The More Things Change, The More They Stay The Same
Upper School

By Evan Diamond, Director of Secondary School Guidance

When the pandemic first closed schools across the region in 2020, it was mid-March and the 2019-2020 admissions cycle had just come to a close.  Those were days of great uncertainty, but we never could have guessed how impactful the pandemic would be for the secondary school process.  While applying to schools has always been a process that underwent annual shifts, we never could have imagined such significant change in such haste, but here we are three years later, and the effects of 2020 remain and may permanently alter how graduates approach their applications.

Many of the shifts in this work stem from changes in requirements regarding the SSAT.  For decades, nearly every independent high school required a current SSAT score to apply, and this test provided a potential obstacle for interested students.  A weak score could easily disqualify an applicant at many schools, thus the test often presented a barrier to even applying.  When this requirement was lifted in 2020 due to lack of equitable access, it removed that barrier, thus independent secondary schools have since enjoyed unprecedented increases in their applicant numbers.  

As more and more students apply to independent schools, competition increases for Brookwood students, both to gain access to schools and to receive the financial assistance required for many families to enroll.  Lifting the SSAT requirement has made applying even more challenging for our applicants as this highly competitive field has grown even larger. This leads to the big burning question for 2024…will the test remain optional or will schools return to pre-pandemic requirements?

The simple answer is that we truly don’t know what direction schools will choose for this next cycle, and we’re not even sure that it will matter.  There’s no question that admissions directors are thrilled with their swelling numbers, but they need to assess whether the SSAT was truly useful in helping them to best evaluate applicants, and that is what they’re busy doing as the 2023 season comes to a close. The good news is that Brookwood graduates continue to fare exceptionally well despite the growth in competition both for access and financial assistance.

While independent high schools have recently reported record numbers of applicants, these same schools continued to choose Brookwood graduates at similar rates to that enjoyed prior to the pandemic.  Brookwood graduates bring traditions of risk taking, leadership, scholarship, and resilience with them to secondary schools, and these attributes continue to be highly valued.  Additionally, Brookwood remained open throughout the pandemic, thus our students maintained their academic progress while other students languished through prolonged periods of distance learning.  Lastly, the Office of Secondary School Guidance led by Cathy Marrero and me, continues to work effectively with parents and schools to both identify and secure admission for graduates.  Students continue to earn financial aid awards over 90% of the time, nearly every student gains admission to their first choice school, and we continue to enjoy fabulous relationships with local partner schools such as Pingree and Governor’s Academy.  Faced with growing competition for coveted spots at schools throughout the region and beyond, Brookwood graduates continue to distinguish themselves as highly prized candidates whose achievements, citizenship, and charisma are among the most desired in the region.  For Brookwood graduates, the more things seem to change, the more they remain the same.

APRIL 2023