A young girl’s educational career at Archer begins on the gray couch in the Admissions Waiting Area. She flips through the pamphlets carefully laid out on the table. She looks at the art on the walls and the Archer girls in uniform who pass by. Without being too obvious, she glances around, trying to imagine herself walking down those halls.
This is only the beginning.
From the moment a family shows interest in the school, Admissions Coordinator April Carletto’s job is to “walk the families through it, [to] hold their hands throughout the process.” She does everything she can to convey “ambitious, joyful, learning” to all of Archer’s applicants.
“I want everyone who comes to campus to have the most natural experience. I want everyone to get the real feeling of what goes on here at Archer,” Carletto said. “It’s so wonderful because the school really does a great job of just being its wonderful self; it sells itself, to be fair.”
The admissions process for every Archer applicant begins in September. Applicants may attend open houses, neighborhood coffees and more in order to learn as much as they can about the school. Once the applicant’s interest in the school is established, she and her family fill out an application complete with essays, transcripts and letters of recommendation.
The applicant and her family then come to Archer for an interview and student guided tour. After that, Carletto said, “We send them on their way.”
Carletto explained that the period between interviews and acceptance letters is a difficult time for both the family and the admissions office.
“Within that time,” she said, “people can [completely change] and be very different from the person that you met at the beginning of the year.”
When asked if she would like to change anything about the process, Admissions Director Felicia Paik said that the timeline of the process is harsh.
“But,” she said, “I don’t think there really is a way to truncate it. I know it feels like a long time for the families who are applying; we start in September, and you’re waiting all the way until March. It’s a long time to have to wait.”
According to Admissions Director Felicia Paik, although the admissions office staff does “a little bit of assessment” of the applicants ahead of time, the decision is ultimately made by the committee.
“Somebody has to do that,” she said, “and that’s our job: to create the profile of everybody and present it and make a recommendation for acceptance or not.”
“We learn so much about the families and the girls; you fall in love with [them]. We’re all rooting for the families that we meet,” said Assistant Director of Admissions Carla Alcala.
“It’s a nice time for us in admissions because we get to actually present all of these girls that we’ve loved and all of these families that we’ve just absolutely fallen in love with,” said Carletto.
“[I look for] someone who just takes risks, tries something different and doesn’t take herself too seriously,” Alcala said. “She doesn’t have to be perfect at everything. [I look for] someone who just really believes in the mission here.”
“Personally, I’m looking for the family,” Carletto said. “I want to make sure that this is a family that will be happy at Archer and will remain happy [here]. I’m looking for families that are fun, can do well at Archer and that get us. The most important thing is that they get us.”
“We look for a student that has the leadership potential,” Paik said. “[Someone who] shows initiative, has an entrepreneurial spirit, is motivated, is excited about her life, [is] someone that wants to contribute to her community and feels confident about herself.”
Once the decisions have been made, the admissions office sends out the letters. An applicant may receive one of three letters: acceptance, denial or wait-list.
The admissions office has seen a 21 percent increase in applications for the 2015-2016 school year compared to the 2014-2015 school year, according to Paik.
“I think the community at large understands what [our] mission is, even more than ever,” Paik said. “Yes, we do market ourselves and we do all kinds of outreach, but I think the most compelling argument to send a student here is the word of mouth that people hear.”
“It’s one of the best problems to have at an independent school, where you have so many families who want to come here, and it’s great for us,” Alcala said. “At the same time it’s hard when you send out the letters because we don’t have spots for all these girls.”
Paik said that the hardest part of her job is “not being able to take students who we think would thrive here and who really believe that this is the right school for them.”
All three admissions officers acknowledged that the admissions process is not one sided.
“For most of the part of the admissions process, we’re the ones that are in control,” Alcala said. “Once the letters go out, we lose all power, and then the parents and the girls have the control because they have to accept us back.”
“That’s one thing I love about the process,” Alcala said. “It’s really equal because for some time the parents and the girls are wondering, ‘Did I get in? Am I accepted?’ Then in return, we wonder, ‘Is she going to accept us? Is she going to be an Archer girl?’”
More than just a job
“I get to know these families for at least a whole year before everybody else does,” Carletto said. “By the time a girl comes here, I already know her whole family. I feel it’s my job to make sure they all have a nice transition into the school. I always make sure the girls don’t eat by themselves. We stay involved with these girls. We do our best to keep up with them.”
“I really enjoy meeting new people who want to understand more about Archer. I feel like this job was made for me, or I was made for this job,” Paik said. “It suits my personality; it’s who I am. It’s great!”
“The part [about the whole process] that gets me the most excited is when there’s a family that you really invest in and really fall in love with, and they accept you back. You hear how excited they are, when they call to tell you. That’s the best part, when they’re just so thrilled,” Alcala said.