Victoria, BC | Grades K - 12 | Shortlist
Both of my children have attended St. Michaels University School as boarders: my daughter from gr. 10 and my son from gr. 9. They really enjoyed the close community, challenging classes, and overall experience. The school really gave them the opportunity to experience many different things whether it be the comprehensive outdoor leadership program or the various high-level classes interlaced with experiential learning techniques. Their boarding community is a unique environment that I feel really fosters a personal connection and lasting friendship between the students. The best thing about the school would have to be their multitude of leadership opportunities. My children have both been heavily involved in the school, in official roles and in various clubs as well and have found it extremely rewarding. I feel that they also appreciated all the AP classes SMUS offered which they definitely took advantage of.
The teachers and administration at SMUS really go above and beyond when it comes to the student body and the school environment. As parents, we’ve been able to form close relationships both with some house parents and other members of the administration. They’ve always kept us aware of the goings on at the school and with our children through various sources, for example, the respective house blogs. As far as we know, any issues that arose with the students were handled effectively and fairly. For a school that prides itself on instilling leadership in their students, it’s no wonder that the leadership at the school is exceptional and commendable.
Of course, as with any school some teachers are better than others but that’s simply to be expected. Regardless, all the teachers appear to be passionate and well-learned about their respective subjects and their jobs in general. The teachers at SMUS really care about each student and it shows in their personalized teaching and reporting. Furthermore, due to the small class sizes, teachers are able to pay adequate attention to each student and provide personalized relevant feedback. The classes are both challenging and fulfilling as students are given the opportunity to take classes that they’re passionate about and my children are certainly very happy about that and thus are able to be more engaged in the subject matter. When anything of academic concern arises with a student they always take the time to address it and brainstorm with the student how exactly they could do better in that specific class. They'll also send an email briefing the parents.
Above all else, the curriculum at SMUS strives to be balanced in all aspects. The classes are a healthy amount of challenging while also remaining fulfilling for the student themselves. I would have to say that the school doesn't just focus solely on numerical grades and whatnot, rather they aim to have each student actualize their inner potential. Their belief that all students are capable is one of their many strengths. SMUS offers many different AP classes and as my children took advantage of them, I feel that the combined environment of academic rigour with extracurricular balance has really prepared them for their post-secondary education. Essentially, while SMUS does value academic achievement, what the school really wants for its students is balance in all circles of life.
I feel that there are plenty of extracurriculars offered at SMUS. There’s something for everyone and if there isn’t, it’s fairly easy to start a club of your own. In terms of sports teams, there are many ranging from intramural level to competitive, high seeded teams. I really think that the multitude of extracurriculars really speaks to how much SMUS understands that academic achievement isn’t the only thing that matters and how valuable it can be to students to have a space to develop other interests that may turn out just as important later on.
The student body is average sized but regardless of the school's size, school spirit seems to be very high among the students. In addition, the school really encourages the students to try to be as involved as possible. To the best of my knowledge, the school community is extremely friendly, welcoming, and open. Due to moderate size of the student body, most students in a grade are familiar with one another which goes a long way in brightening the community atmosphere and in quickly putting new students at ease while keeping them from being overwhelmed. Like I’ve stated before, the community at the school feels very welcoming and as far as I can tell from my kids, the school environment heavily fosters closer personal connections.
My children really enjoyed their time at SMUS and I feel like they’ve really made friends there that will last them a lifetime. They always look forward to every resumption and talked happily about their fun experiences at school. It is a beautiful community school, we are very proud of knowing we made the best decision in deciding to send our kids to SMUS. The school also holds a number of themed days and spirit events that are mainly organized by the student body with support from the staff and teachers. The boarding community even holds monthly house games for all the boarding students. The presence of various all-school activites plays a role in fostering community bonding and stretghening school spirit as well. Overall, it seems that a number of the students enjoy their time there.
In terms of boarding, they always send out weekly emails to the parents to keep us appraised of all the different activities that occurred in the house that week. We cherished the house parent’s personal child update and regular photos of their activities. It was also good that we could call house parents easily to ask any questions and discuss our kids…most of the time, it was a great relief talking to them. Since each student is assigned a boarding advisor, they also send update emails about any concerns that have arisen with our child or simply to update us with more specific information. There are many opportunities for parents to get involved such as planning the Christmas Gala or on Teacher Appreciation Day. If we were located in Victoria, we would have liked to take advantage of some of these opportunities to get involved in the parent community. But from what I know, I feel that SMUS provides enough opportunities for parents to get involved in the goings on of the school.
The campus at SMUS is absolutely beautiful and another great thing about it is that it’s centrally located near numerous bus stops and a small shopping plaza that’s frequented by students. Students are welcome to go off-campus, within reason of course, and they take advantage of this fact whether it’s to go walking up Mt. Tolmie during the warmer months or look at the local sights by the pier downtown. The neighbourhood around the school appears to be pretty quiet and safe.
Our admissions process was fairly smooth. We simply applied using the online application and then we had a Skype interview that was fairly simple as well. In the application, there were a series of questions meant to be completed by the student, that asked about their passions, extracurriculars, grades, and so on. All in all, the questions were comprehensive, far-reaching, and mainly seemed geared in giving the admissions team a full picture of the applicant and their various skills outside of the academic. As I recall, there were placement tests too, in just Math and English. There was also the choice for them to send in their PSAT or SSAT results. It wasn’t stressful at all and the admissions officers were more than willing to answer any of our inquiries about the school. I really feel like the focus of the admissions department is ensuring that your children would make a valuable addition to the school community.
Each student is assigned one of the academic advisors who advise them throughout their time at SMUS. I feel that all the counsellors are well-versed in the Canadian and US university application process. Additionally, there are counsellors with specific specialities, for example, there are counsellors specialized in sports scholarships, US financial aid, etc. The University Counselling Department begins informing the students about the university application process as early as grade 11 and they continue into the beginning of grade 12. This comprehensive course program is dedicated to informing students about the university experience and helping them apply seamlessly, while also giving them the opportunity to complete their various personal essays and/ or statements . Furthermore, the counsellors encourage them to make specific appointments and of course, the student is free to make other additional appointments.