An Introduction to Genuine Admissions, a blog and podcast series by Amy Thompson, dean of enrollment at The Loomis Chaffee School
Genuine admission #1: My life goal was not to be a dean of enrollment at an independent boarding school.
My professional background is what those in the college admissions profession like to term “on both sides of the desk:” as a college admissions officer (twice) and a college counselor (twice). In between those jobs, I spent a few years as an admissions director at a K-12 independent day school in Baltimore, I worked as a college consultant (long before any were smart or stupid enough to pay college coaches to recruit their clients as athletes for sports they never played), I scored essays for the SAT writing section, and I had three daughters.
It’s the latter that led me to the Admission Office at Loomis Chaffee in July of 2018.
When I joined the Loomis faculty as a college counselor in 2007, my children were 8, 5, and 3. I loved being a college counselor. I started my college counseling career prior to Loomis in 2000 shortly after my first daughter was born and working so closely with teenagers provided a different kind of challenge and reward than parenting young children. I was a caretaker, a cheerleader, an advocate, and mentor providing not just advice but a healthy dose of perspective (and Kleenex), helping young people find themselves along the journey toward the biggest decision they were in control of thus far in their lives. It was both impactful and an emotional roller-coaster. I would stay up nights worrying about where (note: not “whether”) my charges would get in to college, whether they could afford to go, whether their parents would be happy with their choices, and whether they would change their minds about it once they decided. They were not my children, but when people outside of school ask me how my kids are doing, like any educator there is always a pause before I respond, remembering that they are asking me about my daughters, not my students.
It was my daughters who paved the way for me to find my true calling, however. Because as much as I loved working in college admissions and then college guidance, it took my oldest daughter’s college process for me to realize that after more than 25 years working both sides of the desk, it was actually the experience of independent schools — and specifically independent boarding schools — that I was most passionate about. It was the personal transformation that I witnessed as her parent going to school with her every day, and now with her two younger sisters, that made me feel not just a professional appreciation for that experience for my students, but a personal one for three of the most important people in my life.
Secondarily but also importantly, seeing the admissions process through my own parent perspective for the first time opened my eyes to how little college admissions offices actually do with and for parents. (Perhaps it was the experience I had of receiving a cheery prospective parent brochure from my daughter’s first choice early decision school the same week they released the decision deferring her that made this all too clear.) Seeing the process through my daughter’s eyes also made me frustrated at the opacity with which most college admissions offices operated. And while I “knew” this from my years in the business, it took my own personal experience on the third side of that desk — the parenting side — to decide to make a professional change.
Genuine admission #2: College admissions and boarding school admissions are not the same. But in some ways, they are.
Throughout the course of the year, I’ll be writing Genuine Admissions to address this topic and others related to secondary and college admissions, the development of our children, and whatever else pops up. After just having completed a second set of college tours with daughter #2, now back working on the admissions rather than on the counseling side, I have more thoughts than ever about my profession and how we struggle to maintain that balance between what is best for our institutions and what is best for our applicants. It’s not easy, especially when one is working with students as young as thirteen and as old at eighteen. But being a teenager isn’t easy to begin with, and it is my goal for this blog to provide some insight, guidance and a healthy dose of perspective as families navigate the next step on their educational journey. Let’s go!