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Mid-Year Move Jitters? Tips for RMCs to Put the Assignee's Mind At Ease

Moving is extremely stressful. There are so many unknowns. Now, add to that the unknown of timing. In recent years, what with travel bans and changing immigration regulations, relocations have often been on and off and on again! This can wreak havoc on school placement plans. Suddenly, what was a carefully timed school start is postponed.

Pandemics aside, even when things are 'normal', there may be a sudden and urgent need to re-locate talent in order to fill a critical role, and this can happen at any time in the academic year. But with application deadlines passed, lotteries complete, and seats taken, the family despairs. How will they ever find school placements for their children?

While a mid-academic year school search can be daunting, here are some suggestions for Relocation Management Companies to boost a good outcome for families:

First, they should get to know the local school market in the host location; put all school options on the table: private, independent, public, state, magnet and charter schools; cast a wide net initially. Then eliminate schools unable to take new students and those that are not a good school/student match.

If exploring private schools, families should prioritize those with rolling admissions, since they are set up to accept new students throughout the year. Do these schools address the family’s education values? Would the student be a good candidate for admission? Would she thrive there? Schools with rolling admissions understand that families may show up at any time during the year. They provide a good community for mobile families as they include other students who are also newcomers.

Some schools may announce open spaces at beginning of term or semester. Other schools may be able to make room immediately if they can be more flexible with their enrollment. In some instances, schools that might not usually have an available space will create one for a student whose interests and aptitudes particularly enrich the school community.

In all cases, it is important to open a conversation with school personnel thoughtfully. Families should demonstrate that they have read deeply about the school and can ask relevant questions. Since this is an off-cycle request, the school will want evidence that the student is truly a good candidate for admission and would thrive in their academic community. Families should come prepared with school reports and concrete examples of the student’s interests and achievements since schools will be looking for reassurance that the candidate can jump into a new curriculum and has the maturity to successfully integrate into a new classroom/school.

In theory, mid-year public school or state school placements are routine. The student is guaranteed a seat. However, families should know that the neighborhood public school may be full and the student will be assigned to a different school. This is true in the UK and in select US markets. Families should choose the school district carefully to assure that all schools offer strong programs. That way, they will be assured of placement in a worthy school, even if it is not their neighborhood school.

Finally, a word about the family arriving “late” to school: in the case where a student is enrolled in school but arrives later than expected because of a delayed assignment, the school may still charge for the entire year. Best practice is to open a conversation with the school at the moment the move is postponed. In some cases, the school may agree to delay initial tuition payment until plans become clearer. It is critical that families review admissions contracts carefully before signing, in order to understand the financial commitment they are undertaking. Private school admissions contracts are binding and cannot be walked away from once signed!

While the idea is to minimize the disruption of relocation by planning around the academic year, sometimes this is not possible. Families may be searching for schools mid-academic year. With comprehensive research and careful presentation of their children as candidates, families have a good chance of finding an appealing school mid-cycle.

Sara R. Schmidt is the Director of Business Development & Client Relations, Co-Director of Private Client Services and a Senior Education Consultant for Bennett International, based in Seattle. As a member of an internationally mobile family, Sara has navigated the school search process for her own children on three continents, finding the right fit for them in public, private and international schools. She is very familiar, therefore, with the anxieties and hurdles faced by parents relocating their children around the world, and her work is informed by her own extensive experience. Sara serves as Trustee and was President of the Bellevue Schools Foundation in Bellevue, WA, and is a member of Pacific Northwest Relocation Council and Bay Area Mobility Management. She holds a B.A. Ed., Summa Cum Laude, from Wheaton College and an M.A. in Public Administration from Harvard Kennedy School and is also fluent in Spanish.

Over the years, Bennett International Education Consultancy has worked with hundreds of corporations across the globe, many of them Fortune 500 companies, providing domestic and international school advisement & placement services - preschool through university - to the dependents of relocating employees. In addition to education placement, our team provides customized consulting for corporations with a range of education issues: education policy writing & benchmarking, tuition studies, group move advisement & planning, and remote education solutions.


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