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.



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.


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