PHS receives boom in magnet applictions, pool becomes more competitive

For next year’s incoming freshman class, PHS received 150 more applications than the previous year. As a result, the application process is more competitive than ever before. In 2017, PHS was ranked the most challenging school in Maryland, above other MCPS schools such as Richard Montgomery and Winston Churchill. PHS’s high ranking precedes itself as alumni continue to succeed beyond the PHS community, with some former students attending prestigious institutions such as Stanford and MIT. The application process, in turn, becomes increasingly competitive as more and more parents, eager to send their kids to top colleges, flood the magnet programs.

“The number of applications for all three programs at PHS have increased this year,” said Mrs. Alison Wilder, PHS magnet coordinator, adding that there was a total of 855 applications this year.
Besides PHS’ track record as a top school, there has been a recent population growth in the Northwestern side of the county, giving rise to more eighth graders eligible to apply for the magnets.

Wilder stated that in addition to population growth, the recruiting process has changed since she became the magnet coordinator. This year, Wilder visited every middle school that is eligible to apply to PHS to hold an information night about the programs. PHS students who attended each middle school came along to share their experiences and answer questions that prospective families had.

After all the applications are received, a large committee made up of half PHS teachers and half Central Office staff works for several days to make admissions decisions. The teachers chosen to review applications depends on the program they are selecting for and the teacher’s subject matter.

When asked what makes for a well-qualified applicant, Wilder explained, “[they have strong] test scores, teacher recommendations, and report cards. [The magnet office] looks at what program or school the students are coming from. We look at the rigor of their classes and determine whether or not they are taking full advantage of the selection of courses their schools offer. The written portion of the application, along with their essay during the actual testing, shows us their personality and enthusiasm about the magnet programs.”

The upsurge of PHS’ popularity, paired with the growing number of northwestern Montgomery County residents, accounts for an increasingly more competitive application process for the three houses at PHS. The core of what makes Poolesville High School so special is that PHS students are students who constantly show “commitment, persistence, and effort,” says Mrs. Wilder.