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Shawnigan Lake School

1975 Renfrew Road, Shawnigan Lake, British Columbia, V0R 2W1

Grades (Gender):
Gr. 8 to Gr. 12 (Coed)
$26,000 to 64,900/year
Main Language:
Avg. Class Size:
Day: 70 (Gr. 8 - 12), Boarding: 430 (Gr. 8 - 12)

School Address
1975 Renfrew Road, Shawnigan Lake, British Columbia, V0R 2W1

About this school:


Shawnigan Lake School is located on 380 stunning acres right beside the lake that shares its name. Shawnigan offers a complete education to over 500 students in grades 8-12. Connections between students and teachers thrive on campus, demonstrated in academic, athletic, fine art and boarding programs that create whole new contexts for learning. Shawnigan has over 100 years of tradition producing leaders imbued with the character and moral fibre required to be a success in their post-secondary endeavours and beyond. — Visit school website



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Our Take: Shawnigan Lake School

our take

Shawnigan was founded in 1916 with just six students and cast in the mold of the leading English grammar schools. Its direct model was Westminster School, whose history stretches back to 1179. As such, it provides, aesthetically at least, a contrast to Brentwood, which neighbours the school. Both, as well as Brookes to the south, have some of the most stunning campuses that you could hope to find. The setting of Vancouver Island simply adds to the luster. The founders of Shawnigan Lake felt that all of those things—buildings, vistas, space—were important aspects of learning, and that a school’s setting should be inspiriting. And, certainly, it is. What the campus might lose in terms of warm and cuddly, it gains in a sense of tradition, organization, and consistency. The centennial celebration included school founder C. W. Lonsdale’s 1932 Packard convertible, adding a touch of the Great Gatsby. Still, there is a nice mix of modernity as well, perhaps most obviously in Genius Hour, a program developed by Wendy Milne, assistant head of academics. It’s a cross-grade, cross-curricular program in which students are challenged with creating their own project and seeing it through to completion. The only provisos are that each project involve collaboration, have a clear guiding question, and involve research. All of that—cross-curricular, cross-grade, hands-on, collaborative—are hallmarks of the Shawnigan approach. And, in Genius Hour and beyond, the results are impressive. The student who will do best is one who is a self-starter, operating at the top of his or her peer group, and able to dive in, making the most of the breadth of opportunity provided.

Principal's Message


David Robertson, Headmaster

If the journey of a thousand miles begins with one small step, then the search for the right school starts with the initiative to explore the possibilities.

As you take these first steps in discovering Shawnigan, I trust that you will gain some sense of who we are and what makes us a potentially transformative part of any young person’s journey. As you click through these pages, I hope that you will observe the faces and hear the voices of the people who study here, who live and work here and who grow here. As you see their smiles, I suspect that you will begin to understand their pride and fulfillment.

The journey always begins and ends with the individual. Success will follow when the prevailing culture is one of support and encouragement, as it is here. As you pursue your own excellence, I invite you to visit our world and see if Shawnigan is the right place for the next stage of your journey.


Curriculum Traditional

Primary Curriculum: Traditional

What Shawnigan Lake School says: Shawnigan Lake School is an independent, co-educational boarding school for grades 8-12 in Shawnigan Lake, British Columbia. Founded in 1916, it is one of Canada’s premier university prep schools with nationally-ranked academic and athletics programs. For more information, visit www.shawnigan.ca

  • Approach:
    Focus Language-based
    Academic French immersion

  • Pedagogies and subject courses:

  • Mathematics Traditional Math

      Traditional Math typically teaches a method or algorithm FIRST, and THEN teaches the applications for the method. Traditional algorithms are emphasized and practiced regularly: repetition and drills are frequently used to ensure foundational mastery in the underlying mathematical procedures. The traditional approach to math views math education as akin to building a logical edifice: each brick depends on the support of the previously laid ones, which represent mastery over a particular procedure or method. Traditional Math begins by giving students a tool, and then challenges students to practice using that tool an applied way, with progressively challenging problems. In this sense Traditional Math aims to establish procedural understanding before conceptual and applied understanding.
      Learn about the different mathematics approaches  

    • What Shawnigan Lake School says: This information is not currently available.

    • Textbooks and supplementary materials: This information is not currently available.

    • Calculator policy: This information is not currently available.

    • Teaching approach: This information is not currently available.

    • Topics covered in curriculum:

      Subject = offered
    • Treatment of evolution:

      Evolution as consensus theory
      Evolution as one of many equally viable theories
      Evolution is not taught

    Literature Equal Balance

      These literature programs draw in equal measure from “Traditional” and “Social Justice” programs.
      Learn about the different literature approaches  

    • What Shawnigan Lake School says: At each grade we attempt to use a theme to guide our text choice, giving teachers freedom to choose literature they are passionate about. We do not mandate specific texts to be taught at each grade level to allow for this freedom. We see the great value in modeling the study of at least one class novel in order that we can demonstrate the process for analysis of a text, yet we also see the value in letting students choose their own independent novels for study in order to help foster a love for reading. We strive to help students make connections between texts and their life experiences. We work with students to synthesize their learning, their understanding of a broader theme, their study of a wide range of texts and their life experiences. We invite students to look at how stories (influence ideas, events, change a collective identity.

    Humanities and Social Sciences Equal Balance

      These programs represent an equal balance between the perennialist and pragmatic approach to teaching the humanities and social sciences.
      Learn about the different humanities and social sciences approaches  

    • What Shawnigan Lake School says: This information is not currently available.

    Foreign Languages Communicative

      The communicative method of language acquisition emphasizes the use of the target language in authentic contexts. The approach commonly features interactive group work, games, authentic texts, and opportunities to learn about the cultural background of the language. Drills and quizzes may still be used, but less frequently than with the audio-lingual method.
      Learn about the different foreign languages approaches  

    • What Shawnigan Lake School says: The skill to function in more than one's native tongue will broaden intellectual and cultural horizons. To this end, the Department of Modern Languages offers courses in four languages: French, Spanish, Mandarin and German. We also offer French Immersion classes, and students completing this program may qualify for the Français Langue 12 credit. Our students have the opportunity to begin their study and to progress through to Advanced Placement level in all four languages. In French, many of our students take the internationally recognized DELF exams from levels A1 to B2. The classes all emphasize the communicative approach in all four language skills and provide opportunities for differentiated learning and individualized attention. A Japanese language tutor, also a native speaker, is available on Saturday mornings. Above all, however, it is the interaction and connection between teacher and student that is the biggest key to success in this subject area.

    • Studying a foreign language is required until:   11
    • Languages Offered: • Chinese-Mandarin • French • German • Japanese • Latin • Spanish

    Fine Arts
    • Program offers:

      Subject = offered
      Graphic Design
      Visual Arts
    • Visual studio philosophy:

    • What Shawnigan Lake School says: This information is not currently available.

    Computers and Technology Heavy integration

      A major effort is made to integrate the development of digital literacy throughout the curriculum and in everything students do. Digital literacy is understood to be a fundamental skill in the 21st century: it therefore follows, the idea goes, that teachers should find ways to connect every lesson back to technology. Effort is made to ensure the use of technology is meaningful and advances students’ skills beyond what they would otherwise be from using computers outside the classroom.
      Learn about the different computers and technology approaches  

    • What Shawnigan Lake School says: This information is not currently available.

    • Program covers:

      Subject = offered
      Computer science
      Web design

    Physical Education
    • What Shawnigan Lake School says: This information is not currently available.

    Advanced Placement Courses
    • AP Physics 1
    • AP Physics 2
    • AP Physics C: Mechanics
    • AP Spanish Language
    • AP Studio Art: 2-D Design
    • AP United States History
    • AP Biology
    • AP Calculus AB
    • AP Chemistry
    • AP Chinese Language and Culture
    • AP Computer Science A
    • AP English Language and Composition
    • AP English Literature and Composition
    • AP European History
    • AP French Language
    • AP German Language
    • AP Human Geography

    Sex and Health Education British Columbia curriculum
    Topics covered in sex and health education: This information is not currently available.

    What Shawnigan Lake School says: This information is not currently available.

    Mostly value-neutral

    By and large, we teach sex education free of any particular moral or ethical standpoint. We try not to impose any particular values or value systems (such as social, political, or ideological values) on our students when teaching sex and related issues.

    Fairly value-based

    Sex education is sometimes taught from a particular moral or ethical standpoint. Sometimes particular values or value systems (such as social, political, or ideological values) are invoked when teaching sex and related issues.


    This includes a range of positions. A traditional approach might, for example, go as far as emphasizing the nuclear family and complete abstinence from sex before marriage. Alternatively, this approach might simply involve placing less emphasis on sex outside of the context of marriage and more emphasis on abstinence. Or finally, it might just involve focusing less on sex outside of the context of marriage.


    This might mean more emphasis is placed on the importance of such things as social equality, diversity, and choice in sex education.

    What Shawnigan Lake School says: This information is not currently available.

    Curriculum Pace Standard-enriched

    • Standard-enriched
    • Accelerated
    • Student-paced

    Broadly-speaking, the main curriculum -- like that of most schools -- paces the provincially-outlined one. This pace is steady and set by the teachers and school. The curriculum might still be enriched in various ways: covering topics more in-depth and with more vigor than the provincial one, or covering a broader selection of topics.

    Flexible pacing:

    Flexible pacing style = offered
    Subject-streaming (tracking)
    Multi-age classrooms as standard
    Ability-grouping (in-class) as common
    Frequent use of cyber-learning (at-their-own-pace)
    Regular guided independent study opportunities
    Differentiated assessment

    What Shawnigan Lake School says about flexible pacing: This information is not currently available.

    Academic Culture Rigorous

    • Rigorous
    • Supportive

    A school with a “rigorous” academic culture places a high value on academic performance, and expects their students to do the same. This does not mean the school is uncaring, unsupportive, or non-responsive -- far from it. A school can have a rigorous academic culture and still provide excellent individual support. It does mean, however, the school places a particular emphasis on performance -- seeking the best students and challenging them to the fullest extent -- relative to a normal baseline. High expectations and standards – and a challenging yet rewarding curriculum – are the common themes here. Keep in mind this classification is more relevant for the older grades: few Kindergarten classrooms, for example, would be called “rigorous”.

    What Shawnigan Lake School says: This information is not currently available.

    Developmental Priorities Intellectual, Balanced

    Primary Developmental Priority: Intellectual
    Academically strong, creative, and critical thinkers, capable of exercising rationality, apprehending truth, and making aesthetic distinctions.

    Secondary Developmental Priority: Balanced
    Equal attention is paid to a balance of priorities: intellectual, emotional, social, and physical.

    What Shawnigan Lake School says: This information is not currently available.

    Special Needs Support Withdrawal Assistance

    Withdrawal Assistance

    Students remain in a regular classroom for most of the day, but are pulled out for extra support from a qualified special education teacher.

    • Academic Support:
      Support Type = offered
      Learning strategy and study counselling; habit formation
      Extra support and minor accommodations for children experiencing subclinical difficulties
    • Mild but clinically diagnosed ADHD
      Support Type = offered
      Extra support
    • Support for moderate-to-severe special needs:
      Special needs
      ADHD (moderate to severe)
      Learning disabilities
      Dyslexia (Language-Based Learning Disability)
      Auditory Processing Disorder (APD)
      Language Processing Disorder
      Nonverbal Learning Disorders (NLD)
      Visual Perceptual/Visual Motor Deficit
      Asperger's Syndrome
      Down syndrome
      Intellectual disability
      Williams syndrome
      Behavioral and Emotional
      Troubled behaviour / troubled teens
      Clinical Depression
      Clinical anxiety
      Suicidal thoughts
      Drug and alcohol abuse
      Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD)
      Multiple sclerosis
      Cerebral palsy
      Muscular dystrophy
      Spina Bifida
      Dyspraxia (Developmental Coordination Disorder)
      Cystic Fibrosis
      Multiple physical
    • Forms of support delivery:
      Support Type = offered
      A regular class with indirect support
      A regular class with resource assistance
      A regular class with withdrawal assistance
      A special education class with partial integration
      A full-time special education class
    • Additional Support:
      Support Type = offered
      Social skills programs
      Occupational therapy
      Speech-language therapy

    Gifted Learner Support Dedicated gifted class

    Dedicated gifted programs:

    Program = offered
    Full-time gifted program (parallel to rest of school)
    Part-time gifted program (pull-out; parallel to rest of class)

    Curriculum delivery: Enrichment (The main focus is on enrichment. This means that while students may work at a marginally quicker pace than public school peers, the primary aim is to study subject in broader and deeper ways.)

    In-class adaptations:
    Practice = offered
    Custom subject enrichment (special arrangement)
    Custom curriculum compacting (special arrangement)
    Guided independent study (custom gifted arrangement)
    Cyber-learning opportunities (custom gifted arrangement)
    Formalized peer coaching opportunities (specifically for gifted learners to coach others)
    Custom subject acceleration (special arrangement)
    Career exploration (custom gifted arrangement)
    Project-based learning (custom gifted arrangement)
    Mentorships (custom gifted arrangement)

    What Shawnigan Lake School says: This information is not currently available.

    Gifted education: If you want to learn more about gifted education, check out our comprehensive guide. It’s the first of its kind: it covers different kinds of gifted schools and programs, and a whole host of issues parents face in finding the right option for their gifted child.

    Class Sizes Not available

    This information is not currently available.


    What Shawnigan Lake School says:

    This information is not currently available.

    • Sports OfferedCompetitiveRecreational
      Downhill skiing
      Field Hockey
      Ice Hockey
      Track & Field
      Cross-country skiing
      Figure Skating
      Ice Skating
      Mountain biking
      Racquet Ball
    • Clubs Offered
      Art Club
      Astronomy Club
      Chess Club
      Community Service
      Dance Club
      Debate Club
      Drama Club
      Environmental Club
      Foreign Language Club
      Jazz Ensemble
      Musical theatre/Opera
      Online Magazine
      Outdoor Club
      Outdoor Education
      Robotics club
      School newspaper
      Student Council

    Tuition & Financial Aid


    Day Boarding Boarding (International)
    Boarding $48,300
    Boarding (International)$64,900


    Discount TypeEnrollment TypeAmount
    2nd child (sibling)all students5%
    3rd child (sibling)all students5%
    4th child (sibling)all students5%

    Need-based financial aid

    This information is not currently available.

    Merit based Scholarships

    Shawnigan Lake School
    Amount: $0
    Deadline: Rolling
    Eligibility Details: Students grade 8 to 12—In addition to our Bursary Program, Shawnigan awards numerous merit-based scholarships to new students. Applicants who currently have an “A” average and strong involvement in extra-curricular activities are encouraged to write Scholarship Examinations. Awards are based on competitive examinations (enriched mathematics, English composition, and school ability test), overall academic background and achievement, and extra-curricular involvement, including community service.
    For more details, visit: www.shawnigan.ca/parents/aid


    Total enrollment 500
    Average enrollment per grade100
    Average class size15
    Gender (grades)Gr. 8 to Gr. 12 (Coed)
    Boarding offered Gr. 8 - 12
    % in boarding (total enrollment)86%

    If you want to learn more about boarding schools, check out our comprehensive guide.

    Student distribution: This information is not currently available.



    Admissions Assessments:

    Assessment = requiredGrades
    Interview8 - 12
    SSAT (out of province)
    Entrance Exam(s)8 - 12
    Entrance Essay
    Application Fee

    Application Deadlines:

    Day students:

    Boarding students:

    What Shawnigan Lake School says:

    -$200 application fee

    -Photo of applicant

    -Copy of valid passport

    - Academic reference form filled out by Math teacher

    - Academic reference form filled out by English teacher

    -Copy of mid-year report from current grade when available 

    -Copy of final report card from last school year

    - TOEFL or IELTS-test (submitted only by international applicants)



    Acceptance Rate:


    Type of student Shawnigan Lake School is looking for: This information is not currently available.

    Day Boarding

    Student Entry Points

    Student Type89101112
    Day Acceptance
    (Acceptance rate)
    Boarding Acceptance
    (Acceptance rate)

    University Placement

    Services = offered
    Career planning
    Mentorship Program
    University counseling
    Key Numbers
    Average graduating class size130
    *Canadian "Big 6" placements48
    **Ivy+ placementsN/A

    *Number of students in 2015 who attended one of McGill, U of T, UBC, Queen's University, University of Alberta, or Dalhousie University.

    **Number of students since 2005 that attended one of Harvard, Yale, Princeton, University of Pennsylvania, Dartmouth, Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Stanford, University of Chicago, Oxford or Cambridge (UK)

    What Shawnigan Lake School says:

  • 73% of total 2014-2016 graduates are attending universities in Canada. Here are the Top 10 Schools: University of Victoria, University of British Columbia, McGill University, Queen's University, Western University, Simon Fraser University, University of Toronto, Dalhousie University, Carleton University, University of Alberta
  • 11% of total 2014-2016 graduates are attending universities in the US. Here are the Top 10 Schools: University of Southern California, University of Washington, University of San Diego, Brown University, Boston University, Northeastern University, Middlebury College, Georgetown University, American Academy of Dramatic Arts, University of Virginia
  • 5% of total 2014-2016 graduates are attending universities in the UK. Here are the Top 10 Schools: University of St. Andrews, Cardiff University, London School of Economics & Political Science, Oxford University, University of Glasgow, University of Leeds, Loughborough University, University of Lexter, Regent's University, University of Bristol

  • Notable Alumni

    Alumnus Graduation Year Accomplishment
    Henry Pybus Bell-Irving 1931 23rd Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia
    Peter Ladner 1967 Vancouver city counsellor. Journalist.
    Stephen Owen 1966 Federal Minister of Western Economic Diversification and Minister of State for Sport. Federal Liberal Member of Parliament for Vancouver Quadra.
    Barry F. Cooper 1961 Political Scientist and influential member of the "Calgary School" of political thought. Fellow at the Centre for Military and Strategic Studies.
    Steve Deering 1969 Declared 1994 "Geek of the Year" by Internet Talk Radio. Fellow at Cisco Systems. Worked at Xerox's Palo Alto Research Centre.
    Roger Stanier 1934 Influential in the development of modern microbiology. Made key contributions to the taxonomy of bacteria.
    Jon Kimura Parker 1977 Canadian concert pianist and Officer of the Order of Canada. Winner of multiple international awards and competitions.
    Tara Spencer-Nairn 1996 Canadian actress. Best known for her role in the TV series, "Corner Gas".
    Josh Jackson 1998 Canadian rugby union player, and member of the national rugby team
    Kristopher McDaniel 2000 Bronze-medal winning Canadian national rower. Two-time national champion at Harvard.
    John Lecky 1958 Silver medal-winning Canadian Olympic rower.
    George Hungerford 1962 Gold medal-winning Canadian Olympic rower. Winner of the Lou Marsh Trophy (Canada's top athlete). Officer of the Order of Canada.
    Matt Evans 2006 Canadian rugby union player. Member of Canada's national rugby team.
    Robert Stewart Hyndman 1933 Distinguished Canadian landscape and portrait artist. Created the portrait for Sir Wilfred Laurier on the 100th anniversary of his election, (2001).

    Stories & Testimonials


    The Leader

    Bransten M. (Burlingame, CA) - Shawnigan graduate of '15 and currently at University of Southern California

    "Shawnigan is whatever you want it to be. My dad went to school here, and the moment, I arrived, I knew it was different. So many doors have been opened for me, and I've had so many chances to push boundaries and achieve more than I thought I was capable of. Most importantly, I've learned the true meaning of friendship, and that's something I'll never forget."

    - Bransten was the Head of his House, the Captain of the Squash team and an ISA champion.


    The Athlete

    Mostyn F. (Regina, SK) - Shawnigan graduate of '16 and currently at University of Victoria

    "There are expectations here. I've learned that whether you're in the classroom or in the weight room, you owe it to your classmates and your teammates to give 110% effort. Going to Shawnigan is a privilege, and in order to honour this gift that I've been given, I need to take advantage of every opportunity, every time. And if I do that, I will succeed. I will."


    The Performer

    Tai W. (Duncan, BC)  - Shawnigan graduate of  '16 and currently studying at UBC

    "These have been the most incredible 5 years of my life. My older sister is a graduate, so I thought I knew what was in store for me when I started grade 8. But what I learned is that everyone's experience is different. Whatever you're passionate about, whatever drives you, you can find that here. The people are amazing, the friendships you make are amazing. Shawnigan is amazing."

    - Tai was the lead in the school musical 'The Wizard of Oz' and the provincial field hockey champion 2014/2015


    The Head of School

    Alex M. (San Francisco, CA) - Shawnigan graduate of '09 and Harvard graduate of '13

    "There is no way to quantify what I gained from my time at Shawnigan. I learned to embrace challenges, seek out opportunity and push the boundaries of possibility. Every success I've found since I graduated - whether at Harvard or in my professional career - is due in a very profound way to the education Shawnigan provided, and I will be forever grateful for it."

    - Alex was the Head of School, the lead in the school musical, received the Groves' all-rounder award for outstanding performance in all school areas and was a national and world champion rower



    • Canadian Accredited Independent Schools (CAIS) Associations
    • The Association of Boarding Schools (TABS) Associations
    • Independent Schools Association of British Columbia (ISABC) Associations

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