure out what I had to do to get there. I met with the college counselor in my second or third semester and figured out what courses or grades I needed in order to achieve my goal. Throughout my time, I ensured that I took the right AP classes and got the grades I needed. 
Now, having said that, I wish I had included health and fun in my goal - which leads me to my second point:

2. Take care of yourself

Taking good care of yourself is a key part of growing up. I guessed since I grew up in a very comfortable, spoiled, and pampering environment, this didn’t come easily to me (my wife would argue that this is still hard for me). I got sick very often. I didn’t know how to cook. I didn’t know how to protect myself physically and emotionally. Looking back, had I taken good care of my health – physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual - I would have had more fun and achieved more in high school. In terms of physical fitness, most boarding schools have mandatory after-school athletic programs. I was never an athlete so being placed in a soccer team required some tough adjustments. I also learned to keep warm in the freezing temperatures of the Berkshire mountains. So health and safety is a big part of success which also means we international students should do everything we can to stay away from smoking and taking substances. Emotional health is just as important – how you manage stress and your relationships with family and friends affect how happy you are in school. I didn’t know it then but excessive stress weakened my immune system and damaged my relationships with people around me. For Christians and students from Christian families, I strongly encourage you to keep up your spiritual health by being disciplined in daily devotions, prayer, and church life. 

3. Stretch yourself

Over the years I’ve observed a “like attracts like” phenomenon in the high school social scene, especially among international students. We all feel safe and familiar when we hang out with someone from our ethnic background having the same language and cultural values as we do. It’s important to have that community when you feel so alone and homesick. Nevertheless, it’s crucial to stretch your comfort zone and be intentional about making friends with people from all over the world. You’ll learn to empathize with others and see things from their perspectives. One of my close friends was an American from Oklahoma and another was from Jamaica. I learned a lot from them and cherished our friendship very much. Don’t worry too much about how people perceive you or how immature you feel. It’s high school – people wouldn’t remember how immature you were then, but they’ll remember that you’re a kind, genuine buddy (or not). 
Stretch yourself also intellectually. Take classes that you think are “useless”, and I guarantee you that what you learn from those “useless” classes might in fact turn out to be more “useful” than you think. I took astronomy and exceled in it. It was my passion, and of all my college essays, the one that I wrote about astronomy was the one that got me into Cornell. Not only that, what I learned about star lifecycles later helped me understand the platform business when I led a medium-sized e-Commerce firm in China. Take interesting courses that’ll stretch and challenge your intellect. This will build your analytical and critical thinking skills. High school and college are the best time to do it, and I’m sure you won’t regret it. 

In summary, prep school life is a blessing that I strongly encourage you to take full advantage of by planning ahead, staying healthy, and stretching yourself. Don’t worry and have fun!