On October 14-15, 2016, we held our first OpenApply Admissions Conference in Europe at the Benjamin Franklin International School in Barcelona, Spain. We were thrilled to welcome over 50 participants representing 36 schools.

See the full list of participating schools here.

During our pre-conference on Friday, October 14, we held workshops for OpenApply, including company updates and support sessions. Our “Top 10 Tips” session with Regional Director Kevin Piersialla proved especially useful with information on linking siblings, saving custom filters, creating office use only forms, and more.

During the OpenApply sessions, we also heard from:

On Saturday, October 15, we kicked off with a deeply personal keynote from Head of School Colin Boudreaux, who spoke on “Articulating the Mission of a School Through Admissions.” His heartfelt story of the evacuation of Fort McMurray demonstrated one country’s mission-in-action.

Next, in her session “How Big is your Welcome Mat?”, Mary Langford, Admissions Director at Dwight School London, spoke about the importance of strong transitions programs, and the strategies that she uses to ensure all students & families are incorporated smoothly into the existing school community. For example, if a student joins mid-year, she sends an Admissions Memo to all key stakeholders (e.g. the new student’s teachers), so they have a strong sense of the student’s interests, abilities, and aspirations.

Head of School at GEMS World Academy Singapore David Edwards spoke next about “Why All Schools Should Behave Like Startups.” He spoke about admissions as the glue across departments, and reiterated the idea that admissions should occupy a seat at the top level of decisionmaking at any school.

In the next session “Emotional Intelligence”, Brit Beckers and Claudine Hakim of the International School of London group spoke to the ways in which emotions are managed with incoming families, school staff, and internally with admissions staff. Their session extended and deepened earlier themes of transition, concluding with a stirring recitation of the poem “Moving,” written by a student at the International School of Geneva in 1993.

Participants enjoyed lunch and sunshine outside on the lawn overlooking Barcelona before starting the afternoon workshops.

Catalina Gardescu, Manager of Admissions and External Relations, from the American International School of Bucharest led an interactive workshop on “Choosing Mission Appropriate Students” that placed participants into small groups to discuss their schools’:

  • mission statement (and who at the school gets to create it)
  • admissions policy (and how it embodies the mission statement — or not)
  • admissions process (how does the process help schools follow the mission and the policy?)

The next workshop was led by a team from the International School of Brussels, including Dr. David Willows, Robin Berting, Sorcha Dempsey, and Sara Sulaimani. In small groups, they challenged participants to rethink “Admissions as a Learning Experience” through four playful exercises:

  • The Brain (focused on connecting with families)
  • The Script (focused on re-framing the school tour)
  • The Space (focused on the architecture and design of the admissions office)
  • The Game (focused on eliciting real priorities and interests from families & students)

Like David Edwards earlier in the day, the ISB team encouraged innovation, play, and a sense of new possibilities.

The conference ended with a presentation from Mona Stuart, Admissions Director at Singapore American School. Her session on “Leadership, the Law of Attraction, and Optimal Admissions” brought together the WHY and HOW of admissions, and gave participants an inside look at how Singapore American School aims to create an optimal learning community. She ended the day reminding participants of the roles they play in literally shaping the future of their schools.

The conference ended with a big group dinner at El Barceloneta overlooking the Barcelona port, with beautiful wine, paella, and tapas.

Further notes:

We are honoured to support the community of international school admissions staff in Europe and look forward to reconvening next year!

Participants said:

“Thank you for a wonderful experience which
has revamped my passion for the work that I do.”

“There was something from each speaker that either provoked
a thought or made me think of changing how we do things.”

“We loved the conference, we learned a lot,
the speakers were great and the food was amazing.”