“The building may be closed, but our school is still open for business—virtually,” says Michelle Barchuk, director of admissions and communications at The Mabin School in Toronto. You can get your student into the school of your choice—even while schools are closed. Here’s how.
The Typical Application Process
Once you’ve done your initial research on schools in your area that fit your checklist (meeting criteria like education philosophies, special interests and budget), you can narrow down your list. You may have heard other parents suggest you apply to as many schools as possible, but since the application process can be intense (and costly) it’s best to stick to your top few choices.
About a year before you’re hoping to have your child start school, is the ideal time to begin your application process. This usually usually begins with a formal application document that will include your financials, details about your family and your child, including early childhood education cues (for JK entrance), to academic achievements for older kids. And many institutions require students applying to middle school or high school to write an admissions test, in addition to submitting transcripts.
What to Expect While Schools Are Closed
When you’re ready to tour the school, attend an open house or do an interview visit, these will be done online. Instead of a physical walk-through and meet-and-greet with the principal and teachers, someone from admissions will set up a Google Meet or Zoom meeting. Although you won’t get to experience the school in person just yet, there are some upsides to remote applications, says Barchuk.
“Sometimes children join their parents on Google Meet and I get to know them a bit more, too, which is interesting,” she says. (Since often kids will sit out of the formal interview process.) Other pluses include a wider range of meeting times, since many of us are still working from home. “I can arrange Meets with parents in the morning, afternoon or even evening now,” says Barchuk. “Offering families that flexibility can definitely be seen as a positive,” she says.
As schools start to reopen in stages, those practices will be adapted as needed, says Barchuk. In the meantime, check in with your prospective school often and—like your school is no doubt doing—stay flexible.
3 Tips to Help Score a Spot
Michelle Barchuk, director of admissions and communications at The Mabin School shares her top 3 tips to help you get an edge on the application process—and truly get to know your prospective school.
1. Remember, schools aren’t really closed. Call the school (or request a call-back via the school’s website), or write an email. School administrators and educators are still available and eager to talk to prospective new families.
2. Follow your favourite schools on their social channels. Many schools are more active than ever on their Twitter, Instagram and Facebook pages. This is a great way to get to connect with their community.
3. Get involved online. Many schools are reaching out to their broader community through unique digital events designed to support parents during these difficult times. “I also read a story to the kids every day on our Facebook page,” says Barchuk. “It started out as a virtual substitute to the kindergarten students’ afternoon story time, but its open to all students, which has turned out to be a unique experience for us all,” she says. “Plus, I recently had one mom tell me she was so happy to have it, since all of her kids will watch and it gives her a minute to take a break or do something for herself during the day at home.”