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From the Quad

Guest Q&A: Character at Salisbury School

Expanding scientific research about connections between cognitive and noncognitive skills is creating new opportunities to discuss core values. Boarding schools have long recognized the relationship between character and the pursuit of academic and personal excellence. This Q&A is part of a series exploring how boarding schools consider the character of candidates and ways in which they value and nurture character development on campus.  – Audrey Noyes Ludemann

Peter Gilbert
Director of Admissions
Salisbury School, Connecticut

School Snapshot: Founded in 1901, Salisbury is an all-boy, college-preparatory boarding school of 300 students.

School Mission: Salisbury School instills in boys a vibrant enthusiasm for learning and the self-confidence needed for intellectual, physical, moral and spiritual development.  Built on essential core values, the School's unique culture promotes brotherhood, creativity, empathy, humility, integrity, leadership and respect.  

Q: How is character integrated into your school culture?

The mission of our school is helping high-school boys grow into men of character and promise. We seek out good guys who are aspirational. With those two characteristics, a student’s experience at Salisbury can go well. When our alumni return to visit we see that they carry this sense of community into the world. They are good friends and coworkers, devoted husbands and fathers.

Q: Do you have specific initiatives around character development?

Every 9th grader at our school starts off with a semester seminar that covers theoretical and practical applications of how students learn. This includes topics like cultivating a growth mindset, time management, self-monitoring and organization. Since we instituted this class, we have seen students show more academic independence and we have observed an overall increase in grade point averages. This class helps us to get students who hail from many different schools on an equal footing as they begin their school life here. Boys want to be experts in something and it is empowering to become an expert in understanding the foundations of your own learning. We want students to build confidence from academic success and calibrated independence, so we emphasize accountability throughout students’ time here.

Q: How do you consider character in your admissions process?

We gather information from a variety of sources to get a holistic perspective on each student. We consider a student’s motivation, reaction to challenge, understanding of teamwork, and curiosity for mastering things inside and outside the classroom. Sometimes we scale our own expectations relating to qualities like grit and optimism because applicants may already have been challenged by profound life experiences. Sometimes we encounter students who don’t have strong grades or test scores but show strong integrity. That is valuable.