Sixteen-year-old St. Michaels University School student Ann Makosinski

Sixteen-year-old St. Michaels University School student Ann Makosinski

Free school year in Victoria for best and brightest

St. Michaels launches ‘Best School Year Ever’ contest to boost boarding school program

Where Australia once had its “Best Job in the World” campaign, St. Michaels University School is branching into its own quest for one highly motivated individual to have the “Best School Year Ever” in Victoria.

The Saanich-based private school is offering up a year’s worth of tuition and boarding – valued at $47,000 –  to one North American student who can prove they are a cut above. SMUS launched the campaign in hopes of expanding its boarding market.

“We want kids who’ve never thought about boarding to realize that a boarding education is full, it’s fun, it can make a difference in their lives,” said Bob Snowden, head of school. “We are a school that prepares students for higher learning, so students who are interested in going on (to post-secondary) are the sort of student that we want.”

The contest is aimed at attracting students who will be in Grades 8 through 12 in 2014-15.

Snowden said there are plenty of smart, talented students across North America who have never considered private school as an option for their education.

“We’re looking for something special,” Snowden said. “It’s hard to identify specifically what that is, but we’re looking for someone who is able to convey that an experience in boarding for a year could be the best school year ever.”

Students are asked to submit a short video that touches on who they are, their school career and how a year at SMUS would be the best school year ever.

The school will fly the top three candidates to Victoria for in-person interviews.

Those three will also have an opportunity to talk with notable students and alumni, including two-time NBA MVP Steve Nash (1992 grad, speaking via Skype) and current Grade 11 student Ann Makosinski, whose human-powered hollow flashlight won the 2013 Google Science Fair, and earned her a spot on Time magazine’s Top 30 under 30.

SMUS current senior school has a 550 student population, 250 of whom are boarding students. Snowden said most boarders are Canadian, but SMUS attracts students from some 20 other countries, including the United States, Mexico, China, Hong Kong, Japan and Germany.

“We’re reasonably successful as a boarding school in terms of filling all our places with good students, but there’s a gradual decline of boarding across North America, and we don’t want to be part of that decline,” Snowden said. “We are looking ahead a number of years and we want to make sure that we always have a boarding population.”

Snowden says the hope is that the school can provide a positive enough experience that the winner will ultimately graduate from SMUS.

“If they don’t have the means to pay for tuition after their first year, they would go into our financial aid pool. We give out over $2 million in financial aid each year to students who wouldn’t otherwise be able to attend the school,” he said.

A winner will be announced in early May and  SMUS plans to run this contest annually.

“It’s important for a kid to explore the way in which he or she can be all that is possible,” Snowden says. “If they want the best school year ever, we give them that opportunity.”

For more information on the Best School Year Ever contest, see