In order for a placement to become official, formal school approval is required by securing a signed Placement Acceptance Form (PAF) from the school.
There is a handy feature in Global Link that will allow you to email the PAF and student application directly to a school for electronic approval. We encourage all volunteers to use this method when possible due to its ease and the fact that it doesn't include large email attachments which often get caught by school email filters!
Please see this video to learn more about this feature:
Written instructions are available here: How to Email a PAF and Student Application to a School
The online PAF is an easy way to have your school provide the required information for the placement. In addition, using the online PAF instead of the traditional paper form provides the added benefit of automatically updating the school year start and end dates in Global Link so that we will have the most accurate information in the database for future reference. The online PAF also automatically uploads a PDF version to the Host Family application so that the school does not have to fax or email a scanned version of the paper PAF to AFS.
Given all of that, it is sometimes necessary to bring the PAF directly to the school official to have it signed, especially if the school has been unresponsive to email. Click here to learn How to Generate PDFs of a PAF & Student Application via Global Link or download the form. Once signed, this form can then be loaded into Global Link by using these instructions: Submitting a PAF in Global Link. The signed PAF can also be emailed to [email protected] and your Team Development Specialist.
You may want to visit School Information in Global Link to learn more about managing school information including how to add or update the school contacts to whom the PAF can be sent.
Having trouble getting a school to say "Yes!" to hosting an exchange student?
Try some of these tips:
- When reaching out to schools for placement requests, a good practice is to call the high school main office first to ask who the correct contact person might be in reviewing the acceptance of an AFS student. Always send a follow-up email that includes the school and district leadership (principal and superintendent) if the main contact is a different individual.
- Remember that lots of schools that are quick to say “no” – so think of “no” as a step on the way to “yes.”
- Ask “what are the steps to enroll this student?” rather than “do you accept exchange students?” You aren’t really giving them the option to say ‘no’ this way.
- Try to include all the decision makers from the beginning such as the superintendent, the principal, etc.
- Know your facts! Include the “AFS Information for Schools” packet in your initial email request that describes what an AFS exchange program is, the support that we provide to students and host families, and the differences between J-1 cultural exchange visas and F-1 international student visas. This is especially important for schools/districts new to AFS.
- The host family is often the key to turning “no” to a “yes,” especially if the family is fully screened and hooked on a student. The family's status as residents and tax payers is important; having an exchange student is no different from having a child of their own attending the school. Ask the host family if they have any connections to the PTA or on the school board or in the administration.
- Read through any policies the school and district have on exchange students. Sometimes you can fin these by googling the name of the school district and the phrase “exchange student policy.” Sometimes the decision makers aren’t familiar with the policies or have forgotten about their official policy. This can work in your favor!
- Note right away that the AFS students are on J1 visas, and there is no cost to the district to host them. The school doesn't need a designated school official/officer. And AFS students aren’t enrolled in ESL or IEP classes. An document describing the difference between F1 foreign students and J1 exchange students can be found on the Build Relationships with High Schools page.
- Note if there is an AFS partner school nearby, and don't hesitate to name drop. “We have had x number of students in the neighboring high school______; feel free to reach out to Principal So-and-So there to have him share his experience with AFS.”
- It is okay to ask why they have said "no." Sometimes getting to the root of the issue can help. If they don't know why they have a particular policy they might be more likely to reconsider it. Or if they had a bad experience with a different program, you talk about AFS’s support and screening processes.
- Even if in the worst case scenario and you get an ultimate ‘no,’ when things settle down, see if you can schedule an appointment to talk more about it. We will always have interested families, so can the school reserve a spot for us or reconsider a deadline or something? It is one thing if the school is full and another if their deadline is very early. Look for solutions for the future even if it means waiting until winter to talk about upcoming years.
You may also want to review the article on Building Relationships with High Schools.