A Not So Secret Secret

Psssst. I hope this isn’t really a secret. But there may be be some confusion about this, so I thought I’d try to clarify things a bit.

It has to do with admissions, and the not so secret secret is: UCC recruits students. That’s right. We do. We recruit.

It’s more obvious when it comes to boarding admissions, in part because there just aren’t that many families who can plunk down 50 K to cover the cost of one year’s schooling. As a result, we need to actively look for boys, boys who are bright, ambitious, and able to contribute to co-curriculars.

That last qualification may make you shudder. Does “contribute to co-curriculars” mean we recruit boys who play hockey? The answer is yes. Does it mean we also want to pursue boys who are passionate about football and soccer and  debating and music? The answer is yes , yes, yes, and yes again.

By the way, this interest in cocurriculars is not just a nice to have. In boarding schools it is a “gots to have.” No residential school in the world wants its students to head back to the dorms (where there are precious few adults) each and every afternoon. For boarding schools to work, the boys have to be just as engaged from 4 to 6 as they are from 8 to 3.  That sort of complete engagement in the full life of the school is the raison d’etre of residential schools.

As the day admissions market has become increasingly competitive, we are moving from a tradition admissions mode to a recruitment approach on that front, too. (Any institution  can admit boys, but if we all agree that great schools are about great teachers and great students,  how can we find the boys who will get the most out of a demanding place like UCC?)

Have we messed up in the past? Sure, there have been years when we have had too many boys who played the same sport. But we’ve learned our lesson, and now we are recruiting broadly and aggressively. We’d like to have our boarding program, for example, have 50% of the boys from international backgrounds, and 50% from all over Canada.

By the way, if you have suggestions for how we can find ambitious boys that would be a great help. This year we have already visited Timmins, Calgary, Vancouver, Fredericton, St. John, Moncton, Quebec City, and Montreal as well as Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Porto Alegre, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Beijing, Shanghai, Bangkok, Manila, Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi, Mumbai, Malaga, Madrid, Istanbul, Paris, Geneva, Frankfurt, Moscow, St. Petersburg, Barbados, Bermuda, Greenwich, Boston, and New York. This need to find and support great boys is why financial aid is such a vital part of UCC’s strategic plan.

I know there are some skeptics out there, whispering, “I know they just recruit for hockey.” All I can say is that is not the case. This year, by the way, our varsity hockey team, which had a good combination of boarding and day students, didn’t make the playoffs for the first time in recent memory. (A sidebar: one of our challenges with hockey is that a number of our most talented day student feel they are better off playing in the GTHL than in the school league. But more on that in a future blog.)

So the bottom line is this: UCC recruits. We want our student body to be a reflection of  Canada, and of Toronto, and we are blessed because so many of our boys are passionate about a great many things. We believe in the adage “Many roads to manhood,” and our admission team works hard  to insure that we have a student body that reflects and embraces that simple truth.


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