Private school pedigree

Strong evidence of private school grad presence, say students

Queen’s University attracts some private school students for its smaller size and sense of tradition.
Queen’s University attracts some private school students for its smaller size and sense of tradition.

When Farialle Pacha came to Queen’s three years ago, one-fifth of her graduating high school class went with her. To Pacha, ArtSci’ 13, evidence of Queen’s relatively larger private school population was quite clear.

“I have definitely observed over my past three years here that many private school students have come to Queen’s, myself included,” she said.

A graduate of Toronto’s York School, Pacha was one of 10 who came to Queen’s, out of a graduating class of 54 students. Most who chose other schools applied regardless.

“I think the reputation can be problematic, as most people think that being from a private school automatically makes you snobby or entitled,” she said.

Despite this, Pacha said the stereotype of Queen’s association with private schools is a generalization that has become overemphasized. The majority of Queen’s students, she observed, seem to come from public schools.

There are no statistics available on the number of Queen’s students who have attended private schools prior to entering Queen’s, university officials said.

When Pacha arrived at Queen’s, she noticed that the educational experience she received at The York School was different from those of her peers who graduated from public schools.

The York School offers the International Baccalaureate program, which places its students in accelerated curriculums similar to those of many first-year classes at Canadian universities.

“I would say that there was more focus on the individual at my private school than an average public school, which puts a heavy emphasis on the collective,” she said.

Pacha believes even the best of private schools are limited in securing post-secondary success for their graduates. Personal discipline and a genuine desire to excel are more important than a student’s high school alma mater, she said.

Ashkan Azizi, ArtSci ’13 who graduated from Mulgrave School, a private school in Vancouver, in 2009 said he thinks the economic background of a student attending private school impacts their ability to attend Queen’s.

“It is not always the case that students that attend private schools come from very well-off families; however, it does have to be noted that there is a certain amount of financial security required to send a student to a private institution,” he said.

In particular, he believes the University has a higher tuition fee relative to other Canadian post-secondary destinations. This can be a barrier to those from less affluent backgrounds.

Although Azizi does believes the IB program gave him quite a few opportunities, his high school education came at a high cost.

“The reality is though, the school I attended was far too luxurious and had so many unnecessary financially taxing commitments,” he said.

The financial requirements of private school attendance can sometimes result in smaller communities where strong bonds between students and alumni are forged.

Bishop Strachan School (BSS) in Toronto for instance, has a strong alumni network known as “Old Girls” who participate in annual Grad Panels.

Old Girls who have gone on to receive a post-secondary education from Queen’s often speak positively about the university during these events. A positive regard for Queen’s is fostered within a community of current and previous students, according to Angela Terpstra.

Terpstra, principal of the Senior School at BSS, said from the graduating class of 2012, 18 out of 124 went on to attend Queen’s.

BSS is Canada’s oldest day and boarding school for girls, and consistently has Queen’s as one of the top five Canadian universities its students attend from year to year.

Terpstra said she thinks it’s the University’s smaller size and tight-knit community that’s a draw for her students.

The school welcomes hundreds of recruitment representatives from universities around the world. They have developed deeper relationships however, with several universities such as Queen’s, who visit more often.

Terpstra said BSS’s pedagogical philosophy differs from those of public schools in their emphasis on interdisciplinary and hands-on learning.

“We use the Ontario Secondary School curriculum as a foundation but we are able to take off from there and do a variety of things like community outreach, partnerships with universities,” Terpstra said.

It’s that same sense of community that attracted Branksome Hall graduate Sarah Rosenblat to Queen’s.

Rosenblat, ArtSci ’14, said Queen’s popularity is prevalent in her school. Western and McGill followed closely in interest.

She believes that like many private school graduates in Canada, Branksome students are interested in Queen’s because of its similar sense of tradition, social life, community and reputation.

With respect to academics, she believes Queen’s is a top destination for the brightest students in the country, regardless of the type of school system.

Her personal decision to attend Queen’s was influenced by the University’s tight-knit community, which reminds her of her high school community.

“Branksome has a strong sense of tradition, a similar sense that can be found at Queen’s — down to the same Royal Stewart Tartan as prefect kilts,” she said.

“We are very similar, even in our ‘Hogwarts-like’ qualities.”

Stuart Pinchin, associate university Registrar, doesn’t believe a student’s place of secondary education plays a role in their chances of securing a place at Queen’s.

“We have students from a multitude of secondary institutions and they are admitted based on their grades and their Personal Statement of Experience,” he said

Pinchin isn’t convinced that Queen’s reputation for appealing to students of any educational background should be viewed as a detriment.

“Queen’s has a reputation for attracting the best and brightest students from secondary schools across the country and around
the world.”

Class of 2012

The following is a partial list of several Toronto private schools showing the percentage of graduates from the class of 2012 who went on to attend Queen’s.

The Abelard School 1/10: 10%
Bishop Strachan School 18/124: 15%
Branksome Hall 20/119: 17%
Crescent School 12/92: 13%
Crestwood Preparatory College 6/60: 10%
De La Salle College 17/88: 19%
St. Clements School 17/70: 24%
University of Toronto Schools 4/93: 4%
Upper Canada College 18/157: 11%
The York School 10/54: 19%

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