IAN TICE/THE HOYA
IAN TICE/THE HOYA

By early next week, thousands of high school seniors across the country will have come home from school to frighteningly small envelopes in their mailbox, containing either an acceptance or a rejection from Georgetown, with little distinguishing the two.

But many students waiting for a decision will instead listen to the results over the phone as their parents read them from home: of the top 12 schools that sent students to Georgetown last year, eight were boarding schools. Two were preparatory schools that do not offer boarding, and two were public schools.

The top five schools, Phillips Andover Academy in Andover, Mass., St. Ignatius Preparatory in San Francisco, Phillips Exeter Academy in Exeter, N.H., Choate Rosemary Hall in Wallingford, Conn., and The Lawrenceville School in Lawrenceville, N.J., submitted between 54 and 69 applications apiece. In total, the top 12 high schools accounted for just under 100 students, or approximately 6 percent, of total enrollment in the Class of 2017.

But with these high schools taking steps to increase diversity on their own campuses through scholarships and financial aid, “prep school” doesn’t necessarily mean white, affluent and Northeastern. In fact, Dean of Undergraduate Admissions Charles Deacon cites Georgetown’s top feeder schools as both a source of the kind of diversity Georgetown seeks in each freshman class and as an indicator of Georgetown’s success as a top university.

“I call some of those schools a better barometer of our U.S. News ranking than the actual news ranking because it tells you where the most high-powered students are applying to colleges and enrolling,” Deacon said.

Founded in 1778 in Western Massachusetts, Andover has served as an Ivy League pipeline for much of its existence, and the school sent 15 students to Georgetown last year — the most of any institution. Yet, with 48 percent of students on financial aid and 41.5 percent of students identifying as students of color, Andover is moving away from its stereotype as a boarding school for the elite.

“Andover is far more diverse as a population than say the 60 applicants from Kansas or the 60 applicants from Delaware,” Deacon aid. “Now that’s different today than it might have been 30 years ago when it was a much more homogenous population.”

Andover Director of College Counseling Sean Logan cited increasing diversity as a priority of the boarding school.

“I think it’s an issue that all schools are trying to deal with, how we recruit … high-achieving middle- and low-income kids when the national numbers just aren’t there. Andover does a pretty good job of that, especially in terms of the boarding school world,” Logan said.

Andover alumnus Kevin Ma (MSB ’17) said that while Georgetown and Andover have similar attitudes toward diversity, in his experience, Andover achieved a more diverse population than Georgetown.

“They have the motto [at Andover] ‘Youth From Every Corner’ and just the idea of getting people from all different cultures and nations and different parts of the States. I don’t think it’s as emphasized here at Georgetown,” Ma said.

Stefanie Palencia (COL ’15), an alumna of Lawrenceville who transferred to Georgetown from Mount Holyoke College, cited racial underrepresentation as a problem that both Georgetown and Lawrenceville have made it a priority to address.

“I think that just in terms of demographic they are very similar and there are the same problems just in terms of any social issues that might arise in any community, especially when you’re trying to reach out and spread higher education,” Palencia said.

Nandini Mullaji (SFS ’17), who attended Phillips Exeter Academy, has found in Georgetown a student body similar in composition to that of her prep school.

“I think [Georgetown] is much less diverse than Exeter, which I think might come as a shock to a lot of people,” Mullaji said. “Apart from that, you can definitely see a lot of the culture, whether it’s the way people dress, or just the way people behave, and I don’t know if it’s much of a boarding school thing, or if it’s just a New England atmosphere, but it’s definitely very similar.”

Compounding this racial diversity is a similar imperative to increase the socioeconomic diversity of the university.

According to Palencia, while socioeconomic diversity existed at Lawrenceville, scholarship students were not always seamlessly integrated with the rest of the student population.

“There was diversity. Sad to say, most of the time, I feel like people were able to identify the kids who were on financial scholarship,” Palencia.

Deacon described a similar “squeeze” on middle-income families at Georgetown, who cannot afford Georgetown’s sizeable $65,080-a-year tuition, but are ineligible to receive full financial aid.

“That’s a group of students that we’re admitting right now who are much more susceptible to the other [college] offers, the merit scholarships, let’s say, and other things, because it is a financial stress for families to pay the high cost,” Deacon said.

Outside of the sphere of prep schools, Georgetown’s top public feeder schools still tend to be located in some of the wealthiest counties in America.

Amy Liu (SFS ’15) attended Winston Churchill High School, a public school in Montgomery, Md., that regularly sends applicants to Georgetown and where the median household income, at $96,985, is almost three times the national median.

Liu described socioeconomic attitudes at Churchill as similar to Georgetown, but noted a difference in academic environment.

“With Georgetown it’s a more concentrated version of a specific cluster within Churchill that did very well in high school and was very ambitions,” Liu said.

The admissions office has taken other measures to up its diversity through a joint travel series with Harvard University, Stanford University, Duke University and the University of Pennsylvania. According to Deacon, using demographics derived from the Student Search function of the PSAT, the admissions office can expand its outreach to applicants from new high schools.

“We tend to do two things,” Deacon said. “One is we’re going to concentrate on making sure we keep in good touch with the students that traditionally send us the largest number of applicants. … We also know from Student Search where the highest concentration of minority backgrounds are located, and that might be an urban public school, and we try to include that school in our travels as well.”

The university also maintains a relationship with the 47 Jesuit-affiliated schools across the country and has taken special interest in building a strong pool of applicants from the new Cristo Rey schools, a network of Catholic preparatory schools that target underrepresented, urban youth.

According to Palencia, questions of diversity among students in both prep school and higher education remain on the table.

“I think it’s more common to participate in such discussions about [diversity], but I wouldn’t say it’s a conversation that people are comfortable with yet,” Palencia said.

3 Comments

  1. It sounds like Georgetown is just making up new excuses for why they should keep recruiting from the same places. Is Georgetown getting real diversity if it accepts a bunch of minorities who have spent the past four years being normed by prep schools, groomed to act and think like prep school students? A prep/boarding school may give financial aid to 40% percent of students, but when tuition costs 40-50k per year, that isn’t really saying much. The majority of kids on tuition assistance at these schools probably aren’t poor. Most of them probably don’t even fall in the bottom half of American family incomes. Likewise, a prep school may be 40% non-white, but a large number of those kids are going to be rich foreigners or upper and upper-middle income Americans. Georgetown, as well as these boarding schools, is still reaching out to the relatively privileged.

  2. Just gonna point out that boarding school kids still get their mail delivered to their school…

  3. asdfa asdfadsf says:

    Georgetown doesn’t have a “tuition” of 65k, sooo just gonna leave this here…
    http://finaid.georgetown.edu/cost-of-attendance/undergraduate/

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