By Juliana ’24 and Claire ’23
Breakdown of the admissions process
On a fateful day in January, young students throughout Los Angeles clicked the submit button on the Marlborough application. On a fateful day in March, they celebrated their acceptances. As Marlborough students, we have all gone through the admissions process. However, only a few of us truly understand the decision-making that got us here.
When the application opens up, Admissions and Database Coordinator Erika Alarcon and Admissions Assistant Charisse Charley process the applications as they are received, organizing them to later be read by Senior Associate Director of Admissions Christine Thornton and Director of Enrollment Management & Collegiate Partnerships Jawaan Wallace. Applicants are required to submit several documents including a transcript, standardized test scores from their schools and teacher recommendations.
While the deadline for application submission is early January, prospective students are welcome to submit their applications as early as August.
“We opened up the application at the end of August this year and within two hours we already had an application,” Wallace said.
Applicants for 7th and 8th grade then participate in a group activity session. Once the prospective applicants schedule their sessions on campus, the admissions team then organizes these students into groups, making sure students from the same school are not grouped together. These group activity sessions replace the traditional interviews for 7th and 8th grade applicants, in order to obtain a better understanding of how applicants will perform in Marlborough’s school setting.
“What we found in the past when we did interviews at those ages is that the interview process was intimidating,” Thornton said. “At that grade level, working together allows us to see how they interact.”
Students applying for 9th grade and above are interviewed as part of the admissions process. The majority of the interviews are conducted by Wallace and Thornton, but other members of faculty may conduct these as well.
All applicants are required to complete a “Character Skills Snapshot,” which is used to identify different character traits of each applicant. The admissions team and faculty provide character traits that they believe are successful in classrooms and the Marlborough environment. The team hones in on applicants whose traits align with those desired characteristics.
“There’s no right or wrong,” Thornton said. “The Character Skills Snapshot is a snapshot of where that student is and how they see themselves at that time. It’s just an interesting tool and another data point for us.”
Academics and extracurricular activities are also major factors considered in the admissions process. In its admissions process, Marlborough emphasizes participation in a wide range of activities and good grades.
“Marlborough is known for its strong academic rigor which is something we pride ourselves in, so grades are a very important piece of the process,” Wallace said. “We rely heavily on the transcripts that are sent, but those do not tell the whole story, so recommendations are extremely helpful.”
The entirety of a student’s application is read by two to four people. In addition to Marlborough’s admissions team, Director of Middle School Sean Fitts and Interim Upper School Division Head Regina Rosi Mitchell will also be occasionally involved. Thornton and Wallace read every application received and ultimately make the decision.
“Reading applications is the best part,” Thornton said. “You get to really dig into the files and spend quality time with [the applicants]. Getting to know the students is the fun part.”
Equity in the admissions process
In alignment with its core value of championing inclusion, the Marlborough admissions team has made it a point to focus on equity within their admissions process.
There are many different factors that play into the admissions process. Is the applicant a star athlete? Are they a legacy student? Do they need financial aid? As the Marlborough admissions team examines each application, they look for the qualities of a Marlborough student.
Post-COVID-19, changes to the admissions process have made the application process more equitable. Perhaps the most pronounced of these changes is that Independent School Entrance Examination (ISEE) test scores are no longer a part of the application process. This follows research showing that Marlborough students who had applied with lower test scores did just as well academically, if not better, than some of the students who tested higher. Furthermore, getting rid of ISEE test scores has alleviated that inequity as access to private tutoring is a benefit that not all applicants have. Instead of ISEE testing, the new Character Skills Snapshot has become a significant part of the application process.
“The assessment looks at a variety of different factors that gives us a sense of a student’s character, which to me, is the most important,” Wallace said.
Other potentially inequitable factors, such as athletic recruitment and legacy prioritization, have also been called into question. Regarding sports, Marlborough admissions continues to maintain their agreement with all of the area independent schools that they are not supposed to actively recruit athletes. While coaches can encourage athletes to apply to Marlborough, as well as notifying the admissions team about an applicant, pure athletic talent is not the ultimate deciding factor of admission.
Additionally, if a student is a legacy, meaning they have a parent or sibling that went to Marlborough, their acceptance is similarly not guaranteed
“[Legacy] is just something that is noted,” Wallace said. “It doesn’t give anyone an advantage.”
The Marlborough admissions team is also responsible for examining the financial aid needed by applicants. This year, Marlborough is utilizing a platform called “Clarity,” which allows families to put in all their financial information to determine how much need they have. Continuing their focus on equity and inclusion, the Marlborough admissions team ensures that every applicant initially gets a blind read, meaning that financial considerations will only come into play later in the process.
As Marlborough admissions continue to make adjustments to the application process, equity remains one of their top priorities.
“Everyone’s so different and that’s what we want,” Thornton said. “We want a study body that reflects Los Angeles.
While some may spend months thinking about whether Marlborough will choose them, many applicants are also faced with the decision of whether or not they will choose Marlborough.
As we near the end of the first quarter, many “sevies” in the class of 2028 have shared their reasons for choosing to become Marlborough students.
Although the admissions process can sometimes be labeled as stressful, many 7th graders cited the group activity sessions as one of the experiences that made them want to come to Marlborough.
“My favorite part of admissions was when we were doing the group project and we had to make structures out of noodles and marshmallows,” Jocelyn ’28 said. “Someone in our group figured out how to shoot little pieces of spaghetti everywhere and it was just really fun.”
Many students enjoyed how the Marlborough admissions process gave them a firsthand glimpse into Marlborough and its community.
“[The improv club] was just really funny to watch … it was cool to be a part of Marlborough without actually being a part of it and it made me want to go,” Dylan ’28 said.
Another major factor in students’ decisions to come to Marlborough are the legacies that their families have at the school. Whether following in the footsteps of the adults in their families or hoping to spend more time with older siblings before the dreaded goodbye at the end of senior year, many students were motivated to come to Marlborough because of their family members.
“I just have been hearing so many fun stories about Marlborough from [my sister] and I think it’s really fun to be here with her because we’re just creating so many memories together,” Katharine ’28 said.
For some students, the decision to come to Marlborough wasn’t a difficult one. Marli ’28 explained that she had wanted to come to Marlborough since 5th grade.
Overall, the Class of 2028 has a number of reasons for choosing Marlborough. So far, many 7th graders expressed that they are enjoying their time at Marlborough, highlighting electives and athletic teams as their favorite parts about the School. Like Moore, many students who chose Marlborough have found a welcoming community within the school environment.
“I’m glad I [got in],” Marli ’28 said. “I love it here.”
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