Students enhance school admissions process

The beginning of November brought the first prospective students trickling onto campus, wondering if they will join the students meandering to and from classes. Led by current students, the applicants walk from chemistry to the squash courts, hopeful that they, too, will soon belong on campus.

This fall, nearly 100 student ambassadors and the five admissions officers will work together to ensure a smooth admissions process for the 1100 prospective students looking to join the school. When the application for students applying for the 2016-2017 school year launched on Oct. 15, the search began to find the best students to add to our campus next year.

Hopeful applicants will be touring the campus until late January, when the application closes Jan. 15. By Jan. 29, the entire folder for each student must be complete, including the interview.

The doors of the admissions office will close around Feb. 1 to applying families as the office begins to sift through all the applications and prepare them for the admissions committee.

The lead student admissions ambassadors are seniors Josh Doman, Sumter Fiveash, Berhan Getachew, Kathleen LeBreton, Ashley Rey, Sabrina Sparkes, and Nicholas Tassopoulos. They are beginning to organize open houses and planning the best ways to show off the school to the applicants.

“When I shadowed [at Westminster], my shadow buddy really made the school for me. Because she was so nice and welcoming, I wanted to come to Westminster. I want to make other students feel just as welcomed,” said Getachew.

As head student ambassadors of admissions, Getachew and the others organize open houses without administrative help. They begin with a presentation for the parents, and then assign families to a specific group and tour route that best highlights the school. Applicants must write an essay on campus and have a group interview, both of which the heads coordinate.

All the admissions officers are part of the interview process for prospective students, participate in open houses, and adopt a shadow student, so the applicants can get a more comprehensive view of the school.

When current students become part of the admissions process, instead of only faculty, applicants can better understand daily life at the school.

“The best way to show off a place is not to say facts, but to tell your stories,” said Sparkes. “When giving a tour, if a student explains while touring Broyles, ‘This is where I won my photography prize after spending months in the dark room,’ it explains so much more about the school than if an adult says ‘Broyles houses the photography studios.’”

Another aspect of the process made special by student involvement is the interview with applicants. In every interview, a student ambassador and two teachers are present to get to know the student better. Ambassadors usually interview 15 to 20 prospective students, both Middle School and Upper School applicants.

“The unique thing about Westminster admissions is that you get interviewed by a student,” said Getachew. “Westminster students have a better perspective of what the student body needs, maybe more so than the teachers, so we know what kind of students would be a good addition.”

The admissions officers also like the interview process, because it allows them to get a cumulative perspective on the whole student.

“What I really appreciate about our application process is how broad it is. We look at SSAT scores, their transcript, teacher recommendations, and the interview. I think it is very fair,” said assistant director of admissions Julie Williams. “We try to look at a whole child’s life.”

One of the ways that applicants are considered as a whole person, including their academics, extracurriculars, athletics, and character, is through the admissions committee.

For each school, there is an admissions committee composed entirely of faculty members. Between 10 to 20 people, the committee is made up of coaches, teachers of various subjects, grade chairs, and the deans.

Each member contributes their opinion on the application, so all aspects of the applicant are considered.

“By the time someone is admitted, 30 people have seen their folder,” said Williams. “No folders are weeded out before the committee meets, either. Every applicant is given the full consideration of the admissions committee.”

Looking forward to next year, the admissions office will be moving to Scott Hall due to the tight quarters of the current office, too small for the 900 families trafficking through each season.

Accomodating more than 30 people at a time for 300 visits during the season, the new space will ease the process of assessing each applicant.