Reading season has become one of the most exciting parts of the admission process, yet also one of the most challenging. The reading season is a marathon, not a sprint. Before reading season starts, you as the director should get confirmation from your head that no committee member will be asked to assume any additional responsibilities not critical to the admission process. To get your committee ready for the marathon it is important to set clear expectations; to instill team spirit; reinforce comradery; and to encourage committee members to take care of and pace themselves.
It is important to set clear expectations for each team member, such as:
- The minimum number of files to read and evaluate each week.
- File safety and security. Our established reading areas are in our homes, in our offices, and in the admission conference room. As the admission director, you are responsible for the integrity of the each file and therefore it is your responsibility to know where each file is at all times. If you allow committee members to remove files from the office, make sure you have a sign in-out system.
- Confidentiality. Committee members should not discuss any of the applicants' files with anyone in the community not serving on the admission committee.
Since you and your committee will be spending many hours in your conference room, take steps to make this area as comfortable and secure as possible. “Comforts” can include a trip to buy soda, candy, crackers, and fruit. I am personally a big fan of Starbursts, and my office keeps the local Starbucks open.
- To keep the process on track, stay on schedule. This may mean meeting once a week, twice a week, or even daily. Whatever you decide to do, make sure your committee understands that these meetings are mandatory. Sometimes life gets in the way and things happen such as illness, an advisee crisis, or a blizzard. Always have trained faculty readers available to step in and fill a gap.
- If you have members on your committee who are new to admission, prepare them for the dynamics of the selection discussion. Remind them to keep an open mind. Be respectful of others’ opinions and keep your emotions in check. Let them know that it is ok to become emotionally attached to an applicant, but not to be surprised if others don’t feel the same way. We all fall in love with the kids we have interviewed, but not all of them will be the right fit for your school.
- Before you begin making decisions, assign each officer a very specific task such as keeping track of students who are requesting financial aid, any impact athletes, artists, musicians, diversity, siblings and legacies.
If you do not use a scoring system for your applicants, I recommend that you create one. Here is an example of what we do at St. Mark’s: admission committee members vote using the vote sheet, and the score sheet is where each officer logs in their notes and concerns. The vote sheet stays in the file and the score sheet stays with the officers who have read that particular file. We also log individual decisions and individual note sheets and bring them to each committee meeting to discuss why the decisions were made.
- This should be a trackable and measurable system to help you manage the likely success of the applicants who matriculate.
- Make sure your committee members understand the weight that is put on standardized testing and how scores are used in evaluation process. View an SSAT score interpretation webinar on your Member Access Portal (MAP).
- As the director, you or someone on your committee should be well versed in the various grading systems from different countries.
- Keep your head of school informed of any "siblings or legacies" whose candidacy is likely to be in doubt. DO NOT let your head be surprised about any decisions you have made regarding these important applicants.
In conclusion, whether you send all your decisions online or by mail, you and your committee need to check, double check, and triple check the details – names, addresses, nicknames, grade accepted to, financial aid awards, and parent names. If you are mailing letters, make sure the name in the letter matches the name on the envelope.
As our dear departed friend David Erdmann, former dean of admission and enrollment at Rollins College (FL) and namesake of the Erdmann Institute, used to say, “It’s not a mistake until it goes out the door.”
Good luck and Happy Reading!
Webinar: Readying Your Admission Committee