From The Yield, Winter 2014
The Yield asked Ray Cross, Director of Admission, Marianapolis Preparatory School (CT), Scott Conklin,Director of Admissions, Episcopal High School (VA), and Peggy Laramie, Director of Admission, Mary Institute and St. Louis Country Day School (MO), about the makeup and function of their admission committees.
Who is represented on your admission committee? Do you include people outside of the admission office? Do you invite new members each school year?
SC: The admission committee at Episcopal consists of seven admission officers, including the director of financial aid. Overall, our committee is well connected to the EHS community (all seven are student advisors, two teach classes, five live in the dorms, and six coach). The group has a strong sense of the type of student we are seeking, while balancing the general needs of the admission office. Although we don’t directly include members outside of the admission staff, we often consult with the school’s medical director, learning support staff, teaching faculty, and/or coaches as necessary.
RC: Our admission committee is a diverse group representing members of the community who engage with our student population in various ways. These varying perspectives are critical to enrolling the candidates that will perpetuate the Marianapolis culture and identity.
Committee members include all admission office professionals; an assistant dean of students; a teaching faculty member, who is also the associate director of campus ministry; a seasoned faculty member, who has served in multiple roles ranging from teaching faculty to residential assistant coordinator to class advisor to international student advisor; and lastly our director of summer programs, who also has spent time in our communications department and has a background in secondary school admission. Each committee member works with our students in various capacities— academic, extracurricular, and residential.
Each year we seek to include one or two new members in an effort to add fresh perspective and insight, while maintaining some continuity with the involvement of those that have served on the committee in previous years.
PL: As a school encompassing grade level entry points from early childhood through high school, our committees look a bit different in each division of the school. The director of admission sits on each committee. The associate directors of admission, who are each responsible for a division of the school, chair the committees. The lower, middle, and upper school division heads serve as committee members for their appropriate division. One or two faculty members also serve on each committee. At the lower school level, the learning specialist also sits on the committee. In the middle and upper school, the deans of students for each grade level serve on a specific grade committee. One of the college counselors has also joined our committee to help serve our largest entry point, the 7th grade. Her knowledge of common practices at the post-secondary level proves beneficial to us time and time again. The perspectives of the deans and division heads really help with the important task of building a class.
We also add new faculty members each year. While it is a tremendous amount of work, it serves as a good form of professional development for faculty, who learn a great deal about area schools and the decision-making process. Faculty also appreciate the opportunity to learn about who may join their classes the following year.
Has your school undergone a significant change or evolution (e.g. enrolling international students, new board initiatives around enrollment), which has required you to adapt/adjust your admission committee composition? How have you handled it and aided that transition?
SC: Our admission committee has remained consistent in the past several years. While we seek the experience in our admission office that reflects each aspect of school life at Episcopal—and audit our team each year to ensure it— we have not made changes to our admission committee in recent years.
RC: This past spring I moved into the role of director of admission, which represented a shift in the admission office. With my role changing, we added a new member to the team and placed an emphasis on working closely with other offices on campus to develop a stronger sense of interdepartmental continuity and partnership. This shift to a targeted advancement model has strengthened the work that we do as a community.
The new structure has allowed us to work collaboratively to identify the important values and qualities each of the students joining our community should possess. As we know, a school’s admission office plays a large part in crafting the student body; however, it is monumentally important for every community member to be on the same page with regard to appropriate fit in alignment with our mission.
PL: Each year we tweak our processes and procedures. In the last few years, we firmed up our confidentiality forms to be signed by committee members and tightened the evaluation rubric used by file readers. We also hope to refine our mentorship of faculty, who are new to the file reading process. We have also made sure we include teachers of various disciplines on the committees; for instance, for the lower school, in addition to a grade level classroom teacher, we have added the music and physical education teachers to the committee to be sure to bring a wide range of valuable perspectives to the group. Likewise, specialist teachers are part of the committees for our older students.
What type of orientation do you provide for new admission committee members when preparing for the year?
SC: While there isn’t a formal orientation program in the admission office, all new faculty at Episcopal participate in a week-long orientation in which our office plays a large part. We have also been fortunate to have very little turnover on the committee, so the demand for training new officers has been minimal. Most importantly, we feel that each person on our admission team has an obligation to train members of the committee in their own areas of expertise. Such an “on the job” training approach is one that we feel has worked best for the culture of our office.
RC: The process of involving new committee members begins with an invitation. It is important for them to understand the significance of the role and for us to emphasize the fact that we have identified each individual as a trusted/valued contributor to the conversation and discussion surrounding the school’s incoming class. Following their acceptance, we will have several meetings to discuss those qualities and characteristics that we have traditionally found to be essential in successful Marianapolis students. Setting the foundation, and establishing a common ground prior to reading files and evaluating prospective students, helps avoid major philosophical differences of opinion as we move through the process.
PL: We share a packet of information that clarifies the testing which is part of each grade level admission process (we use the SSAT for grades 5–12). We review the middle and upper school application used by all members of the St. Louis consortium of independent schools so that committee members understand what types of information we are seeking from our applicants and their families. Most important in the process, a veteran admission committee member serves as a mentor for each new member. We read files in one centralized location with the associate director nearby to answer committee member questions. We are not paperless yet. I hope we can get there in the near future!