International school admissions: top tips for parents

Choosing the right school is the foundation of every successful international family relocation. Catalina Gardescu of the American International School of Bucharest offers her advice on how to navigate school admissions.

The happiness of every single family member is a critical success factor for international job transfers and relocation. Unsettled families are still a major reason for international assignments ending early.This is why making the right school choice is so important for relocation success – and why it was an overarching theme throughout November’s Relocate Global Great International Education & Schools Fair webinars and resources.Catalina Gardescu is the Manager of Admissions & External Relations at the American International School of Bucharest. She handles admissions, parent relations, communications, marketing and fundraising alongside her team of nine. She has been part of developing admissions policy and enrolment projections, organizing parent events, leading rebranding and fundraising campaigns.

Making education your priority

“Whether your child is going to be happy in school or not is going to make-or-break your experience, regardless of how wonderful the company is, how great the job is and how beautiful the house,” says Catalina Gardescu, Manager of Admissions & External Relations at the American International School of Bucharest.
“Make sure you treat your child’s education as a priority, not just for the child, but for the family. So many times in my work in admissions I’ve witnessed heart-breaking situations where we were not able to offer a child a place in a class when, unfortunately, the family had already signed the contract with the job.”Parents have a vital supporting role in making sure everyone gets the best out of the international relocation experience.Here, Catalina offers four top tips from her nearly two decades’ experience in international school admissions on the issues parents need to be aware of to be well-prepared and choose the right school – either in person or remotely.
  1. Do your homework
“Nowadays, we live in a world where we have tons of information online,” says Catalina. “Not just on the website, but on parent forums, from relocation companies and destination service providers, even HR and colleagues. Get as much information as possible in the areas of interest for your children and support if needed.” 
  1. Always ask to see the school – in person or remotely
“Always ask to see the school, whether in person or virtually,” Catalina advises. “It always amazes me when parents apply without seeing the school. The situation we are in now with the Covid-19 pandemic has given way to so much technology so it is often possible to take virtual tours.“Ask to see the school in session and when you do visit the school, turn off your phone, be present and take advantage of the opportunity. Pay attention, not only to what you are seeing, but also to the atmosphere. Also look at the kids: are they happy, are they engaged, do they have friends? Be observant.”
  1. Involve your children
This is very important and varies according to the age of your children, says Catalina. “When you are able to talk to your child about this move or the potential to move to another school, try to understand what his or her expectations or worries are.“You can bring the child along to the tour – maybe on the second visit. Any school that is committed to service you well should be able to offer you two, three, four or more meetings according to your needs.” 
  1. Be prepared with your paperwork
School reports are almost always required during the admissions process at schools all over the world and not just reports for the past year. “You might want to start creating the file when you know the transfer is approaching,” suggests Catalina. “Email teachers who know your child and his or her needs very well for references and, of course, have your ID papers in order.“If there are any other documents that might be relevant, make sure you have them there too. In that respect, I just want to say to parents of children with special educational needs to not delay any response from schools by not offering all the information you have.“If you have any education psychology reports or Individualised Education Plans – send them to the school. That way, they will be able to give you a more specific answer right away rather than have tens of emails go back and forth.”

Prepare for success

In essence, says Catalina, supporting your child through an international relocation and change of school is about preparation.“The more prepared you are, and the more you pay attention during the school tours and interviews, the more chance you have that you will make the right choice for your children’s education and set yourself up for success as a family wherever you are going.”

About Catalina

Catalina Gardescu currently heads the Admissions, Communications and External Relations Department at the American International School of Bucharest.  Catalina’s portfolio of work includes parent interviews, admissions projections, publications and communications, parent relations, fundraising, alumni relations and strategic marketing.  She is part of the leadership team of the school and helps create the school budget, marketing and communication strategies, as well as conducts the school fundraising program.   She sits on the tuition support committee and heads the school’s scholarship committee.Catalina was involved in creating the first ever ECIS Admissions Committee, Open Apply admissions workshops – of which she designed and led Admissions Certification Courses in Shanghai, Singapore and Sofia - founded the International Admissions Bulletin (currently published by Open Apply) and continues to support the profession in any way she can.Catalina likes spending time with her family, reading, working out and walking her dogs.  Find Catalina on LinkedIn or at .

Exploring Curricula & Higher Education Options webinar

Meet the speakers

Find out more about all of the speakers and panelists who participated in the autumn 2020 Great International Education & Schools Fair.

Find the perfect school from the comfort of your home

Now is the ideal time to discover the right school for your child. As schools hosted Open Days and Virtual Events throughout the autumn, we used the opportunity throughout November to showcase the schools around the world that welcome relocating families and international students, not only at the beginning of a new academic year, but also at any time, with rolling admissions to meet the needs of families on the move.

The next Great International Education & Schools' Fair is coming in spring 2021

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