Understanding ‘School Speak’: Part 1

When dealing with schools, you’ll learn a whole lexicon. Waitlists, debentures, redshirting to name a few. Here, we look at three slightly technical aspects of the admissions process in plain English.


1) Waitlists & waitpools

We all hear much talk of the dreaded waitlist. Waitlists are actually not actually as scary as the talk of waitlists.

For most schools, a waitlist doesn’t exist until the first round of interviews have been completed for entry level. Three usual outcomes from an interview are: accepted, waitlisted and rejected. For students not even interviewed, they are not waitlisted. Their application is simply ‘rolled over’ to the following year.

A minority of schools do operate a waitlist with strict(ish) sequencing but, increasingly, the waitpool is taking over.

In our opinion, a waitpool makes more sense. A school operating a waitpool will collect all applications during a prescribed period before interviews are scheduled. By some non scientific method that takes a variety of factors into account, applicants will be selected to be invited to interview. Factors considered include:

  1. applicant’s English language proficiency (and that of the parents)

  2. nationality

  3. gender

  4. race/ethnicity

  5. month of birth

The idea is to create diverse classes of suitable children. Essentially, all international schools are striving for this, except their definition of ‘suitable’ differs.

So, the dreaded waitlist is mostly applicable to late applicants. If you’re not late, you need not worry too much about waitlists and waitpools.

2) Priorities

If you are fortunate enough to have some sort of priority to enter a particular school, understand that it’s just a priority and not a guarantee. You cannot afford to relax and rely on your child getting into that school. Priorities are, in fact, getting weaker.

Common priorities are:

  1. alumni

  2. sibling

  3. debenture holder

  4. existing student

It’s important to understand the strength of your priority as they vary greatly from school to school and, even, year to year.