Seniors greet freshmen on the first day of school, September 2018.

This is why I like Admission season

Now that the calendar has turned to 2019, I am happy to find myself deeply involved in the admission process for next year’s applicants to Colorado Academy’s Upper School. January and February are the two busiest months for admission work, and the time when the Upper School Admission committee turns its attention to reading application files. After two successful Parent Preview days in the fall and interviewing many prospective students and families in the last few months, our application numbers are very healthy, and we are fortunate to have many excellent candidates from which to choose. We never take that for granted in a highly competitive educational market in Denver.

What are we looking for?

Prospective students and their families often ask me what we are looking for when we read through files and make decisions on applicants. There is no easy answer to this question, as we consider many different variables in the process. (Competitive colleges and universities approach their admission process in much the same way.) In the Upper School committee, we are certainly looking for strong transcripts, a reasonable track record in standardized testing, a demonstrated interest in athletics and the arts or other things outside the traditional classroom, interesting personal statements that demonstrate a student’s ability to express him or herself in writing, and a clear sense of why an applicant thinks CA would be a good match. We also read applicants’ teacher recommendations very carefully, hoping to find evidence of students who are engaged in their education in a way that makes them a joy to have in the classroom. As well, students who exhibit effort and perseverance are always looked upon positively.

Still, we know that most of our applicants are just in Eighth Grade, usually 13- or 14-years-old. We know that these students are still young and relatively “unformed.” They are growing and maturing, and when one also considers the inevitable vicissitudes of adolescent development, predicting the future for these students can feel like a daunting task. I’d like to think our professional experiences and the student’s own past history help guide us to make very good decisions, but nevertheless admission work is an inexact science to be sure. There is no formula to guarantee admission, nor should there be. But that is also what makes the challenge so exciting, too. These are all young men and women on the verge of coming into their own, whose future trajectories show great promise, and for whom an educational experience at a school like CA could be transformative.

‘We are building a class’

Ultimately, when we are looking at next year’s Freshman group, we are building a class. We want a motivated, dynamic group of kids, representing a diversity of cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds, interests, previous school experiences, and perspectives. We of course also take into consideration the nature of our current CA Eighth Grade class, the vast majority of whom will be staying on to enter the Upper School. Those whom we add to the mix in Ninth Grade—usually around 35 new students–must complement the group of students already here.

Every current Senior class includes many students I helped to admit as Ninth, Tenth, or Eleventh Grade students. In many cases I can recall what was said about these students in their files, what they said about themselves, and what promise I saw in each of them. It is always gratifying to watch these students mature and grow over their high school years. Some grow in ways we might have predicted; others go in different directions. (The boys especially grow physically in ways we could only imagine! What happened to all those small boys of four years ago?) But Colorado Academy is a place where all can find their niche in positive and productive ways and fulfill the potential we saw in them.