Behind Closed Doors: Bellarmine Admissions Uncovered

By Andrew Song ’18

Behind the registrar in Matthewson, there is a room with an interior unknown to many students. Inside this room belongs a desk and a oak round table along with paper file stacks and books neatly organized on the cupboards. This room is where life-changing decisions are made.

Mr. Wagstaffe ‘01, Bellarmine’s Director of Admissions, and his Admissions team are responsible for the difficult task in evaluating promising candidates to the Class of 2022.

For a lot of curious parents wishing to send their students to Bellarmine, what goes on behind the scenes is mysterious and obscure.

When asked about the secrets of admissions, Mr. Wagstaffe answers “There’s no magic bullet – no magic formula. That’s what I am here to do. My job here is to give everybody a fair shake and a fair opportunity.”

Questions about admissions shortcuts and constant proliferation of “parking lot” talk (a moniker for the spread of inaccurate rumors by misinformed parents) serve as one of many challenging aspects of Mr. Wagstaffe’s role as Director.

In fact, Mr. Wagstaffe has heard about almost everything from curious mothers and fathers of 8th-grade sons. Parents press him on whether Bellarmine takes into consideration where the student takes his HSPT exam; the answer is no. Parents ask about the housing even though Bellarmine discontinued its boarding program in 1983.

In many cases, Mr. Wagstaffe will clarify to parents about Bellarmine’s policy on the ever-so-sensitive topic on the influence of legacy in admissions: “If you are going to get into Bellarmine, you got to get in through your own. It’s a piece. Every piece of the application is something that we take into account as an overall profile and thats what we evaluate.

To summarize the process, Mr. Wagstaffe states that admissions at Bellarmine is completely holistic or reviews applicants through equal treatment of all portions of the applications. “We just want a well-rounded community and that’s what we want in our students – guys who like doing anything and everything. We want guys that plug in to the community. We like it when guys want to be here,” Mr. Wagstaffe noted.

To stress equality, Mr. Wagstaffe also conveyed the absurdity in the notion that Bellarmine recruits 8th-grade athletes and provides special exemption for athletes in admissions. Recruit is a word that we stay away from,” Mr. Wagstaff stated in a very serious tone. “It’s something we’re not allowed to do and we take that very seriously,”

While the class of 2022 has yet to be finalized, the admissions team stated on the record that Bellarmine received just under a thousand applications for next year, a number consistent with previous years.

 

“The hardest part is knowing that we can’t take everyone,” said Mr. Wagstaffe.

 

Yet he acknowledges how his job exudes more joy than sorrow in notifying excited 8th grade applicants and it’s a central reason in why he returned to his high school alma mater this year for this essential job in the Bellarmine community. Mr. Wagstaffe said in the conclusion of the interview, “I’m here because I love Bellarmine and Bellarmine gave a lot to me through my life and I wanted to give back. In my opinion, what better way than to be the front door of the community.”