Overheard in Committee — More Good Conversations

Admit It!  These blogs are kind of addictive (both for the readers and the author).  Committee is in many ways similar.  It allows us to have really great conversations about students, about our field, about what it is that we do and why we do it.  We appreciate all of the back and forth that has taken place throughout this blog series, and we look forward to continued conversation.  And, for those of you interested in our sugar intake, we’ve finished off a bag of Wheat Thins, a bag of dried fruit mix, a good portion of a five-pound bag of trail mix, several additional single servings of 100-calorie snack packs/Pringles/peanuts, one entire box of Cheeze-Its, most of the M&Ms and two two-tiered trays of cupcakes.

Overheard in Committee yesterday: This student is entirely out of context.

Out of context, or OOC for short, is a term we use when a student has changed high schools either multiple times, or towards the end of high school.  Oftentimes, this can wreak havoc on a student’s course selection, GPA/class rank and extracurricular involvements.  We tend to see students who are “OOC” more often than you might think given we are in Virginia which is home to a lot of military and diplomatic families.

Students who are out of context can often have lower GPAs and class ranks than they deserve because their new high school gives them a GPA and rank as if they had been at that high school all four years even though they were at other high schools with different teachers, different classes, different weighting systems and different grading scales.  They can also have what appears to be a less demanding curriculum.  This often happens if students move from one state to another as different states have different graduation requirements.  Those students are then required to take freshmen-level courses during their senior year in order to graduate, which prohibits them from taking some of the meatier senior-level courses.  Or maybe they were taking Russian at their first high school and moved to a school that didn’t offer Russian so they have to start over with a new foreign language track.  Finally, these students who attend multiple high schools often have quite the disruption in their extracurricular activities.  Sometimes as transfers they’re not eligible to play their sport for a year.  Or a club they were super involved in at a previous high school isn’t offered at their new high school.  And, as a new student, they are often not elected to leadership positions because other students are more ingrained in existing organizations.

So when reviewing these OOC students we try to put them in the context of their original high school (especially if they moved just for senior year) and try to gauge whether we would have taken them had they remained at that high school for the senior year.  We also try to get a sense of the extent of the disruption the moved caused to their academic progress from both the student and counselor.  We also get super impressed when these students say transfer from a non-IB school to an IB-school and jump right into the diploma program if that’s allowed.  Or we get really excited when they are in fact elected captain or president of an organization.

We share this particular Committee discussion to try to illustrate the holistic and thorough nature of our process.  We really do try to put every applicant in the appropriate context, and we do our best to provide a thorough read and review.  The outcome may still be one that’s misunderstood by the recipient but we hope everyone understands that the process we went through to arrive at that decision was a good one.

More to come next week as we hopefully bring our 2013 freshman committee process to a close.

Wendy Livingston ’03, M.Ed. ‘09
Associate Dean of Admission

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