On Saturday, November 17, Keystone Academy held its second salon series on education with a talk called “A League of Their Own: From Top Prep Schools to the Ivy League.” Founding Head of School Malcolm McKenzie led the discussion, which featured insider advice from two experienced admissions experts: Rachael Beare, the former dean of admissions and financial aid at Hotchkiss; and Karl Furstenberg, former dean of admissions and financial aid for Dartmouth College and former president of Ivy League Admissions Committee.
McKenzie led the discussion, asking audience to shout out ideas for what they think admissions officers are looking for. Those present nailed the desirable attributes as they shouted out characteristics like creativity, motivation, and ambition, as well as less concrete characteristics like a sense of social responsibility, wisdom, humanity, and a global mindset. While Beare and Furstenberg both agreed that admissions officers are looking for those characteristics, they acknowledged that most applicants know what they’re looking for, but the challenge is knowing how to represent that adequately in one application.
Beare, who is the dean of admissions for Keystone Academy, reminded the audience there are many factors in admissions decisions over which parents have no control, and that they should focus on what they can control. While admitting that the admissions process was deliberately mysterious, Beare gave an important piece of insight: the goals of the institution as a whole are important. If all of their orchestra’s violinists are graduating that year, their interest in violinist applicants will increase. She noted that they are not looking for one person to be all things, they just want to know what quality the student most possesses.
Furstenberg echoed Beare’s sentiment, stating that he has never met one person with all the characteristics that admissions officers are looking for. He said that candidates are admitted for a variety of reasons, but urged all students to take an interview with a local alum if they are offered the chance.
As Keystone will be a boarding school, the talk also featured a short video with statistics extolling the advantages of a boarding school education. One intriguing statistic showed that students in public schools spend an average of eight hours per week on homework, while those in boarding school spend 17 hours per week on homework. A particularly thought-provoking figure showed that a whopping 44 percent of boarding school graduates hold top manager positions midway through their career.
McKenzie, who will finish out this school year as the Head of Hotchkiss before moving to Beijing for his tenure as founding head of school, then spoke about his experience as an educator and at Hotchkiss, which is a member of the prestigious Eight School Association, a group of private preparatory schools on the East Coast of the US. He stated that distinguishing characteristics of these schools, and what will distinguish Keystone Academy, are small group teaching in a conference and debate style of discussion; the diverse community; strong extracurriculars; a residential setting; and an engagement with and preparation to solve today’s big problems.
Keystone’s salon series will continue with a third installment, which will cover how a school environment influences teaching and learning. If you are interested in attending the third salon, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Photo courtesy of Keystone Academy