School Visits Season

This month I have 6 students – 3 from Vancouver, 3 from Hong Kong – visiting 24 boarding schools between them in the states of CA, CT, MA, NH and NY, as well as boarding schools in Vancouver and on Vancouver Island.

The schools chosen to visit were the result of detailed discussion and research with the families, followed by my outreach to the schools to see if the students could be viable candidates. Once this had been established – with absolutely no guarantees of acceptance made - then the personal preparations for a visit were made.

When preparing families for a boarding school visit, I cover the following:

1. The basic politeness elements whereby you make the first impression:
  a. Make warm and friendly eye contact
  b. Remember names
  c. Importance of the handshake (covered in detail in a prior blog)
  d. Saying thank you

2. Ensure research has been done on the school you are visiting:
  a. what values do they have that you share
  b. what programs do they have that interest you
  c. what questions will you have ready for the admissions interviewer

3. Know yourself and what you are looking for in a school:
  a. outline your strengths and weaknesses as a student
  b. share your extra-curricular passions with the interviewer
  c. impress the interviewer – you need to stand out – by being your true self.


After the visit send a hand- written note to the admissions interviewer thanking him/her for a great visit and the opportunity to visit their school.

Also, send a note to the tour guide. All these seemingly little things will ensure you have left a strong impression. You need to stand out as a good memory in the mind of the admission staff for when they make final decisions in a few months when they review hundreds of applicants.

My role as your consultant/advocate is to keep in close phone contact with the schools in the months after your visits in order to cement in their minds that you are a good choice for them. If the consultant can say to them, “my client will come if accepted,” that helps the schools a great deal with their yield.

Oh, and by the way you must work hard and produce your best grades as part of your application this current school year!

It is exciting for me to be a part of these families’ lives seeing these young people spreading their wings and discovering what’s out there educationally! An experienced educational consultant is there to help you navigate the process smoothly.


The Handshake

Today I’m going to discuss the importance of the handshake. The first week of school is always an exciting time, one of hope combined with nervousness. I have wished my student clients well this past week for their school journeys and they and their parents know that as their consultant I am here in reserve to be a support to them as they go through the year. I hope they used good handshaking technique as they met new people at their new school orientation. 

In September, admissions staff sigh with relief at getting the year started and seeing the young people they courted now settling in. They strike a balance between keeping a sympathetic eye and ear out for these youngsters and letting them take their first steps to thrive in this new boarding community.

Admissions people were the first adults they encountered on the journey. So, it’s critical that they keep a close watch on these new kids. At the same time, these staff must slowly begin to look outward into the world to find the next crop of the right students that will fit their school. The courting process begins all over again!

It's hard to get into a good school. It's even harder to get into your dream school. Canada has around 30 boarding schools and the United States around 300. While there is a great deal of choice, the competition for a place can be intense. One of the factors in the admissions equation is making a good first impression. 

I read with interest an article a short while ago by one of my former students, Garth Friesen, who is the CEO at 111 Capital Management, a former advisor to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, and a regular contributing writer for the Wall Street Journal. I spoke with Garth last week and he has  kindly  given his permission for me to share his thoughts from a recent piece of his in the WSJ about a critical aspect of the first impression: the handshake!

As many young people and their parents begin researching schools, I thought this article might prove helpful before you make visits in the next few months. So, here are Garth’s thoughts. He’s talking about the hiring process, but the same principles apply for an admissions interview!

“Unfortunately, many people ruin their chances to get hired at first contact by failing to execute a simple maneuver: the handshake. As a person who interviews prospects regularly, the handshake is critical. Although I have never hired a candidate because they had a great handshake, on many occasions I have written somebody off if the initial greeting was awkward or strange. I'm amazed at how many people fail to follow basic etiquette when it comes to the basic handshake. Everybody knows to give a "firm handshake", but it seems that definition requires more detail. For those who are struggling to interpret its meaning, here are three tips to follow at your next interview.

Stay Traditional
No fist bumps. No front side/back side. No bro hugs (yes, that really happened to me a couple of months ago). Use one hand, not two. Extend your hand vertically, not horizontally or on an angle. Target the "web" between the thumb and index finger of other person's hand so you meet palm to palm. Ensure you don't grab their fingers, or it can get uncomfortable very quickly. Make it last around 2-3 seconds and have 2-3 "pumps".

Get a Grip
Not hard. Not limp. Firm. You are not trying to pop a tennis ball with your bare hands, ok? Believe it or not, you can damage somebody's hand if you squeeze it too tight. I had a 6'5" college lineman damn-near break a bone once. Similarly, too loose of a handshake sends the wrong message. It displays weakness, and quite frankly, very little knowledge of social etiquette. The handshake should be firm. What does that mean? Strong enough so the person could not pull their hand away easily if they wanted, but not so hard that it feels like you are trying to dominate them. If you still don't understand what firm means, just mirror the pressure of the person you are greeting.

Pay attention to your body posture
The handshake is just part of the first impression you are delivering, so make sure you have the other basics to go along with it. Stand up, don't stay seated if you are in a chair. Look the person in the eye and smile. Don't pull the person in too close. Keep your loose hand out of your pocket and off the arm or back of the person you are meeting.

Getting off to the right start in an interview is critical. If you follow these basic tips, you will avoid making a bad first impression. You may have all the skills in the world, but if you can't get the simplest of greetings right, you're not going to get a chance to use them."

My thanks to Garth for this great advice. All best wishes to students as you research and visit schools. Be warm, be friendly, look people in the eye, remember their name – and make sure your handshake is a good one!

JARVIS AND ASSOCIATES : Phillip J. Jarvis Phd.

Associate Member: IECA
US/Canada Boarding School Placement
Primary contact: 250-595-0468

Shawnigan Lake School – the end of an era

In June, I visited a number of boarding schools in the United States and the United Kingdom. While I live on Vancouver Island and visit the boarding schools here on quite a regular basis, I had the opportunity to make more formal visits to some of these schools very recently.

My visit to Shawnigan Lake School - - was to give a personal fare thee well to an outstanding educator who retired at the end of this school year – Headmaster David Robertson. A 25 year career at Shawnigan, with 18 years as Headmaster, saw the school flourish under his expert guidance. I worked with David for ten of those years and was able to witness the magic he wove as a leader.

Shawnigan’s magnificent natural campus was enhanced to become one of the great world school locations. Enrollment swelled to the extent that it is now the largest boarding school in Canada. Programs were challenged to achieve excellence. Endowment for scholarships/bursaries grew immensely. At the same time, students were happy and respected David greatly, while the values he spread and espoused stand the test of time.

All you have to do as a family is to visit and tour Shawnigan to feel the school’s special atmosphere and see the world-class facilities it provides. David’s legacy is assured. He and his wife Lynn were given a great send off by the alumni and parent community around the globe over the year, and by the students and faculty at the end of the school year in late June.

Welsh school visits: June 2018

The summer has taken me so far to boarding schools in New England in the United States and now later in June – and a very hot June – to Wales. I was graciously welcomed by the Heads of two of the oldest Welsh boarding schools, as well as visiting the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama.

Also, in London I was able to have a good conversation with a leading college consultant, Dr. Jon Tabbert: As a transplanted American, Jon’s specialty is US college placement for British and international students. I got to know Jon when I was on my global recruitment trips for Berkshire School in Massachusetts. Through his work with students he has visited many UK boarding schools. It was terrific to reconnect, and to explore thoughts on schools and colleges.

Jon emphasized that the strengths of the British boarding schools lie “in their long-standing tradition, and the health of their endowments leading to stable faculty and resources to provide great opportunities for their students.” Building from Jon’s thoughts, it seems to me that families should research a boarding school - in any country - with an eye both to its history and its ability to innovate, to explore the existence of a loyal faculty balanced by the ability to hire the best young teachers, and the level of financial security to provide superior student resources.

In Wales I visited Llandovery College and Christ College. Both of these co-ed boarding schools are located in the beautiful rural heart of Wales, close to the M4 motorway, the main east-west link in the UK, and they provide supervised transport to and from Heathrow Airport about three and a half hours away. They are just over an hour also from the stunning west Wales coastline. The famous harbour in Tenby, just over an hour from these schools, is featured in the photographs here.

Llandovery College - – opened in 1848, appropriately on the Welsh national day, St. David’s Day. I had a warm welcome from the Warden (or Headmaster) Guy Ayling, and Heather Ayling who supervises International Admissions. They are a great team having re-established Llandovery as a leading boarding option, after a period of instability. It has boarding opportunities from the ages of 7 to 18, and is solidly on the right track again. Their goal is to develop Pride, Passion and Performance. These values were in evidence on my visit to this lovely school.

From Llandovery, a short 37 minutes drive away, I had a stimulating visit with the new Head of Christ College in Brecon, Gareth Pearson, who has a number of initiatives in progress. Christ College was founded by Royal Charter in 1541:

In that year, after the Dissolution of the Monasteries, King Henry V111 gave thirty shillings (!) to the Church in Brecon to establish a boarding school on the site of the former Dominican Priory.

"The key to Christ College Brecon's success is the friendliness and warmth that pervades relationships here." 
 The Good Schools Guide

Both of these fine schools are open to international student applicants and have excellent second language programs, alongside top academic standards and superior sports programs, and their graduates attend leading UK universities.

In Cardiff, the capital of Wales, I visited briefly at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama It is uniquely situated in the heart of Cardiff Castle. It was only established in 1949, but it has swiftly established the reputation of being one of the great performing arts conservatories in the UK. Having Sir Anthony Hopkins as a graduate, and now a Vice-President, solidifies its reputation!

For me, as a proud Welsh – Canadian, I was delighted to visit these fine Welsh schools and see them in action. I returned on Canada Day. My next blog will include thoughts after visits planned in July to four boarding schools in British Columbia.