Are Scarsdale’s vaunted schools failing to deliver? One resident expressed that concern in a Facebook posting a few months ago. The resident found Scarsdale High School’s 2018 college acceptance data “disappointing” based on the list of college destinations in The Inquirer’s annual graduation supplement.
The perception was that the number of students accepted into competitive colleges seemed to have dropped significantly and property value might be affected.
(It should be noted the Inquirer’s list of where graduates are headed consists of information from parents and students and does not include every graduating student. In fact, some students from prestigious schools choose not to provide their destinations.)
The Inquirer decided to look into the perception that Scarsdale students are not getting into competitive colleges and whether the school district should focus on the number of elite admissions its graduates achieve.
According to Scarsdale School District data, 386 students graduated in 2018, 379 of whom were heading to four-year schools, three to two-year colleges and four undecided.
Further, 379 students applied to schools through the early or rolling application process and 370 students were accepted.
Now, onto the discussion of “competitive” colleges.
According to the school district and using Barron’s Profiles of American Colleges Ratings Guide, 232 of the 371 Scarsdale students attending U.S. colleges were accepted to schools in the “Most Competitive” category. Barron’s is a widely recognized college directory that rates American colleges from “Most Competitive” to “Noncompetitive.”
Further, 265 students were accepted to schools in the “Highly Competitive” category, 186 students were accepted to schools in the “Very Competitive” category and 77 were accepted at schools rated “Competitive.” Four students were accepted at the schools in the “Less Competitive” category.
Scarsdale Schools also provided the grade point average and SAT score data to the Inquirer.
In 2018, the average GPA for the 386 graduates was 3.51 — the highest it’s been in the previous five years. The average SAT score was 140 on a scale of 1600, also the highest it’s been in the previous five years.
The 2018 class had the highest amount of average college applications — 7.9 per student.
The Scarsdale School District was reluctant to share this information with The Inquirer. Superintendent Dr. Thomas Hagerman told The Inquirer the district’s goal is not to make sure its students get into competitive schools.
“Nowhere in our high school mission will you find a goal or desire to get our students in Ivy League schools,” said Hagerman. “Rather, our philosophy is to best prepare students for whatever type of college they may want to attend. We also believe that there is the right college for every type of student and learner.”
Hagerman added, “Rather than focus on the most elite schools, we work hard with our students to make the right choice for them, based on the fit with academics and a myriad of other interests.”
The aforementioned Facebook conversation drew many responses from other Scarsdale residents who suggested such comments add pressure on students around college acceptance time; pressure director of counseling Oren Iosepovici says is very real.
Iosepovici explained that Scarsdale students live in an affluent community, which might narrow their view of what success means and what constitutes the right college or university.
He explained that mid-December, when students are awaiting their early admissions letters, is a particularly stressful time. Therefore, the counselors work hard to make sure students aren’t close-minded about their post-high school plans.
“What we [as counselors] try to do is try to stay away from this notion of, ‘This is a competitive school and this one is not’,” Iosepovici said. “Which is why at the school we try to avoid publishing everything because we try to honor every student.”
The head counselor added there are times students are really set on one school but their academic record may not be strong enough. The counselors encourage such students to apply to their dream school but make sure they have a backup plan.
“Hopefully the [dream school] works out for you but if it doesn’t,” he said, “Let’s find other places that have similar qualities in terms of what you’re looking for ... that maybe we’re comfortable you will get into.”
Jay Genova, executive director of Scarsdale/Edgemont Family Counseling Services, also discussed the pressures high school seniors face around this time of year.
Like Iosepovici, he noted that many students living in Scarsdale come from families where their loved ones have obtained individual success “through a good, solid education foundation.”
“Most people acknowledge if I get a good education, I get a good opportunity for a good job,” Genova said.
He continued, “Where I think it can get difficult for most individuals and families is when, during the process ... they feel there are only three or four schools I belong in.”
Genova said it’s important how students mentally approach the college application experiences.
“Anxiety is always connected to our thoughts,” he said. “If our thoughts tell us there is only one right place for me and that doesn’t work out, we’re going to feel badly.”
Genova said it’s possible for students to also feel pressure from peers.
“People become friends because they have a lot in common,” he said. “They’re probably looking at similar schools.”
He said this creates the possibilities for comparisons, annoyance or jealousy.
In theses cases, he said, it’s important to minimize competition despite the fact that competition is part of human nature.
He said when looking for a school, students should search for where “you’re going to be happy, connect and build a support system.”
“Those kinds of things need to be taken into consideration,” he said.