Every student at IMSA has to go through the application process, the waiting period, and the excitement and nerves of finally finding out that they got in! But, what happens behind the curtain in the Office of Enrollment Management Systems when future students are sitting there, anxiously waiting and hoping to see that “Dear Future IMSA Student, Congratulations…”?
The process happens in layers, almost like a nice piece of carrot cake, as described by Glenn Engelberg, Executive Director of Enrollment Management.
Starting at the base are the Admissions Counselors. Mr. Engelberg praised the compassion, hard work, and dedication of his team for guiding hundreds of students and families through the application process each year. Specifically, admissions counselors Jackie Salinas, JaRod Tobler, and Alex Johnson, along with their administrative assistant Vynnessa Winberg, work tirelessly to ensure the entire application process is as smooth as possible for prospective students and families.
These Admissions Counselors go through and ensure all the portions of the application out of the student’s control (such as grade transcript or teacher letter of recommendations) have been imputed from school counselors, teachers, and others. Then, the applications are sent off to a Review Committee that looks through the files solely from a qualitative perspective, making notes about their potential future fit at IMSA. This committee is made up of stakeholders at IMSA including alumni, staff, teachers, and representatives of organizations with ties to IMSA.
Working up to the next layer, each Admissions Counselor takes a holistic look at an assigned number of applicants and makes recommendations for each. They look at the qualitative portions, the quantitative portions, and what the Review Committee had to say to make the best comments possible for every applicant.
Once this process is completed, it moves one layer closer to the top with the Admissions Counselors presenting their recommendations to the Selection Committee in April. This committee is composed of IMSA staff representing the faculty, student services, Academy leadership, and admission staff.
During the 1-week period they meet, the Admissions Counselors will present each student’s application file to the Selection Committee. Then from this eligible applicant pool, the Selection Committee will determine those who are admitted, placed on the waitlist, and denied.
This is the icing on top of the carrot cake where students find out what they’ve been waiting for for so long: whether or not they get the chance to become an IMSA student!
There is one other aspect of the admissions process for specific students. Students placed on the waitlist or denied admission may appeal the decision. The request for an appeal must be received in writing no later than seven business days of receipt of the decision. The decision will be reviewed by the Appeals Committee. The Committee is facilitated by the Director of Admissions (Mr. Engelberg), who serves in a non-voting capacity, and decisions are made by a majority vote of the Appeals Committee. So, if a student was admitted from this process, their celebration day would be slightly postponed from the general admission time period.
The Enrollment Team takes great efforts to do a very thorough process on each application to ensure equitable decisions are made to better IMSA’s mission and to make sure they are finding the best-fit students that will thrive in the IMSA community. An important factor in the admissions process is making certain there are multiple eyes looking over every application, using an equity lens, and looking through the specialized circumstances and factors that surround each potential student’s background, available opportunities, and the like.
Mr. Engelberg talked to The Acronym about how he likes to think about each application as if it came from someone he knew personally: how would he want this person treated if they were his family member? Does he think they will thrive? What makes that person ‘them’?
The team works to make this thorough, rigorous process as seamless as possible so they find all the right people.
But, every process must evolve with the times and can always be made better and more equitable. IMSA Admissions is no exception.
This year’s application features one less than the year prior, one of several changes that range from slight adjustments to new additions. “[We] always try to look at the online application with fresh eyes to make sure we’re creating an equitable process and application that gives students the chance to dive into their character and personality more,” said Mr. Engelberg.
He thinks the questions now reflect and measure four very important aspects of IMSA students: their resilience, collaboration and teamwork, challenges, and goals. This helps the Enrollment Team see the applicants in the light of an actual IMSA student and how well they would thrive.
In addition to the essays, the SAT is a common topic that prospective students ask about when discussing the application process. During the 2021–2022 application cycle, the SAT requirements were temporarily suspended because of COVID-19. Students can submit an SAT score anytime during the admissions process or prior to enrollment.
Another change driven by the challenge of the pandemic is holding informational events for potential future students and their families to learn more about the academy. The Enrollment Team has developed great, creative virtual events such as online tours, created marketing and outreach programs that will work in the current circumstances, and held in-person events when COVID-19 mitigations allow. Every student wants to know what IMSA is like before they apply, and the Enrollment Team has to make sure they all have some means of finding the answers they need.
One final, major change to the team has been their name! The reason that the office of Admissions changed its name to Enrollment Management Systems was to include PROMISE. According to the IMSA website, “IMSA’s PROMISE Program [which is led by the Director of Pre-Enrollment Programs, Dr. Anita White,] addresses the unique challenges of culturally, linguistically, and ethnically diverse (CLED) students who have [an] interest in STEM education by providing academic enrichment programming at low to no cost.” This change also occurred because Dr. Glazer and Cabinet are working on a reorganization that meets the needs of IMSA’s strategic priorities.
The Enrollment Team is given a difficult task each year that requires commitment, great analysis skills, and hard work. It’s their job to make sure every applicant is treated equitably and to choose those whom they believe will truly thrive in the IMSA community.
So, if you’re an IMSA student, this is a great way to remind yourself just how many people believed you were meant to be here and thought you would do amazing things at IMSA. You made it through at least two committees and countless reviews by Admissions Counselors, all of whom looked through your application and thought “This person is an IMSA kid.”
In other words, you got the whole carrot cake, with extra icing on top!
Special thanks to Glenn Engelberg for his interview describing all of the above information.