Admissions Uses Affirmative Action

Phillips Academy practices soft affirmative action, according to Jane Fried, Dean of Admissions. Fried said, “Professor Kennedy talked about hard affirmative actions, which would be quotas and numbers, versus soft affirmative action policies. The Office of Admissions would definitely fall into the soft affirmative action status.” “In addition to actively recruiting students of color, we are very intentional about recruiting low-income students,” she continued. According to Fried, the Office of Admissions is particularly conscious about recruiting applicants whose family members have not finished college. “This is a whole new idea and a whole new world, and we actually have to spend quite a bit of time helping the parents and the students through the process in terms of what it takes to apply here,” Fried said. Fried said that she has visited hundreds of schools while working at Andover. Fried also said that she has “a lot of experience with public schools serving low to middle-income families, and in those schools, there are plenty of students who are from all races: Asian, White, Black, Latino.” “What is absolutely the case today is that in schools that serve middle to upper income families, whether they are public or independent, it is very rare to find a diverse body of students,” Fried continued. She explained that the Office of Admissions operates similarly to a small, liberal-arts college with regard to recruitment. “There are no goals or quotas stated at any time to staff or interviewers. However, that said, we are really well-known in admissions for our recruitment,” said Fried. “We will visit, for instance, seventy cities in the United States from mid-September all the way through the end of January. In that recruitment strategy, there is a concerted effort to have the strongest, most diverse applicant pool that we can possibly have.” According to Fried, Andover helped create student-of-color programs designed to help the school identify talented students of color. Fried also said that the Office of Admissions’ first priority is to “get as many strong, diverse and talented students into that first applicant pool, and shepherd them through the process.” “Some families need more support getting through that process than others,” said Fried. “Selecting students is challenging, but it makes it a lot easier [when] we have lots of choices within that pool,” said Fried. The Office of Admissions’ efforts to actively recruit a diverse student body has proven successful because for the first time in the school history, 40 percent of the student body now identifies themselves as students of color. Of the remaining 60 percent, 53 consider themselves to be white, leaving seven percent of the student-body as unspecified. Fried explained that the Asian-American population has been the fastest growing demographic on campus. “Part of that [statistic] is that people automatically assume…that there has been a growth in the number of students coming from Asia, but the growth has been far more in recent immigrants to the United States,” she said. “Through [the admissions] process, the only numbers that essentially are used are for an academic rating, a personal rating, and an overall rating. We also, a few years ago, went to a new model, the Sternberg model.” The Sternberg model gives the applicants a rating concerning creative skills, ethical reasoning and practical skills. “One of our goals in reading these files is to ask a lot of questions to teachers [regarding] what they teach, what pace they teach it, and why they teach that way. A lot of that information is to find out what kind of educational background the student has, but it also gives us a much greater sense of what kind of school that student is coming from,” said Fried. According to Fried, the Office of Admissions does their best to “assess students [within] the realm of opportunities that that student has had.” “It’s important for students to understand how we select students here so that the students who identified themselves as being from under-represented populations [feel like they] belong here,” she added.