It's because of Covid!
Stepping foot on campus may no longer be the best first step in finding the right school: How Covid has shaped the landscape of independent school admission, for the better!
“It’s because of Covid!”
How many times have we heard this phrase to explain the difficult changes we have had to makeover this past year and the many experiences we have had to put on hold. Working in the world of independent school admission, I have heard and seen first-hand just how much Covid has impacted young people and their families, especially as they attempt to navigate an important school search in the middle of a pandemic.
From my vantage point, however, I would like to take a moment to share some of my thoughts on how adapting the admission process through the pandemic has improved the search experience and has made it easier and better, especially for families looking at multiple schools in various locations.
Here are my top five reasons:
- There are a plethora of new materials at your fingertips. Last spring, as independent school admission offices were in the midst of touring and enrolling new students, everything ground to a screeching halt. As a result, schools were forced to quickly and skillfully create a new process, which had to include improved online materials. New websites, high-quality virtual tours, and authentic student and parent testimonials, should now be quite commonplace across independent schools, and prospective families should take advantage of all of them.
- Admission officers have become pro zoomers. In our office, we now make a zoom meeting the standard first step. We have a number of materials we like to screen share with families, including a peek at how we create the academic schedule for students, a drone view of the entire campus, and a short video showcasing the unique programs we offer.
- The fit is much clearer before the on-campus tour. Schools are also able to meet a student and conduct the initial interview on zoom, which allows both the family and the school to develop a sense of the potential match. In the past, the only way to do this was to have a family make the journey (sometimes a very long one!) to campus. Now, schools can speak openly with families about the fit before inviting them to campus.
- The result is a much improved on-campus tour: As a result of all of these changes, families know a great deal about the school and about the admission process before ever coming to campus. When a family does come for the on-campus tour, there is already context and the knowledge that the school is potentially a very good match for the student. Students are much less nervous because they have already met the admission officer and are comfortable knowing they “passed” the interview process. This makes the visit much more relaxed and enjoyable There aren’t a lot of surprises. Because the admission process has become even more thorough and personalized, families and students should know where they stand as they move through the steps. They know if the school feels like the kind of environment they are seeking and they know how the school feels about the match, too.
In our office, we certainly dream of the day when masks and social distancing are things of the past. We look forward to going back to some of the practices we miss, like connecting in person with admission colleagues, visiting feeder schools, and traveling to meet families across the country. But, we also recognize that adapting to the pandemic has forced us to examine our practices and to improve our craft. Helping a family discover and enroll in an independent school is serious business, and we are happy to say that Covid has given us gifts that have helped us improve this important process.