Mr. Michael Schell Hosts Recruiting Character Summit at Tufts
Medford, Mass.-- Mr. Michael Schell, the Director of Enrollment Management at Catholic Memorial School, hosted the Recruiting Character Summit alongside Mr. Brennan Barnard, the Director of College Counseling at Derryfield School, in collaboration with the Character Collaborative on Thursday afternoon at Tufts University.
In the wake of the multi-million-dollar Varsity Blues college admissions scandal that rocked the country five months ago, 31 leading administrators from secondary and higher education institutions across the country, including CM Assistant Director of Counseling Mr. Jack O’Keefe, gathered at the summit in a call to action for reform in high school and college admissions practices.
Together, they sought to prioritize character as a variable for admissions officers to measure students by, just as they would for grade point averages and standardized test scores.
“Where does character reside in athletics and admissions?” Mr. Schell asked the guests.
“In light of recent college admission scandals, it’s an interesting time to talk about sports and ethics. We want this to be the first step in a program to intervene in an admissions situation that we deem to be unhealthy.”
Aware of how standardized tests and GPAs fail to paint the full picture of a college applicant, Mr. Schell and Mr. Barnard wanted admissions practices to instead reflect the importance of character strengths for succeeding in school, college, and the workplace, according to the non-profit’s website.
At the summit, Mr. Schell called for a more holistic admissions approach to evaluating applicants. From his four-years at CM, Mr. Schell understands how to best put character in the spotlight of a student’s application from his work designing the school’s Beyond CM college counseling program.
Designed to foster a strong relationship between student and counselor, the Beyond CM program requires all students to write their own Discernment Papers in their junior year theology class, giving college counselors insight into how the student connects his faith, aspirations, and achievements into long-term academic goals. The counselor then determines a best college fit and offers personalized instruction on how to arrive at their ideal match.
In preparation for their Discernment Papers, underclassmen meet with their counselors to map out a series of student formation goals during their freshman and sophomore years. Through these goals, students develop a better sense of identity, build character, and begin assessing how to share their gifts and talents in the context of a larger community.
In the four years since the program’s inception, CM witnessed a 300 percent increase in the number of its students accepted into Barron’s list of most competitive colleges.
While Beyond CM offers an ideal framework to understand applicants as more than a SAT score or as a grade-point-average, Mr. Schell recognizes the need to establish a large-scale, universal methodology for every institution to measure character by.
Conversation about this idea began when Ms. Maureen Corcoran, a consultant from Camden Consulting, opened the summit with a Strengths Workshop. A Gallup-Certified Strengths Coach, she taught the guests in attendance proper ways to identify and develop strengths and how to increase their contributions to their teams and school communities.
In the afternoon, Mr. Barnard hosted a Design Thinking Workshop that provided guests with the space, resources, and networks needed to think of programs that develop and measure a student’s character. Together, the guests drew upon their own experiences in leadership roles and shared what practices worked best.
The summit concluded with a collective commitment from each guest to continue exploring and defining long-term goals, programs, and interventions in the admissions practice. Together, they left with an intention to prioritize the needs of students in the admissions process.