By Michelle Hu <email@example.com>
What is your official title?
My title here is assistant director, and there are several of us, so not “the” assistant director, but we are kind of like any typical admissions officer in that the way it works here is we have a certain territory of the country, and I am responsible for being at least one of the readers on all of the applications that come from there, and then taking my applicants through the committee process where final decisions are made. So that’s kind of how we organize things around here. So, my area includes Indiana, but it also includes the states of Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Kansas and most of Missouri. So, that’s kind of my area.
So, most of the Midwest?
Yeah, most of the Midwest, upper Midwest, pretty much.
How familiar are you with Carmel High School?
Well, I visited in September, late September, and certainly talked to counselors and students then and had seen the school. The school also sends a school report with all the applications which lists some basic facts about the school, things like demographics, some academic information. You might ask your counselors to take a look at that school report, because that’s what all admissions officers at all the schools see and it’s something that all admissions officers use to get a sense of the rigor of the school and what types of students go there, things like that.
How do you think a student from Carmel compares with another one from
Indiana or the Midwest?
One of the reasons that I’m responsible for an area, one of the reasons we divide things up that way is so that we have people who are responsible for getting to be familiar with certain parts of the country and certain areas and regions and schools. It’s my job to learn as much as I can about Carmel, about surrounding schools, and about the area. So the way it works is that all applicants are evaluated contextually, that’s kind of the official word we use, ‘in context,’ and what that means is for each student, we look to see how that student has used or taken advantage of the opportunities and resources that they’ve had available to them.
So for a given student at Carmel or otherwise, that context might be your region, maybe your city, or your area or your state, and in addition to that, your school and also your family context. On some level, all Carmel High School students, because they go to the same school, they have the same opportunities and resources, but at the same time, we also look at their background, their family context, what they’ve done outside of school, in terms of growing up or kind of experience they’ve had, so a whole range of different contexts, the school being one of those.
So, let’s say a student from Carmel who takes advantage of all the opportunities that it has to offer, would that seem better than a student from another school who doesn’t have as many opportunities?
Well, no, not necessarily. What that means is that so, within a given school context, let’s take a fictional student from Carmel and a fictional student from another school without as many AP courses, and certainly Carmel has a lot of offerings in that area, in terms of AP and IB courses. We want to see that within that school context, the student is challenging themselves to a reasonable degree. And at Carmel, that doesn’t mean taking every single AP or IB course, because that, certainly in a place like Carmel and many other schools, there’s not enough time physically in the day for that sort of thing. But, let’s say we’re looking at a student from a more rural public high school that only has a few AP courses. Well, if that student takes as many AP courses as they can, we don’t penalize them because their school doesn’t offer those courses. That’s kind of what we mean by looking at ‘in context.’ We wouldn’t expect a student with fewer resources at their disposal, either from their school or their family background, to do more than they’re able within that context.
So on the other side of the spectrum, how do you think Carmel compares with private, elite schools on the East coast or the West coast?
Well, from my reading and within my areas, I can’t really speak too well outside of my area, and this is my first year in the admissions office so I’m still kind of getting some experience in here, but in terms of my area, Carmel is certainly a very strong school, public or private. And in fact, I can tell you from the applicants that we saw in the early action season, even though they were all deferred, it was certainly a very strong group. The fact that we didn’t accept the one in the early action process doesn’t really say anything about the school itself or the region, but certainly, as a group of students and
certainly as a school context, it’s a very strong one. It’s just that in the early action round, it’s just about distinguishing oneself from a very tough and talented pool. It compares favorably to a number of schools, public or private, and I think nationally, as well.
The way the system works here is that applications are read by a couple of people. From Indiana, I would be one of them. And then what we do is, I take those reader comments to a committee of people, which includes the dean and some other senior officers here, and I present the reader comments and kind of summarize the application to the committee. And then the committee makes a decision to accept, defer or to reject in the early action round. So, the way the committee process tends to work is that I certainly have students that I think are strong and students that I might want to push for, but when you present those students to the committee, it’s really up to the group. The committee, the dean, is someone who’s going to see the whole national context, as are the other senior officers. So what it comes down to then is, ‘How does this student fit into the national context that we’re seeing in the early action pool?’