Airport lounges. Dinners with current families in exotic restaurants. Buses, planes and gyms with colleagues. Fairs, information sessions, and open houses answering the same questions over and over. Are you like me and missing these things? Terribly?
For the admission world, at least here in Ontario (Canada) things changed, dramatically, on March 13. Schools shut down. In my school, we still had our Senior Kindergarten admission season to go, as well as filling a few spots in our non-entry years. My three amazing Senior Kindergarten Senior Admission Counsellors were on Zoom interviews with four-year old boys trying to determine “best fit” and the beginning of what is likely a 13-year relationship (as a student) with our school…how did they do it? Apparently pretty well, our Senior Kindergarten teachers are pleased with their classes – so chalk one up for the admission team!
Like most schools our admission team moved everything to a virtual world for our new families; running sessions for the parents, sessions for the boys, pairing families up with a virtual mentor, etc. We even hand delivered a summer reading and math package to our new families in the Preparatory School. At the end of the summer, when we took a hard look at the data, our attrition was the lowest it had been in five years and the acceptance of our offers was also at a five-year high.
So we started September feeling pretty good about ourselves…but then a bit of reality hit. COVID-19 is still here. No tours. No in person interviews. No one in our office. No airplane cuisine for me!
Like all of you, we have “pivoted” – the word of 2020 – and doing our best to run an admission process that is fair, focused, and we hope will serve our school well in the year(s) to come. It continues to be a work on progress, and I continue to try to find the best angle for my camera on Zoom to make me look 20 pounds lighter. But as I reflected on where we are, in early November, I can’t help but think:
- Our process is not going to be perfect, no matter how hard we try.
- Families are going to understand (eventually), that we’re doing our best.
- We need to keep track of what we’re doing/and what is working. Even when things “get back to normal”, what might we keep that we have done since March?
- Collaboration, with peer schools, if it wasn’t happening before, might become a necessity, especially if we are making the needs of the families we serve a priority.
- We all need to not only be kind to our colleagues, but good to ourselves.
I am grateful to work at a supportive school with committed colleagues. And over the last eight months I have connected more with admission colleagues – across North America – because you have to be in this crazy (but wildly rewarding!) profession to truly understand what a virtual admission world is like. Let’s support each other, share with each other, and don’t be afraid to tell one another to adjust your Zoom camera for a more flattering angle…we’re in this together!
Vice Principal of Enrolment Management
Upper Canada College
Toronto ON, Canada