Which school is the best fit? How and when do you need to apply? Will your child even get in? There’s a lot to think about when it comes to applying for secondary school – especially if you are looking at boarding schools overseas. Ampla Education, founded three years ago by Julianna Yau, can help steer families through the process. The company name is derived from the Latin word Ampla, meaning “great opportunity,” and that’s the perfect name for a company that “aims to guide students along the path to discovering great opportunities in education.” Ideally, parents looking to send their children overseas for secondary school would contact Ampla two or three years in advance (although the company can also help with last minute applications).
Prior to founding Ampla, Julianna offered admission counselling with another company but found it impersonal. “Each family is different; at Ampla we customise for each family, which can benefit them more. We discuss which schools would be a good fit based on curriculum, culture and individual merits.” Customised is the keyword. Ampla’s aim is to make sure that families have realistic expectations – that the child applies to a school that is a good match in the first place. It’s all very well discussing your child with an advisor, who says “why Madam, your son is clearly a good fit for Eton,” when they’ve never met him or seen a school report. Surely every parent talks up the positive in their child? At Ampla “school selections are made strategically to maximise the chance of success,” explains Julianna.
There are different levels of assistance available, including a variety of comprehensive packages that enable Ampla to tailor their service to the family’s needs, thereby really amplifying the students’ potential. Ampla also offers a unique mentorship opportunity, pairing applicants with a graduate of the school of choice (or the same type of school) to help in the process. The Ampla Boarding School Package – which is available in four levels: basic, professional, premium and exclusive – starts with a meeting to understand the profile of the student and the family’s preferences. The child is also involved in this meeting, unless they are too young in which case the meeting takes place as early as possible. An experienced consultant, such as Julianna, identifies the individual strengths and needs of the student in order to devise a customised strategy.
A key factor in the selection and application process for boarding school is Mock tests which help to indicate the academic level of the child. Report cards and a ‘CV’ detailing the child’s activities are also important in helping the consultant provide an initial school list for each child. “We discuss the list with the parents and the student. If it’s a good fit for them, we provide more information about the schools, if it’s not, we can keep revising it until they are happy with the list,” explains Julianna. Then the application process begins followed by the official pre-tests, for which Ampla can provide tutorial lessons.
Part of the Ampla process often involves a mentor. “We pair [students] with a mentor from either the UK or US, depending on where they want to go to school, and what kind of schools they are interested in. For example, if they want to go to a boarding school we might match them with a mentor from that particular school or type of school so that they can ask more questions.” Mentors are also matched by subject and interests. Mentors, based in the UK and US, have already graduated through the school of choice, which is something quite different from what other companies offer. “Usually companies have consultants that are based in Hong Kong, they might not have studied abroad or in that country or school,” explains Julianna, “You wouldn’t be able to get as much insight from them.”
Interaction with mentors is usually through Skype or other online means or, if the family are visiting the country, we can arrange for them to meet up. According to Ampla counsellor Patrick Jiang, a graduate of Phillips Academy; Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Boston University, and University College London,“There is perhaps a simple reason why mentorship is such an effective preparation for boarding school, and it is because boarding school education seeks precisely to imitate mentorship. So it makes perfect sense to prepare for boarding school by getting immersed in the same teaching method.”
In seeking secondary education abroad, one of the first things to appreciate is that the academic difficulty of a top boarding school is far beyond the pale of anything most students have experienced in Hong Kong. There is more science, more math, more literature, history, and foreign language material than any school here will cover. So if a student goes to boarding school but sticks to an old way of doing things, the result will be a disaster. A good mentor can help a new student study ahead so that the transition into boarding school will be less stressful. A good mentor will introduce new areas of interest while encouraging deeper understanding of existing knowledge. The scope of this undertaking is difficult to grasp without a competent guide.”
The Ampla boarding school package also includes interview preparation – varying between three and eight hours depending on the needs of the applicant. “We don’t over prepare students, so for interview readiness we usually recommend about five lessons. We do it with different interviewers so students can get used to different styles. And we won’t ask the same questions; but offer multiple scenarios. While some schools do group assessments, we try to take different cases where they can break down the problem and try to solve it,” says Julianna.
“One of the tricky things about school applications”, says Julianna, “is that different schools have different processes and different timelines, so we need to make sure we understand them. This is especially important for parents living in Hong Kong as they will need to fly over to the UK or US, so we need to make sure to work out the best strategy.” It takes an awful lot of juggling and keeping on top of – take it from somebody who is going through this now! So, if a company can help you navigate all of this, why not utilise it?
Ampla offers help with exam preparation, academic tutorials and school applications – in all forms.
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