- Abby Jackson/Business Insider
- Phillips Academy receives 3,000 applications each year but only accepts about 13%. The admissions committee looks for characteristics of optimism, social agility, perseverance, and resilience in applicants. The school calls an applicant with top scores from the admissions team an “admit six.”
It’s not easy to gain acceptance to Phillips Academy, the Andover, Massachusetts boarding school pegged as the best high school in America.
Of the more than 3,000 applications it receives each year, Andover only accepts 13%, dashing the hopes of many students vying for a slot.
To get a glimpse into what the Andover admissions committee looks for in winning applications, Business Insider spoke with Jim Ventre, current dean of admissions and financial aid and himself an Andover alum.
“The quality [of the student body] isn’t necessarily driven by just grade point average or test scores. It’s really about the character and talent,” Ventre told Business Insider.
Ventre said that the admissions office looks for students with the characteristics of optimism, social agility, perseverance, and resilience.
- Phillips Academy/Yoon Byun
Social agility is the “ability to recognize that you need help,” Ventre said. “We try and cultivate a sense of self advocacy with our students.” Students who make good use of mentors stand out during the admissions process.
To get to know students better, Andover interviews every student who applies. It also relies on recommendation letters from parents and teachers to confirm that students can meet academic expectations.
As for those academic expectations, it reviews standardized-test scores from the Secondary School Admission Test and the Independent School Entrance Exam, though Ventre said there is no exact cut-off for test scores. Every applicant is their own case.
But for applicants whose first language isn’t English, there is a cutoff for on the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL). Students must score about a 100 – comparable to the score required at Harvard – to be considered as an applicant.
Once every section of an application is complete, there is a three-part review – first by the admissions team, next by a team of faculty, and last by the Andover committee. Each group gives a score of one (lowest) to six (highest). The school calls applicants who score sixes across the board “admit six.”
Ventre stressed that final decisions are based on a holistic review of all components of an application.
“Not everyone has the same preparation, has the same opportunities, but in the context of where they are from and the opportunities that are available to them, we are looking for kids who make the most of those opportunities,” he said.