Two professionals in admissions offer two different perspectives about schools that might seem the same at a first glance, but in fact are different.

‘Convince me that your school is right for my child!’ might be the one challenge that can drive an admissions manager mad in a conversation with a prospective family. Although we make it our purpose to guide families to find the right school for them, we know for a fact that no school fits all. Not even an international school that might look and feel similar to the one the family was part of before.

‘The most meaningful way to succeed is to help others succeed,’ said Adam Grant, describing perfectly the mission of basically anyone in admissions. But what does success mean for each of us, for all the families that we meet throughout a year, for people coming from different cultures, different backgrounds? And how is success defined now, after 2020 – a year that forced us to change our perspectives in so many ways.

Two admission professionals take us through the experience of guiding families to find the perfect school, using examples from BEPS International School in Brussels, Belgium and Avenor College in Bucharest, Romania – two schools that offer an international learning experience, but in very different ways.

Where families are coming from

Cristina Willows
Families at BEPS International School in Brussels come from all over the world. We have over 40 nationalities and many of our students have different educational backgrounds. Most of them chose BEPS for its multicultural community and international approach to learning. Many of them have been in international schools before, but we also have children who join us from local schools in Belgium or in their home country. We have noticed a trend of an increasing number of local Belgian students enrolling compared to previous years: 20% of our students are children of local families.

Raluca Tarcea
Our community at Avenor College in Bucharest is formed mostly by Romanian families, who chose Avenor from a large number of schools in Bucharest because of the unique mix of curricula – Romanian and British – that aims to prepare students at the highest level, while they remain rooted in the local culture. In the past two years we noticed an increase in applications coming from families that are returning to Romania after a long time spent abroad. They find Avenor very similar to the international learning environment that they are used to and the possibility of connecting children to their language and culture seems very appealing to them.

What families are looking for

Cristina Willows
When asked what kind of school they are looking for, most families want their children to learn English, to be happy and to grow as people, not just as learners. Some of them are looking for a family feeling, for a place where their children can take learning as an adventure, where life is school and school is life. Belgian families are looking for an inquiry-based education close to home to prepare their child for university overseas and global careers. They sometimes require learning support. Recently, access to online learning has also become an important factor when choosing a school.

Raluca Tarcea
Understanding our local families offers an advantage in anticipating their needs. Most of them want something different from the state school system and need guidance and accurate information about international educational systems to make a decision. And then, it’s that thin line between what they say they want for their child and what they really mean. It comes naturally for a parent to say ‘I want my child to be happy’, but defining happiness is just as hard as defining success. It’s up to us to help students identify their strengths, what makes them happy and what eventually will make them successful.

How long families will stay

Cristina Willows
BEPS is located in one of the most beautiful areas of Brussels, surrounded by Embassies and not far from the European Commission headquarters. Belgian local families spend more years at BEPS than expatriate families who are usually in Belgium for 3-5 years. The yearly turnover of students at BEPS is between 20-25%.

Raluca Tarcea
Stability – such as our community can offer – is actually one of the things that is highly appreciated by our families. Students grow up in our school and even if they travel for a few years they come back to Avenor if their personal pathway brings them again to Romania. If we look only at this year, over 95% of our students re-enrolled and this is not an unusual number for us. International students that join our Cambridge highschool usually stay until graduation.

Student selection vs inclusion

Cristina Willows
BEPS is an inclusive school. Testing may be done for placement purposes only. When students require additional support due to special educational needs decisions need to be made with respect to support available, and balance of such support in any given year group.

Raluca Tarcea
Avenor College is a selective school. We test students from age 7 and up, and cross test results with interviews and councilors’ opinions. We want to make sure that the new students will be a good fit for our existing groups of students and that we can help them evolve from that point on.

In the end

It takes a lot of experience, not only to explain a possible educational pathway, but mostly to make parents feel like they can trust you to help them make the right choice – and, in some cases, that might not even be your school. Cristina and Raluca have both conducted hundreds of admissions meetings, each one of which is prepared thoroughly to guide each family. In a variety of choices, admissions professionals can make a difference by offering the context, the relevant information about the school, and the appropriate individual guidance to each and every prospective family. If there is something that this past year has taught us more than ever, it is that one size does not fit all. And that even if we all call ourselves international schools, we are certainly not all the same.

250 students
600 students
Age Range
2.5-18 years
2-18 years
Over 40 nationalities
Mostly Romanian families or families with one Romanian parent. Other nationalities can be enrolled in the high school or nursery.
Cambridge in the nursery and high school, and a mix of Romanian and Cambridge from 6-14 years old.
School Type
An IB World School, serving the international community of Brussels for almost 50 years.
Bilingual, international school, accredited both by the Romanian Ministry of Education and by British Schools Overseas (BSO).

About Cristina Willows

As someone who has worked in admissions for several years now, she knows that when things have gone well, it has often been linked to a feeling that a family has left with after a virtual or on-campus meeting. Giving priority to how we make people feel, in contrast to what we make them think has been something that Cristina has been focusing on for several years now.

About Raluca Tarcea

Raluca started working in education almost 4 years ago, driven by the hopes and expectations she has for both her children. She has a long background in media and communication and understands very well the power of a good story, the importance of research and connection, and the huge responsibility that comes with people trusting their children to a certain school.

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