Comparing Middle and Upper School Admissions

Nathan Nozea, Staff Writer

November 13, 2023

The fall season is upon us, which means an influx in the number of prospective students walking around campus. Halls that were already swarmed with people are now crowded with countless eager students trying to figure out if Nobles is the place for them. For current students, the Nobles admissions process is a mere memory. However, these memories differ greatly between students, most notably between those who applied to the Middle School and the Upper School. This inconsistency poses the question: what are some of the differences between applying to the Middle School versus the Upper School? 

Contrary to popular belief, there are a lot of similarities between the Upper School and Middle School application processes. All students applying to Nobles are required to undergo interviews and must also write essays describing their personal experiences. The admission officers look for certain aspects of applicants’ character in the application process as well, regardless of if they’re applying for the Middle School or the Upper School. Chloe Coleman (Class IV) said,  “Individuality was a big thing [during my interview for the Upper School]…they looked for someone who’s really well-rounded and strong…in a lot of [areas].” This emphasis on a student being unique was the same for those applying to the Middle School. Thomas Xue (Class II) said, “[During the middle school application] they try to look at you as a whole of a person…they’ll [look to] see that you’re passionate and that you have things that you love [doing]”

While the Upper School and Middle School share some similarities in terms of how they consider students, the process of applying to the Middle School vs the Upper School still differs in many ways. One of the main differences stems from the interview process. Students applying to the Middle School get the opportunity to participate in group interviews. During these interviews, students are grouped together in a room and must collaborate with their peers in order to complete an activity. These group activities can range greatly, including challenges such as building a tower out of clothespins or arranging shapes in a certain pattern. 

Some might wonder why those applying for Middle School get a different interview process than those applying to the Upper School. “A lot of kids in the [middle school] age group aren’t necessarily comfortable sitting one-on-one with an adult stranger answering questions…Putting them in small groups and taking them through fun and collaborative activities allows us to learn more about them because the [applicants] tend to relax in this setting and show their authentic selves,” Director of Admissions Catherine Kershaw said. “Applicants to our upper school are often more comfortable with the one-on-one format compared to middle school-age students… Knowing that the full application will provide us with ample information about each student’s academic and extracurricular profiles, we try to use the interview conversation to pose questions that are more likely to get after their personal qualities and values,” she said.

Although the reasons for offering group interviews to prospective Middle School students make sense, many still question the Middle School application process and wonder if group interviews provide a higher success rate in getting into Nobles. Kesariya Nallari-Jhala (Class IV) doesn’t think so. When applying to schools for freshman year, Nallari-Jhala underwent several applications that required group interviews. She said, “[During these interviews] I wasn’t really able to showcase myself [which] is the point of an interview…[especially since] I was stuffed into a room of people I didn’t know.” At the same time, there are some students who agree that group interviews do give some sort of advantage. Kenny Chukwu (Class IV) said, “Group interviews would definitely make [people] feel more comfortable…they allow [students] to interact and think about what they want to say.” 

In addition to the group interview difference, some may think that the acceptance rate varies between Middle School and Upper School admissions. Contrary to the popular misconception that the Upper School is more competitive to get into than the Middle School, the acceptance rate for both is usually around the same at 16%. 

As the admission landscape is constantly evolving, the process that prospective students face will likely continue to evolve. For now though, the application process at Nobles is here to stay.

(Photo Credit: Zack Mittelstadt)

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