Admissions Office Dismisses Recent Comparisons of Boarding, Day Schools

Although articles in national newspapers have questioned the selectivity of boarding schools in comparison with exclusive private day schools, the Andover Admissions office begs to disagree. A recent article in The Wall Street Journal, entitled “Private-School Admissions: The New Math,” discussed the increased competition among students to get into elite private day schools, calling into question the idea that preparatory boarding schools are the most exclusive in the nation. According to Dean of Admissions Jane Fried, however, this interpretation is misleading. She said, “The journalists were comparing the selectivity of our admission process for 212 students from across the nation and around the world to day schools with relatively tiny incoming ninth grade classes. The Andover admission team has very different goals and aspirations than our peers at day schools. The size, strength and diversity of the applicant and matriculant pools along with the yield rate provide a true picture of the quality of the student body and the selectivity of the admission process.” The Wall Street Journal reported that the Roxbury Latin School of Boston admitted only 13 percent of their applicants last year, while PA admitted 21 percent of boarding applicants. The reporter attributed this trend to the growing number of private day school applications and stated that the number of boarding school applications has remained relatively stable. Ms. Fried emphasized that “admit rates do not tell the whole admission story.” She said, “Each spring I run an admission conference for New England deans of admission where we talk about the trends of the past admission season. I can report that the boarding schools in this cohort, all of which are secondary schools, have seen a steady growth in applications.” According to Ms. Fried, the number of elementary and middle school applications at private day schools has decreased due to a steady demographic decline. “We have been looking at the demographics, and it seems that the number of [elementary and kindergarten] applications is plateauing out with a slight decrease since the baby boomers are moving up to the high school level, so we see an increase in those applications,” said Laurie Dosik, an Assistant Director of First Program Admissions at Dalton School in New York City. Ms. Fried said, “By focusing on the acceptance rates at a few high-demand day schools like the Latin School, the [Wall Street Journal] reporter missed the steep downward trend that elementary and middle school admission directors in the country are focused on.” In day schools the majority of students enter the class at either the elementary or middle school level. Thus, selective day students admit very few new ninth-graders, while the majority of new students admitted to boarding school are new freshmen. Director of Admissions Velura Perry at the Roxbury Latin School, a boys’ school for grades 7-12, verified that the pool of seventh graders accepted is greater than that of rising ninth graders. “We generally increase the size of the class at ninth grade by seven to twelve [students] per year, but the majority of the class is admitted before they enter seventh grade,” said Ms. Perry. PA’s efforts to form a diverse student body and recruit students from across the world results in a lower statistical selectivity rate, according to Ms. Fried. “Andover could spend a lot of time and resources increasing its local applications but instead we dedicate most of our travel budget to recruit families who have little knowledge of this kind of educational opportunity. I am confident that the admission team could pump our applications to over 3,000 if we focused on New England only,” said Ms. Fried. Each fall, Andover admission officers travel to 70 cities, including regions where boarding school is a rarely employed educational option, to expand the PA’s international reach and to bring a diverse student body to Andover. As a result of PA’s recruiting campaign, the 2004-2005 academic year saw a six percent increase in boarding applications, creating greater competition for available spots. The admittance rate for boarders was 20 percent, while 25 percent of day students were accepted. “It would be a mistake to think that it was easier to be admitted as a day student this year compared to last year when the day admit rate was lower. When the Academy reduces day spaces, only the very strong day applicants apply. Consequently, the day admit rate may be higher than the boarding admit rate but the day market is more self-selecting than a number of segments of the boarding market,” said Ms. Fried.