The application deadlines for many of our fulfilling academic high school programs for the 2023-24 school year are fast approaching. This is a worrying time for both parents and children. However, I would like you to sit down and take a breather, as I have important information for you. The less preparation, the better.
“What we’ve seen is that they know what they know,” says Teresa Gilmore, director of admissions at private Loyola High School.
She and her colleague Annie Beeland, Vice Principal of Academics (Middle School) and Coeducational Education, say their focus is on the whole child and prepares them to succeed.
“This is not just an academic issue,” says Beland. “It’s probably not even the most important thing we see in students. Our first goal is to determine if a child can handle the workload. What I’ve learned during COVID (when exams and interviews have been suspended in many schools) is that report cards are often enough to tell you.
“What I learned is that when you look at the report card, the strongest students are the strongest. The weakest become the weakest. Sometimes you can see people with hidden sexuality, and find hardships that don’t show up on the report card.”
Sharujan Thalayasingam felt the pressure three years ago as he prepared to take the entrance exam to enter a higher education program. He had heard that it would be difficult and that the hiring rate would be low. In the end, he found the preparation itself more difficult than the actual exam.
“I started taking exams and it was very stressful at first,” he says. But as I went along, I realized that it wasn’t all that different from other exams. He has passed his three schools and is progressing to his 10th grade at his École secondaire des Sources in the Excellence Program.
Thalayasingam prepared at Académie Eureka, one of dozens of tutoring and support services in the Montreal area. Priya Selvarasa, director of Eureka, suggests that the average score of students preparing for entrance exams is at least 75%. Most higher education programs require an average of 85%.
They also look at behavior and personality, Selvarasa says. Are they open to others? Are you afraid to try something new? Are you open to the world? It is important to be confident, talk about your personality and know yourself.
“Learning is more than just academics,” Selvarasa says. “The way you learn and grow may be in art, music or dance. You can’t forget your hobbies and passions.”
As such, Beland and Gilmour consider interviews to be the most important part of the process. Loyola receives 200-300 applications per year and each student is interviewed.
Being one-on-one with adults they don’t know can be stressful for children. But the purpose is to know them. “I promise I won’t ask questions I don’t know the answer to,” he says Beland. She tells them that if they do, she will give them a chocolate bar. What can you do?
“The pressure can come from within, it can come from peer groups, it can come from parents. But we tell them we’re just there to listen to them.” As the interview progresses, the child shows who he is.”
Do not coach your child, they say.
“Be prepared to say hello or look someone in the eye and shake their hand,” Gilmore says. Be prepared to dress smartly and brush your hair for future job interviews. “But don’t try to anticipate what the question will be and give your child a scripted answer. Because of this, the child gets lost. It’s easy to tell if an 11-year-old is answering us. If it sounds like you’re 30, we know. “
Beland chats with students to help them relax as they enter the interview room. As a teacher, she knows how to inspire children.
Transitioning from elementary school to high school is tough. If she goes to another school or program for a year and isn’t ready for the workload, it’s okay to reapply later.
“I knew a little boy who worked and worked and worked all the way through ninth grade,” Gilmore says.
Emotions can run high when a child is not accepted. Gilmour gives parents time to reflect and then allows themselves to talk about it. Sometimes she misses something, she says. After speaking with her guardian, they may review the files. It’s natural for a parent to be upset, and she might say, “You said you care about the whole person.”
“Caring for the whole person, especially on the academic side, is caring for them by telling them it’s not the right place for them. So at the end of the year, you don’t have to tell students. No. It’s heartbreaking, but we do it because we care.”
Last minute school prep can help reduce stress levels for some kids.
“I don’t say do it or don’t do it. It has to be a personal choice for the family,” Gilmore says. She knew the students her classmates were preparing for.
Thalayasingam doesn’t regret the time he spent preparing for the entrance exams, but he has one final piece of advice for kids preparing for mid-September exams. It’s not as bad as people say
Vraj Limbachiya is in fourth grade. It is too early for him to think about applying to higher education programs, and his grades in school are good anyway.
Instead of preparing for exams, I take art classes at Académie Eureka.
“It helps him in his other activities,” says his father, Kamlesh, who is gaining confidence in subjects such as math and French.
Vraj is learning art techniques and how to use your imagination to try new things.
These are qualities that higher education programs are looking for, says Beland. “There are no role models. We want students who are open to growth in all aspects. Do you challenge yourself? Try new things and discover gifts and talents they may not be aware of.”
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