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Appleby College:
The Our Kids Report > Reviews
Grades Gr. 7 TO Gr. 12 — Oakville, ON (Map)


Roundtable Q&A Discussion About Appleby College (2020)

Appleby College alumni, current students, and parents shared their insights on the school’s culture, values, strengths, and weaknesses. Hear what Vera, Sonia Fernandes, Vanessa Barr had to say about the school.

Video Contents

Highlights from the Q&A discussion

Vera — current parent

Before they came to Canada, Vera says her daughter did not have a good experience as a student in China. The difference between that and her time at Appleby was night and day. Vera says her daughter gained confidence, and courage, at the Oakville, Ont., school. She learned to share her point of view, and have constructive discussions with teachers, says Vera. The school, she says, was inclusive and astounding, with so many opportunities on offer.

  • I was so impressed by the beautiful campus and so many activities, after-school activities and so many options for extracurricular activities. That’s my dream school. Then I applied for Appleby and my daughter had a really great time. Four years at Appleby, from Grade 9 to Grade 12.

  • The biggest impact Appleby has had is building my daughter’s confidence, and giving her the ability, and the courage, of questioning authority. My daughter had an unhappy experience in China, when she was in Grade 8. She hadn’t done anything wrong, but her teacher asked her to apologize. Here at Appleby, she started to become so confident. If she has a different point of view, she can argue with her teachers, she can discuss things with teachers, and it’s amazing.

  • Appleby always pushes you to grow. All the friends around her are outstanding. Her friends have won ‘optimal’ student awards, they have service awards, and my daughter said ‘I want these awards as well’.

  • Appleby provides many opportunities for the students. The students can join or start different clubs, they can have a dance club, you can start an art club, anything. You can build your own club. And many after-school activities start from Grade 9. They also have very good hockey and swimming teams. There are many different choices for the students. With languages, too, you can learn Chinese, you can learn Spanish, you can learn German. 

  • All students are accepted by the top universities in Canada and the U.S., so the curriculum must be very effective. The students are very successful in their careers. 

  • Appleby is inclusive. We come from all over the world. Whatever the skin colour and whatever the background, we are all one Appleby community, one family. My younger daughter used to go to a different private school. It’s like a more local private school. But Appleby is more international. It’s more open. The view is more open and it has a wider perspective. And Appleby—I don’t think there are many schools like Appleby.

  • The education system is totally different here in Canada than in China. In China, the school’s focus is on academics. But here at Appleby I think the school’s focus is to help students achieve comprehensive development.

  • The first surprising thing for new families is that we have a very dedicated and hard-working Principal. We can see him everywhere on campus. You can see him greeting the students in the morning. You can see him say ‘Hello’ to everyone on campus and can see him at every event—Open House, Christmas tree trimming, Chinese New Year celebrations. He’s so nice. My eldest daughter left Appleby in 2016, and he still remembers my name and also my husband’s name. It’s amazing.

Sonia Fernandes — current parent

Sonia’s family has lived all over the world, and came to Canada via the U.K. At first, her son did not want to come. He had anxieties around fitting in, making friends, and adapting to a new school. Appleby quickly put those fears to rest. The Orientation Trip, to the woods of Northern Ontario, helped set the positive tone of his Appleby experience. He loved studying in a multicultural, co-ed setting. As a parent, Sonia loved the academic support that was available, and the change she saw in her son.

  • My son had been in an all-boys school, as well, and one thing that met our expectations and ticked all the boxes was Appleby being a co-ed school, as well as a multicultural school. So that met our expectations, because my son was used to being in an international environment and Appleby offered all that.

  • His fear was actually to be able to adapt to a new school system and whether he would be able to make friends, but the school is just a warm and friendly environment for any students that come to Appleby. And what happened at Appleby is they have a wonderful program, which is the Orientation Trip.  He went on this trip because, until he started school, he was not confident in being able to make friends—and this trip actually made a big difference to him. He went on the trip, and he came back a happy child. It was an environment that Appleby created outside school where the kids were able to meet their colleagues and meet the teachers. So it was a very informal environment for them.

  • My son loves his school. He’s even talking about going to universities here in Canada, which a couple of years ago was not the case. He would have wanted to stay in the U.K. or in Europe. I see a child that actually loves the school environment, loves the multiculturalism. He finds that the students in general are very friendly.  He feels safe and he feels adapted to the school.

  • I think all students at Appleby are not treated just as a number, but they are valued as individuals. The teachers go out of their way to get to know and listen to the students. So I feel that the children are not all viewed as a group. They are looked upon individually and treated with their individual needs.

  • It’s the amazing grounds, the sports facilities, the variety of activities that school has to offer—being Music, being Drama, whatever the kids want to do. I find that will be a surprise for parents compared to other schools.

  • If the child is struggling, there is always guidance. There’s always someone. When my son had an issue with one of his subjects, we went through the Advisor. The Advisor immediately pointed me to the guidance counsellor, who had a meeting with him, and quickly they resolved the issue. If he needs a bit of more encouragement or if he’s struggling, there’s always someone that will actually help and put him up to the level that it should be. Similarly, they can help if he’s actually doing fantastically and he needs a bit more work or more push. 

Vanessa Barr — current parent

Vanessa Barr wasn’t sold on sending her kids to Appleby at first. She grew up in the public school system, and assumed it would be best for her daughters too. Appleby College won her over within their first week at school. She says the school always had her back as a parent. For her daughters, its community and diversity formed the perfect environment. Looking back, her happiest surprise was the experience they had as Grade 12 Boarding Students, and the independence it gave them ahead of university.

  • My husband convinced me that we were going to try Appleby, and from the very first week, I was sold. I didn’t really want my kids to go to Appleby at first. I was part of the public school system and felt that I wanted that same experience for my girls. I just was unaware and thought that I knew better, because I had just come from a different system. So I’m very grateful that he convinced me and we’re all very grateful as a family now that the two of them have gone through the program, and we couldn’t have asked for more. I had no idea what they might have been missing. It was that I really didn’t understand what a school like Appleby could offer. I had no idea what I could possibly have missed out on.

  • I would say that the biggest impact that Appleby had is building confidence. I’d say that both of my kids going through the program, doing the Boarding Student program in Grade 12, and going off to university, I felt that their level of self-confidence was something that I just was in awe of. There’s so much to try and so much to do and so much support that it’s just a wonderful confidence builder. I think it comes from Appleby.

  • I actually asked my younger daughter what she loves about Appleby, and she said it’s busy, and it’s fun, and it’s high-stress, but she said ‘in a good way’. She loves it at Appleby. She loves the energy there. That changes everything because they really do enjoy the work part of it as well as the fun part of it. The kids work really hard and it’s cool to be smart.

  • For my girls, my older children, their best friends are still the kids that they started with at Appleby in Grade 7. They’ve gone off and done their things, but when they’re together with that Appleby crew, they say it really just feels like home.

  • Fairness, transparency—those are some keywords that I would say describe the values of the school. All of the dealings that I’ve had with staff over the years—and you can imagine there have been many, with some of them really positive and some of them not so positive, just having kids go through different stages of their lives—and I always felt that the school had my back. I always trusted the school and the staff there to manage any situation. I had faith that they would do the best job that they could, and I always felt that we worked as a team.

  • Because co-curricular involvement is mandatory, I think it’s fantastic. I think my kids might have been those kids, but because it was mandatory, I think that they were pleasantly surprised, and so were we as a family, at some of the cool things they got to do. And then in the end, when they’re writing their equivalent of a résumé to get into university, they have this beautiful list of all these things they have done—whether it was the newsletter or it was organising the formals or being on the Student Council, all of these things that they had on their résumé that was just part of their everyday life there. And it was considered absolutely normal, and everyone participated.

  • The teachers make themselves available to help the students outside of their regular classroom time. My kids even joke that the teacher will email them back and it’s 9:00 at night and they’ve asked a question and they’re somehow still getting an answer if they need one. So I would say the teachers definitely go out of their way to make sure that everyone has what they need.

  • My own biggest surprise was the value in the boarding program in Grade 12. You quickly realise that it’s the best thing for you and for them, and it’s just such a great eye-opener before they go to university—just to have a little bit of practice on the studying, the independence, and quite simply getting along with roommates and figuring out what that’s all about. It’s not your family, and you have to sometimes adapt your behaviours and figure out what’s important to you with roommates. So those are all really valuable lessons. My kids would say it’s their favourite year there, when they were Grade 12 boarders. It’s just so good for their confidence and for their independence, to get their work done on their own and learn how to manage their fun time with their school time.

  • A lot of people when they started university found the workload that they were expected to do in their first and second year just overwhelming. They found it obviously more challenging, but they were used to that level of expectation and they’re made to be very independent on getting the work done, getting it in on time. That to me has so much value, even more so than the actual mark at the end of the day—the ability to want to do the work, get the work done, get it done properly and get it in on time.

  • The sports and everything have been fantastic. For us it was important because our kids weren’t super sporty and Appleby created environments where they kind of had to be sporty and they really enjoyed it. I don’t think they would have been able to do that at a regular school. I just think there were lots more opportunities and resources for them to experience, just a wider breadth of things to do.

  • Over the years I’ve seen nothing but improvement at Appleby. I haven’t run into anything where I thought that they didn’t handle it well or I was disappointed with how something went. I don’t have a good answer for you on how the school could improve because I think that they’ll exceed your expectations almost at every turn.

  • I think the diversity—both culturally and economically—I think that’s been a really pleasant surprise, and I think it is a surprise to a lot of people who might think that it’s just all one kind of kid that goes there, and it really isn’t. It’s not just that it’s culturally diverse, it’s economically diverse. That’s something that has been really great to see, and I think it just makes for a really great group of kids.

  • If you end up at Appleby, I’d say try to get involved. There is an amazing parent community and it changes your whole experience and your child’s experience. It’s changed everything for us as a whole family because we feel that we’ve gone through Appleby a bit together. And those years go by so fast it’s hard to imagine. They enter in Grade 7 and believe me, they’re graduating in Grade 12 in a flash. So take the time to get involved because just seeing your child around the school and having them see you there and be part of it makes it just so much better for them.

  • Sending our kids to Appleby College has turned out to be a remarkable journey, one that surpassed our initial expectations. It’s provided them with a nurturing and vibrant environment, fostering not just academic excellence but personal growth and resilience. The robust curriculum, coupled with a supportive community, has facilitated a comprehensive development that we are proud to witness as parents. Looking back, we couldn’t have made a better choice for our kids, and we are excited to see how the foundations laid at Appleby will guide them in their future endeavours.


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The 50-page review of Appleby College is part of our series of in-depth accounts of Canada's leading private schools. It provides a unique and objective perspective on the school's academics, programs, culture, and community.

  • A long history of academic innovation and program development.
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THE OUR KIDS REPORT: Appleby College

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