Monday, March 16, 2015

Dear 8th Grade Parents . . .

Ivy Guirlande 

This blog is not typically directed toward middle school students, but bear with me on this. We recently received our 'matches' of who was offered a seat at ElRo by the DOE for next fall.  This list includes some students who are picking between us and a specialized high school (some other students are also choosing between us and a private school). I've been getting phone calls and emails from parents/guardians of these students with offers and I'm hearing one question over and over again: "What percentage of students go to Ivy League schools?"

The short answer is, I don't know. I don't know because I don't keep track of what percentage of students get into any particular group of colleges. The Ivy League is an athletic conference (congrats Harvard, btw, for making it to the bracket). It also happens to be a grouping of particularly old, particularly well-respected, and particularly selective colleges. But, there are more than eight amazing colleges to choose from and giving magical power to these eight is not productive for anyone (other than maybe those eight and their revenue stream generated from application fees).

With that said, I won't keep you in suspense. Yes, we've had students admitted to the Ivy League. Yes, we've had students attend the Ivy League. Yes, this has occurred in the past two years. Yes, we've had students get admitted to the Ivy League and choose to attend a school that wasn't in the Ivy League. Yes, sometimes those schools they choose instead are even public universities (and no, they did not choose University of Michigan, or University of Virginia, or University or North Carolina, Chapel Hill).

This occurs because the cornerstone of ElRo's philosophy is individual fit and personal choices. Ivy League schools are great schools for a lot of people. If and when ElRo students opt to apply to them, I support their applications 110% and celebrate with them if they are admitted. As anyone can see from Ivy League admission profiles, it is common for some highly selective schools to admit fewer than 10% of applicants that apply. As you can extrapolate from that data, it then comes as no surprise that out of the total ElRo student body, we see a similar percentage of students who are in the typical range of admission for these schools. You can't know in 8th grade if you'll fall into that category, but if you do end up there, no matter where you go to high school, you'll be in the running for admission.

Instead of fixating on 'Ivy-ness' I instead encourage students to think about fit. In what environment do you learn best? Do you value competition amongst peers or are you more of a self motivated learner? Do you like feeling like a big fish in a small pond or would you prefer to be in a more homogenous setting? Do you like a traditional setting or one that is more progressive? Do you like writing papers or taking tests? When you consider those things, you very well might end up with an Ivy (or three) on your list. When you consider those things, you might instead uncover a set of totally different colleges that will make your face light up when you talk about them.

In closing, parents/guardians please remember that sending the message to your child that their high school is going to 'get them' into college is not a healthy message to send. Asking what percentage of students go to Ivy League schools insinuates that the high school is the reason for admission. Instead, be reminded that highly selective colleges are looking for outstanding candidates for admission regardless of where they go to high school. Support your child. Embrace their strengths. Celebrate their talents. These are the ways to maximize their admission to the college of their choice. Also keep in mind the rules of basic statistics. Our school has approximately 125 seniors per year. Our average SAT score this year was 1226 out of 1600/1842 out of 2400. Those scores are AMAZING for an urban public high school. Those scores are, however, outside the typical range of admission for an Ivy League school. Thus, it isn't surprising that a specialized school might have a higher percentage of graduates going to the Ivy League. It is just too hard to make a meaningful comparison when the pools of students are so different. But, I'll put it this way: if a senior here has the grades, test scores, and extracurriculars to be in range for admission at an Ivy, they will have equal consideration as their peers at other schools with similar grades and scores and extracurriculars.

I know the 'Ivy' question comes from a good place. Parents and guardians are just trying to exhaust every possible option to give every available opportunity to their child. This is New York City and it can be hard to see the forest through the trees when it feels like the landscape is fiercely competitive. But, do what you can to breathe and trust that you have raised an outstanding child. If they got into ElRo I can promise that they will get into a great college for them, Ivy or not.

As with the considerations made when enrolling in college, I urge middle school students to use a similar process now in selecting a high school. Do you like big or small? Do you want individual attention or can you navigate through on your own? Just like the Ivy League isn't right for everyone, ElRo isn't right for everyone. We want students who want to be here.

If you do pick us, we are SO excited to meet you at orientation and start you on your journey to college.