It’s not uncommon for parents to pay non-refundable application fees ranging from $200 at Invictus to $4,500 at Dulwich College (Singapore) without any guarantee of a place, at least in the immediate future. If parents choose to apply to multiple schools to help increase their chances of securing a place, this can be a costly exercise.
According to GESS, “This is not very common, except in instances whereby the company covers multiple application fees. Otherwise, parents tend to enquire at multiple schools but only apply to select few.”
So, to avoid paying a ‘wasted’ application fee, parents need to contact schools directly for availability information for specific year groups; it’s important to gather as much information as possible. If not, parents could be applying for a school place, unaware if their child will be on a waitlist of tens or hundreds.
A spokesperson for Middleton (Tampines) explains: “Many schools, including Middleton, offer personal consultation, school tours and open houses for families so that they have a better understanding before applying and paying for the application. This helps them make better choices.
“I don’t think parents are paying multiple application fees, as much as I do think they would like to apply to more than one school at any one time!”
Very few schools post their availability online – and we encourage all schools to update this information on their review page on whichschooladvisor.com/Singapore. SAS is one of the more transparent schools and it shows the availability of places in each grade on its website – open, near full enrolment and closed. UWC South East Asia also posts availability on its website, and the school closed applications for its August 2019 entry when it became heavily oversubscribed.
Hewson at SAS explains: “There is a weekly update of space availability on the SAS webpage to inform prospective parents of the current space availability. Parents can also speak with an admissions specialist who will guide and inform families around availability and eligibility prior to the submission of an application and fee.”
Dover Court International School says: “Although it is difficult for us to confirm how long the family will stay on the list as Singapore is a transient city, we give as much information as possible to allow the family to make the best decision for them and their children. Families join the waitlist in date of application order.”
Most schools will keep your application ‘on file’ until a place becomes available; so, in other words, that application fee is buying your right to sit on a waitlist. Once again, this policy varies by school. For example, EtonHouse Orchard charges parents a lower $500 application fee, and then gives them the option of paying an additional reservation fee of $2,140 to keep their application on a wait list.
According to the 2019 International School Admissions Industry Report, less than half of schools worldwide operate at least a small waitlist in one or more grades.
Due to a rapid growth in expat numbers, there has always been an undersupply of international school places in Singapore. But this is changing. With the opening of more than six schools in the past five years, and with three new schools opening in 2020, waitlists are getting shorter.
Yes, places at top-tier well-established schools including Dover Court, SAS, Tanglin Trust and Dulwich College (Singapore) are still in very short supply. But classrooms at many of the newer schools such as Middleton International School (Tampines) and The Grange Institution – and at schools that have moved or are moving to larger campuses including GESS and Nexus – are yet to be filled.
An indication perhaps of how competitive the international schools market has become, GIIS SMART Campus is offering a saving of $1,500 plus $250 discount on its registration fees for Grade 1 to 12 for applications made before June 30, 2019. DPS International School is waiving its registration fee of $2,000 for any student who has already paid a full registration to any other international school in Singapore.
Chatsworth’s Bukit Timah campus is waiving its application fee and offering 20% off its confirmation fee for applications received by July 31, 2019. And The Grange Institution is currently offering introductory annual tuition fees of $16,983 for early bird applicants; this will rise to $28,283 but, while the school still only has 16 students it does not appear to be in a position soon to charge parents more.