In order for a student’s placement to become official, formal school approval is required by securing a signed Placement Acceptance Form (PAF) from the school.
How to Send a Placement Acceptance Form (PAF)
There is a handy feature in Global Link that allows 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 spam 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
Please note that some students coming to the U.S. each year are U.S. citizens. When they come on a U.S. passport, they do not need a J1 visa, and we tag them in Global Link like this:
While we still need school approval, the approval language is a little different for these students. Please use a special PAF in these cases, which you can find here.
For all other students, the online PAF is the easiest way to share information between the school and AFS. Some benefits of the online PAF include:
- The school doesn’t need to scan and email or fax their signed approval.
- The PAF is automatically added to the host family application with no added steps by volunteers or staff.
- Global Link will automatically record who signed the PAF for future reference.
- The school start and end dates will be automatically recorded too.
- The online PAF doesn’t include large attachments, making it more likely to be received.
Given all of that, it is sometimes necessary to bring the PAF directly to a school official to have it signed, especially if the school has been unresponsive to email requests. 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@example.com and your School Partnerships Coordinator.
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.
And, once you receive a PAF, scroll down to What to do After Getting the PAF.
Best Practices when Sending a PAF
Keep reading for some best practices when securing a PAF including:
- Giving Back to the School
- Personalize your Ask
- Suggested Wording
- A Special Message about Sponsored Programs Students
- What to Send
- Consistent Follow-up
- Record the Approval Process for Next Time
- What to do After Getting the PAF
Giving Back to the School
When it comes to working with schools, adopt a “Give Back” philosophy. Be sure when you are asking the school to accept a student that you are sharing with them a resource or opportunity they might appreciate. The PAF email described in the section above features resources for schools. You can share professional development opportunities on our website or info about a currently available scholarship or an upcoming webinar. You can check out the Share Resources with Schools article for tips. To stay current on what is available to schools, consider becoming a School Representative.
You can also ask what support the school may want or need related to intercultural learning. Please share any requests with firstname.lastname@example.org.
Personalize your Ask
When sending a PAF or calling to ask about school approval, be sure to personalize the message. Some ways to do this might include:
- noting the name of the community and the host family
- referencing previous conversations
- highlighting current or previous AFS students
- stating how hosting a student aligns with the school’s mission
Schools respond better when they know they are making a difference in their local community and are appreciated!
Some wording suggestions to consider over the phone or when personalizing your email:
- Use warm and encouraging language and show your thanks/gratitude/appreciation
- Refer to our students as International Exchange Students rather than Foreign Exchange Students
- Refer to our students as “students,” “kids,” or “teenagers” rather than “children.”
- Be truthful – while we can’t promise the experience will be amazing, we can talk about the support AFS provides if things don’t go smoothly.
- Some schools like the reminder that these are J1 Visa Public Diplomacy Students
- Note that the format of the host family's address in the online PAF email is wonky and it might look better to change it from this format
to this format:
Special Message for Sponsored Programs Students
If you are seeking approval for a Sponsored Programs student, be sure to highlight that in your message!
For example, you might say:
_________ is the recipient of a prestigious, competitive scholarship through the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. These scholarship recipients are bright, hardworking, and poised to create positive change in the world. In addition, schools that host one of these government-sponsored students are recognized as “Medallion” Schools. The awarded medallion is a symbol of recognition and pride as it marks a decision to support the U.S. Department of State’s public diplomacy initiative and expose your students to diverse cultures, attitudes, beliefs, and languages helping them be life-ready no matter where their next steps take them.
What to Send
When sending the electronic PAF, you have the option to choose which forms to send for the school to review. You should always send anything the school requests or requires. If you aren’t sure what to send, remember that often less is more. Student applications can be VERY long, and we don’t want to burden the school with having to sort through pages of photos or unnecessary documents. The best things to include are:
- The cover page (it has all of the student’s biographical info)
- Academic Record
- Health Certificate
- Parental Authorization
Other forms schools commonly request include the ELTiS (English Language Assessment) and a copy of the passport. Most schools do not need to see the student’s photos, host family letter, or statement from the parents at home.
When sending the PAF email from Global Link, it sometimes gets stuck in Junk Mail folders at the school. Thus, it is recommended that you forward the copy of the message that goes to your personal email address to be sure the request is received. A sample introduction to your follow-up email might be:
I wanted to quickly check in to be sure you received the message below as it sometimes goes into Junk Mail and to inquire if you have any questions before approving the ____ family’s request to host an exchange student for the coming school year.
If you do not get a response to your messages in two business days, you might want to follow up with a phone call to the school to ensure your request is seen AND that you sent it to the right person.
Sometimes it takes several emails and phone calls to get a response. Depending on the time of year and the proximity of school or AFS deadlines, you may follow up weekly or more frequently. Try not to hassle the school, though, and don’t hesitate to visit the school in person with the PAF form if needed. During your visit, you can reference the email you sent with the student’s application.
If you have heard back from the school, but they are hesitant to approve a student, check out the Hosting at a New School article for tips.
Record the Approval Process for Next Time
To make this process even smoother next time we want to seek approval for an AFS student at this particular school, be sure to update the process and/or contact people in MyAFS. (Or send the information to School Partnerships staff to update on your behalf!)
What to do After Getting the PAF
If the school completes the online PAF, they will get an automatic thank you note from AFS with a link to the signed PAF and the student’s application as well as a note asking them to review the student’s immunizations with the school’s health technician as soon as possible.
You may also want to follow up with a thank you message of your own. That can be a good time to ask the school for next steps in enrolling the student, to reiterate the need to confirm if the student’s immunization record is acceptable, to share additional resources with the school, and to show our appreciation for their partnership. See the Thank you for Accepting an AFS Student Flyer that can be shared with schools after they approve a student.
Here is some sample text when thanking a school:
Thank you for approving _______ from _________ to attend your high school for the XX-XX school year! Is there anything else you need from us or from the host family to complete enrollment? Does this student's vaccination history meet your school's requirements? Please let me know! And check out this best practices flyer to help clarify any questions you might have on next steps regarding this student as well as ways AFS can support your school in building active global citizens.
If you have ANY questions about securing school approval, please contact your School Partnerships Staff person.