Admissions meets challenges from construction and Covid

The Admissions Office in Dana Hall is facing two big challenges this year: the construction project and the pandemic. The lack of a major classroom building caused by building updates, as well as traveling restrictions caused by Covid, is affecting the daily life of students and staff. Dealing with these challenges, the Admission Office and the Blue Key club have made several changes.

Elizabeth Connelly, Senior Associate Director of Admission, reflects on the challenge caused by construction. She stated, “If we can’t show our primary classroom space, what are the spaces we really want to highlight, and how can we get our visitors to imagine its future appearance and benefits?” The Admission Office has created a new tour route for admission events such as Open House. Ms. Connelly pointed out that the school “created a new tour stop right outside the Library for the families to look at how the project is going on real-time, and how will the buildings look when they are done on the monitor” that has now been installed in the hallway. 

Student tour guides, members of the Blue Key Club, are trained to stop at the new monitor and take some time to introduce the purpose of the construction project and their personal experience with the construction project. 

The Blue Key heads, Maya Teschke ‘23 and Catherine Colman ’23, explained the changes going on with tour-guide training. “We want the students to focus more on the deep meaning behind an event and come up with their real-life examples to show genuine aspects of the school and how these affect them.” The new classroom building will be “really beneficial for future students: there will be more collaborative spaces, and the departments providing extra help to student bodies will be integrated into the same classroom building.” Maya and Catherine shared the investment that the school puts into its students and their own touring experience. “Some people might be turned away, but people can also be excited about having this new building in the middle of next year.” 

Ms. Connelly pointed out that Beveridge Hall, previously used for Open House or Middle School and Upper School previews, is now occupied by the Art Department. Therefore, Shipley Center is now the primary place to welcome families. Staying positive, she shared a brand-new experience caused by this change of space. “Having the Art Studio right next door and walking through there every time, I get to see the fantastic art students and teachers. I encounter different people on campus because of this traffic change, and it’s an opportunity to meet and engage the people you might not otherwise interact with.” 

Besides the travel routes and space shift concerning the construction, there are additional changes to Admissions strategies because of Covid, according to Ms. Connelly. The Admissions Office is now taking a hybrid approach, offering both Zoom meetings and in-person visits as options for prospective families to get an insight into the school and what the school year looks like.

The School has also remained test-optional, a change that occurred during the height of the pandemic. Many testing sites for SSAT and TOEFL were shut down for two years, and so test results were not considered in admissions decisions. The School then had to consider whether it wished to remain test-optional as Covid restrictions got looser. Ms. Connelly said, “It requires us to think critically about why we require the standardized test. We decided to remain test-optional since we are still seeing a huge impact of the pandemic on students’ learning, and we believe standardized testing is not the only indicator of academic success.” 

Another challenge the school faced during the last three years was the inability of the Admissions staff to travel internationally, meet families where they are, and tell them about the School. However, Ms. Connelly stated that the school is “back on the road this year. We just had a member of the Admissions staff visiting Mexico and Columbia, and we have two members of the Admissions staff getting ready to go to South Korea, Bangkok, and Singapore.” 

Ms. Connelly concluded that there were some changes in the school’s international market because of restrictions on travel. “There are real fears related to the pandemic.” She mentioned that the outbreak of Covid in 2020 largely influenced enrollment numbers because of the uncertainties and anxiety related to sending children to a boarding school. However, this year, the school is able to maintain the number of international applicants and the enrollment rate. As Maya and Catherine put it, “we are really trying to bounce back from Covid, to show our resilience and how much stronger we are despite all these challenges.”

Ms. Connelly stated that looking at Admission events registration numbers, people’s enthusiasm toward Dana Hall is not lacking at all. 

Maya and Catherine shared, “There are so many updates going on at Dana: a new logo, a new building, a new motto, a new chapter. Under this year of change, we can still share experiences on how our community stayed together and stayed positive.”  

Ms. Connelly concluded that these challenges the school is facing can actually become an opportunity and positive experience for the community. “I have never seen students more positive and happier in my year in Dana Hall – I have been here for a long time. It has brought us together, it has made us stronger. I’m just so proud to be part of this new chapter in Dana Hall.” 

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