Ever since its founding in 1858 by the Brothers of Christian Schools, LaSalle College High School has been committed to developing young men spiritually and socially as well as academically. Situated in Springfield Township, Montgomery County, just outside Philadelphia, LaSalle boasts a student population of 1,050 boys in grades 9-12.
Wally Muehlbronner, the school’s hockey coach, is also LaSalle’s assistant director of admissions.
“A LaSalle education is about really getting to know your students and touching the hearts of the students,” he said. “So, it’s much more than obviously developing them academically. Being the best student they can be is obviously very important, but really getting to know the students and helping them develop into the best versions of themselves would be the ultimate goal.”
There are over 500 applicants each year for 265-275 places in LaSalle’s freshman class. The pool of applicants includes students from over 100 different grade schools and middle schools. Muehlbronner offers an overview of what the school is seeking in prospective new students.
“First and foremost, we want good kids,” he said. “We want good character kids. We want students who are willing to work hard to be the best students that they can be academically, and students that are going to get involved outside of the classroom, So, we want certainly well rounded students, but first and foremost, we want good character kids who are going to help make the community here stronger.
“So academically, obviously, they need to be good students, and they need to perform well on the scholarship entrance exam but we also look very heavily on their recommendations and their prior performance academically at their grade schools.”
Muehlbronner says most prospective students start thinking seriously about LaSalle in the seventh grade, but adds this caveat.
“It’s gotten and earlier and earlier the longer I’ve done this,” he said. “The kids start exploring the options at an earlier age. We even offer sixth-grade practice test. So, we have sixth graders that will come in in March and take a practice test, as well as seventh graders that would take a practice test in March, and that gives them a good feel of what to expect at schools like LaSalle on the entrance exam for when it matters the most, in eighth grade.
“But most of the students attend an open house in the fall of their seventh-grade year. They take the practice test in March. Some of the students, as seventh graders, may choose to come and visit and spend a full day with us, and shadow a current student.”
Muehlbronner says the intensity of the application process picks up in a student’s eighth-grade year. “They come and they spend a full day with us in the fall,” he said. “They take the scholarship entrance exam, typically in early November or the end of October, and then decisions start getting made on admissions in December.”
The school takes steps to make the freshmen feel comfortable, even before they officially begin their careers at LaSalle.
“We have a Mass together to kick things off,” Muehlbronner says. “That’s done in March of every year. All the families will come in and we have a Mass the Class of 2023 will have their Mass coming up in March and then from there we do freshman orientation with them.
“There’s a lot of different icebreakers so the guys get to meet each other. A lot of times it’s homeroom competitions that they’ll have to create a little bit of camaraderie amongst the homerooms, but then get to meet all the other students.
“Then from there it’s really just staying with them. The freshman guidance counselor, the dean of students, all the different things that go in to helping to introduce them to LaSalle.”
Like the other three school in the Atlantic Prep Athletic Conference, LaSalle is a single-sex institution, a setting that Muehlbronner says some distinct advantages.
“The single-sex environment helps the guys I think really be themselves,” she said. “They’re not trying to do things to try to impress somebody.
“We hear from the guys when we talk to them. We do different panels here where our students will talk to prospective families about their experience at LaSalle, and oftentimes the parents will ask them ‘What’s it like to go to an all-boy school?’ And the first thing we here is that they love it; there’s a brotherhood, you can be yourself. Nobody’s putting on airs to try impress somebody, but it is a good competitive environment, where guys want to do the best they can in the classroom and outside the classroom. They’re very comfortable getting involved in many different things.
“We have kids that kids that are involved in the theatre program here, the music program here, that are also some of the best athletes in the school. So, there are an awful lot of things they can get into not feel like it’s not the cool thing to do. It’s cool to get involved and it’s cool to be yourself and make the most out of your experience here.”
Muehlbronner notes that students who are considering LaSalle are likely considering all-male schools as well, including the other members of the Atlantic Prep Athletic Conference.
“The competitiveness at all four of our schools is a healthy competiveness,” he said, “and I think there’s tremendous support here for the guys to help them along the way. They’re going to fail in things at times but that’s okay. That’s part of learning and growing.”
Muehlbronner has been LaSalle’s hockey coach for 21 seasons and the program has compiled has compiled a remarkable record in that time. His teams have won eight Flyers Cups four state titles and, this season, the APAC’s inaugural championship.
As successful as the program is however, it is but one of a number of outlets for LaSalle students to express themselves.
There’s a pretty clear understanding with the guys as far as what’s expected of them,” Muehlbronner said, “just like all the athletes here. But it’s no different from what’s expected from the kids that are on the robotics team or are heavily involved in the music program; it’s the same. Something that enhances their experience here and helps them grow as young men.”
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By Rick Woelfel