The beauty of any journey is that no two people’s experiences will be the same, and every journey needs a plan. As students and their parents begin to plan for boarding school selections, getting from point A to point B is never as simple as the line that denotes it. There are certain universal guide markers, which I believe apply to life in general, but am tweaking to meet general overall requirements in the hope that we all find the right school.
The list: For everything in life, there is a list. I suggest you make your list. The lists are made based on different criteria. The schools may be logistically beautiful, or near grandparents, relatives, cousins, and friends. They may be schools that feed into Ivy Leagues, or that cater to vegans, or focus on sport. The beauty of boarding schools is that you only have to Google your wish and there is a school in this world that will fulfill it.
The elimination round: This is the fun part. You have to reject, dismiss, and remove schools for no real reason, so let’s make up some reasons: no international airport, no flights direct to Dammam, weather is very hot or too cold, my child wants to ski, or you want a community. Selection: This is the best part, as you tour the world. But I will share a secret. When you finish visiting the 30th school, you will have forgotten what the 17th looked like, and why you disliked the 15th. The pictures of the 19th school look like the third school you visited because your husband didn’t correctly label them. Awesome, let’s go on a world tour again.
Let’s simplify it a little more. We need to sit and really break down the shortlisted schools. Perhaps make a spreadsheet. Going through this list will require honesty. To me, a good shortlist should comprise 12 schools.
Momentum: It is believed by many that there is a base number — what we refer to as a threshold. If you look closely, a pattern emerges — a point at which the chances of positive returns are the highest. Break down the magic number into six parts. The first two schools are the elite. Understand that your child may get in, but will they thrive? Is your child the smallest fish in the biggest pond? The last two schools should be ones you believe will be walk-ins. The remaining eight schools should be those where the chances of acceptance are 50-50, but acceptance should never be a given.
A backup plan: One must know that sometimes the child never feels happy in a particular school. Do you have a backup school planned? Do you have a list of private boarding schools that follow the rolling admission process? How much support can you offer your child? If needed, can you be there indefinitely?
One million questions and counting: The answers exist in many places:
- Google common boarding school questions, there are exactly 5,000 pages.
- The boarding school fair is an opportunity to meet firsthand more than 100 schools.
- The counselors in school are an amazing resource.
- The middle school has a principal and four assistant principals, and they are extremely approachable and knowledgeable.
- Teachers are working with your child on a daily basis. They are truly the people who know your child’s strengths and weaknesses, and will give you unbiased sincere advice.
- Colleagues at work, families you meet at soccer, and other people you know. You just have to ask the right questions. Like everything else in life, there will always be surprises, and your concerns and fears are absolutely valid. We all choose different paths to the same goal — a college education.
Take the time and plan properly.
This article appeared in the November 1, 2017, issue of The Arabian Sun under Your Voice. Your Voice reflects the thoughts and opinions of the writer, and not necessarily those of the publication.