After a month of survival at Groton School, all new students for the academic year 2013-2014 gathered to take the Choate self-assessment test on September 30th. Clueless, we all sat down at a desk in the schoolroom and began to evaluate ourselves one question at a time. The test was simple and took merely 15 minutes to complete. However, though it seemed trivial and did not require much effort, the story behind this 40 question test is extraordinary.
It all began in 2000, when a psychologist and developer of this test, Dr. Robert J. Sternberg, began working with students in the Icahn Scholars Program at Choate Rosemary Hall. His goal was to develop a test that would conclude how to maximize one’s full aptitude and prospects of success at a secondary school. He and his colleagues soon developed a tool that would benefit the admissions of high schools in America that would predict the academic and other forms of success. Soon Choate sponsored its first conference based on “Successful Intelligence” for middle/high schools and college admission directors in the United States.
The reason behind developing this evaluation was to see whether grades and standardized testing should be the only factors to characterize a successful student. The questions on this questionnaire were not academic questions, but were questions about everyday habits, lifestyle, routine, and behaviors. Usually when one applies to a prestigious boarding school, the applicant worries the most about grades and SSATs because one misconstrue these as the most crucial parts of the application. However, that is not always the case. Of course they are important, but the application also depends on one’s actions and personality traits, especially at a boarding school like Groton, where one’s characteristics and altruism are valued more than the achievement of the highest grade point average.
“What gets you most excited as an interviewer is that level of discourse and energy that certain people bring into the interview,” says Director of Admissions Ian Gracey, “you get a sense that ‘this person is on fire’ and you get excited about that.” Having fun and unique characteristics that set you a part from others is a great tone to set for interviewers. Especially because there are over 700 applicants apply to Groton each year. Then what does the Groton’s Admissions Office look for in their applicants?
“Kindness, perseverance, and intelligence,” says Mr. Gracey, “what sets Groton students apart is [to] think in our assessment is we put a greater emphasis on kindness and their teachers write about that. It is important because of one, the mission of our school and two, we are a small community. Everyone affects everyone else. Living in a small second form dorm, it certainly factors in the most.” Groton’s admission officers always look for students who have certain personalities rather than only good academic achievements. It also benefits the school as a whole and its mission as it helps select students who are ready to be a part of the community at Groton.
The admission board has the responsibility to choose students who fit best to the school’s atmosphere and who are able to adapt quickly into new surroundings. They try to select students who have been doing well academically but also being a caring leader in their classrooms in which their teachers write about. In terms of the selection process, it is difficult to know every single detail of the applicant. Therefore, in order to inform the school about themselves, the Choate Self-Assessment shows an honest reflection of what the applicant believes him/herself to be in terms of academic behavior. Rather than only looking at the student’s achievements reflected through transcripts and resumes, it gives the applicants a chance to show themselves through an honest questionnaire and
According to Mr. Gracey, “about five years ago, Robert Sternberg spoke to the faculty about his methods of assessment of college students and [he] read his work before and was interested in it. [He] knew that Sternberg was working with Choate for many years, while he was at Yale and I knew the Choate admission director well.” Sternberg had been asking the Admission Office for an extended period of time to participate in the program. Soon Groton was announced to be the first of many schools to start of the program outside of Choate in front of 500 secondary and college admission officers. Mr. Gracey said, “I was happy to do it and I think that it is important for the admission offices continue to develop new ways of assessing who would do well in an academic environment. We can’t just go with methods that have been used for years because the world changes a bit.”
Groton’s application process has been modified and added throughout the last several years. Before Groton used an application website called ‘Gateway to Prep Schools’, the school managed a hardcopy based application process. However, by allowing students to submit their applications online, it decreased the chances of mishandling and added a part for Arts Supplements. This was definitely an advancement well made. That is why Mr. Gracey and the admissions team is excited about the possible outcomes of this new part of the admissions process at Groton. Due to the fact this is the first year attempting the self assessment at Groton, we do not know what type of results the Choate Assessment Test will bring about. However, Mr. Gracey believes that it will benefit the school at least in some ways for the future.
The sense of community on the Circle is tangible. No other secondary school can either imitate or attempt the kindness that all students show to one another. And the Choate Self-Assessment leads a brighter way for the Admissions Office to select future Grotonians.