Back in January I wrote a blog entry introducing readers to our Best School Year Ever initiative. It has been greeted by our broader community – staff, students, parents and alum – with tremendous enthusiasm. In simple terms, the contest, open to high school students who are residents of Canada or the US, can compete for a year’s full boarding scholarship at SMUS. The two second place winners will receive a $10,000 scholarship. The contest ended on March 31. An interesting factoid is that female applicants outnumbered male applicants about six to one. We first narrowed the entries down to thirty semi-finalists, and we have now further narrowed it down to three finalists.
In February, I explained the rationale as follows: “The aim of this initiative is to expand our boarding market. Although we have strong boarding enrolment (we have added fifty boarding beds in the past seven years, have exceeded our boarding targets this year, and appear on target to do so again next year) in general in North America there is a marked decline in boarding enrolment, and SMUS does not want to be part of that decline. Evidence for the decline is clear: each year in North America about 6400 students apply to all the boarding schools in North America. We enrol a healthy number of international students, in keeping with our deliberate goal of cultivating a global perspective in our students and in our school. But we are still looking at a very small pool of North American students, for whom the competition is fierce.”
The initiative has been a success. We will run it again next year, improving it according to this year’s experience, and probably starting a bit earlier.
The contest was designed to attract students who would never have considered SMUS, or boarding school. We received entries from across North America, from Vancouver Island to Florida. Sixty per cent of the entries were American students. Now we are down to three finalists: a grade ten girl from Abbotsford, BC; a grade ten boy from Chula Vista, California; and a grade ten girl from Bastrop, Texas. If all arrangements go well, they will be here on campus next Friday for a day at the School, interviews and testing, and a look at Victoria. They are exciting young people, and any one of them would enrich our School while we in turn will do what we can to enrich their lives. What more could a grade ten student ask for than the best school year ever? Exciting!