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Inside BB&N: File Readers

High school admission processes are often kept behind closed doors, leaving students in the dark about the selection of their classmates. However, for over a decade, BB&N has not followed this convention. Instead, the school annually recruits 16 seniors—eight girls and eight boys—per year to participate in the Upper School (US) admission process as file readers.

In January and February, eight six-person committees—six committees for rising freshmen and one each for incoming tenth and eleventh graders—gather in the Admissions Office after class on school days to discuss about 400 prospective students’ applications.

Director of Enrollment Management Geordie Mitchell said this group of admission staff, faculty, administrators, and student file readers works to make the following year’s group of incoming students a diverse and outstanding one, adding that file readers bring an important perspective to the process.

Admission officials implemented file readers when they recognized that a group of adults would never be able to see admission fully from a student perspective, Mr. Mitchell said.

“When I first came to BB&N 12 years ago, I thought it was crazy to let students read highly confidential information about applicants,” he said. “But I quickly learned that they were amazing in that they provided student perspectives and opinions that complemented the faculty perspectives very well.”

File readers pursue the position through a written application and interview process in April or May of their junior years, and they undergo training from admission staff members in January of their senior year.

The staff urges them to look for the strengths of an applicant, whether they be academic, extracurricular, or both. However, students are also encouraged to develop a subjective view of the applicant from the perspective of fellow student. “Would they be a good classmate?” is the main question file readers try to answer, Associate Director of Admission Sanchali Biswas said.

“[The student file readers’] perspective is essential for us to see if an applicant is a good fit for the school,” Ms. Biswas said. “They bring a level of empathy and compassion to committees that comes from their own experiences of applying as a student.”

Each year, a pair of students reads 50 to 60 files, working during frees, after school, or on the weekends. Together, a file reader pair participates on one committee containing admission representatives who have read the same files. Each student reader arrives at committee meetings ready to contribute to their discussions.

Former File Reader Rose Meier ’17 said that the role, while difficult at times, helped her understand the admission process as a whole.

“I think I gained a lot of perspective into the application process for higher education,” Rose said. “A challenge I had [as a file reader] was managing my time to read all the applications before my scheduled meetings. There were quite a few to go through, and you get sucked into the applications.”

The role also provided insight into the demands of being an admissions officer, Rose said.

“This experience gave me a lot of respect for the skill of the admission officers in knowing exactly what to look for,” she added.

Jossy Wang ’18, who was chosen to be a file reader last spring, expressed eager anticipation for her new role in the coming months.

“I’m really excited for my committee meetings and the opportunity to influence what our school community will look like,” Jossy said. “This school has done so much for me, especially as a new ninth grader, and I’m looking forward to giving back to our community.”

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