An American Family Discovers a Canadian Boarding School: A conversation with a Ridley College parent

A Ridley College parent shares how her family discovered this boarding school in Canada and why they selected Ridley over options in New England & New York.

| February 21, 2012

Editor's note: With a tenth grade student not yet deeply into the college admission process, Ms. Dana Evans expresses some questions about applying to American colleges and universities from Ridley College. To provide some clarity about applying to colleges in the U.S. from a Canadian boarding school, I checked with Ridley and 20-25% of each year's graduating class goes on to colleges and universities in the U.S. having fulfilled all language and testing requirements. Ridley offers a plethora of language options and is an SAT test site.

Brian Fisher (BF): Were Canadian schools initially part of your family's school considerations? How did Ridley (and other Canadian schools) come to your attention? Did you see some instant advantages to choosing a Canadian boarding school?

Dana Evans (DE): We did not intend to look at any Canadian schools, we were looking for a boarding school for our son. Mostly in the NY/Connecticut area. My son met the admissions representatives from Ridley at a local boarding school fair. Ridley did not stick out as being foreign, Canadian or too far away to consider. He very much wanted to visit after talking with Dr Weller who pointed out that the school was no further than many of the boarding schools that came to the same fair. It just happened to be across the US border - basically it's Buffalo. But, St Catharine's, by nature of being in Canada, is way more glamorous than Buffalo!

In retrospect, the main advantage was that he did not have to compete for a spot at Ridley against his classmates and friends. In reality, I believe Ridley is a school with a stronger academic record than some of the ones he was looking at in Connecticut/New York. In that, I think our son made a smart choice that will last a lifetime.

BF: With Ridley, you find yourself in the position of being an international student, how has that worked? For your son? For you?

DE: I think he considers himself just a student. We are quite impressed at the representation of so many countries at Ridley. It gives our son global exposure which should serve him well when he moves out into any career. It could have an influence when he applies to colleges (which I assume will be US schools) but that's not on our radar at this time. The quality of his education at Ridley will serve him well as he goes through the college process.

BF: Does being an international student family, require any special preparation on your part? How's the paperwork?

DE: Yes, but involves just a passport and student visa. We had to renew the passport so that it would be valid through his 3 years at Ridley. The visa paperwork was much less daunting than the line at the Canadian Embassy in NYC. After two attempts at the cue, I found a service that handles student visas- with ease and clarity - very simple and straightforward. Even easier than getting a passport. The visa service price was very reasonable - I think just $80.

I do have to figure out the PSAT/SAT/ACT routine which I have to admit has not been at the top of my to do list. And in that vein, we need to make sure he fulfills US requirements for example the foreign language requirement in US is not the same as in Canada.

BF: How does travel and, say parents weekend, work for an American family with a student in Canada?

DE: Travel from NY area is very easy. We fly into Buffalo from LaGuardia which is then only 30 minutes to St Catharine's. I can drop my other kids at school here, and be there for lunch with time to spare. Often times airfare is less than a tank of gas (big American SUV). Buffalo is a very easy airport in which to travel to and from. Small snow storms don't shut down the city or the airport like they do in areas to the south. We have found it easy to go up for a day or the weekend. In fact, it's even easier for our son to get home. All we/he has to do is reserve a seat on the shuttle via the school website and with airline ticket in hand - home he comes.

BF: Did you find some pieces of having an international student in Canada easier than you expected? Some more difficult than you expected?

DE: Not easier or more difficult - just different..

Health Care - With both a knee injury and head injury, I was surprised that the care and follow up was more thorough and comprehensive than he would have received here at home under our private insurance coverage..

Banking - I have yet to figure out the best way to handle money with him. Our primary banks don't have branches in Canada. There are fees for transactions and currency exchange fees which add up. It seems TD Bank has the best option, though it involves me depositing funds into his account - old fashioned style - since we are Citi and Chase customers.

Cell phone- not the greatest works best to have someone in Canada get them a phone. He can't without Canadian papers. So, we just kept the US plan which can add up if he uses a lot of data. So far the cell bill is about 20% higher, but in the big picture, we are glad that it's easy to contact him and ultimately our responsibility on this end if he loses his phone.

In all, it's been a great move.