Last night, my daughter Jordan, who is graduating from Poly Prep after her fifteenth year in the school, shared with me her excitement about college admissions for her class. I could not help feeling a sense of sadness and loss, just as I feel every year, about our talented seniors leaving us to move on to the next stage of their lives. How in the world will we ever replace Sean Ryan, one of our theater leads and football co-captain, or Levi Jones, the young man who systematically organized the picnic club in the spring of his sophomore year as a relief from the end-of-year stresses all high school students experience? The loss of talent, personalities, leadership, intellectualism, diversity, creativity, and general self-awareness seems overwhelming when we consider each member of the graduating class. How will Poly ever be the same?
The answer lies in the Admissions Office. We compete mightily each year to enroll the finest students from every borough of New York City. Parents often mention how competitive it is to obtain an offer of acceptance from an independent school as sought-after as Poly. Of course, this is true. Each year, Poly receives many more applications than we can accommodate in our limited, available slots. However, what may not be as well known is how competitive the admissions process is for Poly. Our applicants have a lot of choices among independent, parochial and public school options within the city. Our Upper School applicants, in particular, have an average of eight schools on their list in the fall. Some have as many as twenty! The students who most impress us during their application process are also incredibly impressive to our peer schools.
When Erica Sollazzo, a senior who is now deciding between Princeton and Harvard for the fall of 2010, was admitted to Poly Prep in 9th grade, she was faced with a difficult decision. Should she continue in the parochial school system by selecting an honor’s program at a more familiar school or take a leap into the unknown of Poly? Her parents have since shared with me her anxiety during those first few days at Poly in her freshman year. We competed mightily for Erica and made certain that she understood the academic programs at Poly that would serve her well and the athletic competition that would foster her development as a softball pitcher.
When we enrolled eight of our current seniors from one of the top public elementary schools in Manhattan, PS 234, we were competing with other middle schools or middle and high schools around the corner. We offered these students bus rides to our Dyker Heights campus and had our current Manhattan families make phone calls to describe their children’s experience and the value of attending a school in Brooklyn. Eleven members of the class of 2010 graduated from boys’ independent schools on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, where choices are made between boarding school options, Manhattan independent schools, Hill Schools and Poly. In many cases, a closer option was available, but the benefits of a Poly education won out. We were able to enroll some of our top applicants from both groups in the Class of 2010, as a result. In all, forty of our graduating seniors make the trip from Manhattan to attend Poly Prep.
Seven of our seniors took a leave from Poly Prep, only to return. The most recent, James Friel, came back to Poly after three highly satisfactory years at Regis in Manhattan. James’ heart never really left Poly, however, and his rigorous program at Regis allowed him to return for his senior year and fall right into step with advanced work in Poly’s curriculum. Three students in the Class of 2010 had offers from Stuyvesant tempting them at the end of 8th grade, but instead chose four years at Poly’s Upper School. They have contributed much to the academic muscle of their class. For example, Remy Friedman and his parents met with Upper School Division Head Bud Cox during the spring of his Form II year at Poly to learn more about the upper level academic offerings at Poly. Ultimately, they made the choice to continue his commute from Long Island to Poly each day rather than going to Stuyvesant.
Once a student enrolls in Poly Prep, they put their other choices behind them as they acclimate into their class, learn, excel and grow at our school. As I contemplate their bright college futures, I remember the “fight” to enroll the outstanding Class of 2010, a fight well worth the effort. I look forward to future reports on the successes of this class, our other alumni (past and future) and my memories of the admissions process that led them to Poly Prep.