Why BSM?


Brook Wenande

BSM highlights its sense of community in admissions tours–a big draw for prospective students.

BSM’s classes are full, wait lists are long, and prospective 2023 students are already filling out next year’s application. Year after year, BSM’s admissions remain strong. In a wealthy metro area with nationally ranked public schools and dozens of private schools, why do parents choose BSM?

Many private schools have a “gem” that they highlight on tours, post about on social media, and talk about with new parents and students. BSM’s gem is its strong sense of community, which is consistently a strong pull for new students. “We always come down to that sense of community here. [New families] feel it the moment they walk into the building,” Senior High Director of Admissions Betsy Van Cleve said.

The BSM admissions team takes great care to highlight the sense of community by integrating prospective students into school life. “We feel that when families either spend some time in an open house or do a day visit any chance they get here, they’re locked in [to the community]. So that is very prevalent,” Van Cleve said.

Other schools have different aspects they show off, and the reasons parents choose BSM differ from the reasons parents might choose other local schools. Visitation, for example, the benefits of single-gender education when advertising to new families. Ultimately, most choose the school because it is single-gender, although the school pushes their strong academics as well.

We always come down to that sense of community here. [New families] feel it the moment they walk into the building,

— Betsy Van Cleve

“Visitation is unique in that we offer middle and upper school education for only girls, and have been for 150 years. This sets us apart from the other Catholic school options in the Twin Cities. We focus on the all-girls difference and the data behind the benefits of single-gender education. We also talk about our strong academics and support available for students, ” Director of Admissions at Visitation Mirella Miller said.

Some parents choose BSM for its small class sizes; the average size is about 230 students in a grade and 21-22 in a typical classroom. Compared to large public schools with grades of 800 or more, BSM offers more one-on-one instruction. “I think that public school families are seeing the value of smaller class sizes. Teachers…have the opportunity to get to know students a little bit more deeply,” Van Cleve said.

Although BSM’s classes are small compared to public schools, they are bigger than classes at some local private schools. At the Blake School, for example, small class sizes are a focal point of admissions and a big draw to new families. “ If there’s a piece that really captures the Blake experience for all of those grades, it’s [the] small school environment… parents were looking to Blake for smaller classes and it just a smaller school community in general,” Director of Admissions at Blake said.

The pandemic revealed different benefits to private school education, so other schools both locally and nationally have seen a rise in admissions. Because it was more difficult to enforce social distancing with a large student population, many public schools went completely virtual in the 2020-2021 school year. In fact, the National Center for Education Statistics reported that public school enrollment dropped from 50.8 million in the fall of 2019 to 49.4 million in the fall of 2020. “[We had] really strong admission seasons through COVID,” Silverstri said.

The smaller class sizes at private schools made it easier for them to stay open; many parents recognized this and moved to enroll their children in private school. “I think that all private schools benefited from that a little bit because we were in school, right. And so I think that that’s one thing that kind of maybe gave us a little bit of a bump. We had very, very big wait pools in pretty much all of our grades out of COVID,” Van Cleve said.

Experts are unsure of whether the trend toward private schools will continue past the pandemic. In Minnesota specifically, public school enrollment dropped again this fall. However, the drop was not as severe. Whether or not the trend continues, the pandemic revealed a few benefits of private schools: small class sizes, one-on-one teacher instruction, and greater flexibility to allow in person learning.

However, students give slightly different reasons for why they (or their parents) ultimately chose BSM. In a survey conducted by the Knight Errant, 77 students answered a series of questions about why they enrolled in BSM. Many said they enrolled for the community, although academics was the most selected response (30%). But other students mentioned new reasons they might enroll at BSM. Multiple students cited the school’s athletics or extracurriculars as their primary reason for choosing BSM.

Even if BSM can’t officially recruit athletes for sports, they are still a strong pull for new families. The Vang sisters, for example, chose BSM for its top ranked girl’s lacrosse program. “Yes [lacrosse] was a main factor… I like the players that I know from our club team, and I also know the coach,” freshman Jun Vang said.

Whether families are choosing BSM for athletics, Covid flexibility, small classes, or other factors, BSM’s admissions remain strong. “BSM has been pretty fortunate to either be kind of even or up so we haven’t seen as much volatility… In that respect…we’ve been very fortunate,” Van Cleve said.