Dana Hall Admissions, pandemic edition

Dana Hall Admissions has faced a number of challenges throughout the pandemic. According to Ms. Angela Brown, Director of Enrollment and Marketing, the Admissions office needed to evaluate and admit students differently than they have in the past. The standard elements of the application in the past were letters of recommendation, standardized tests, transcripts, interviews, and extracurricular activities, all of which were different due to the pandemic.  

This year, the letters of recommendation from teachers and other educators were much more variable than in other years because of remote schooling. Some letters were fueled with insight about the students, while others didn’t have much to say, since many teacher recommenders had never seen the students’ presence in the classroom.

The Admissions team made a decision last fall that domestic students were not required to submit a standardized test, due to limited access to testing during the pandemic. The common form of standardized tests for domestic students are the Secondary School Admissions Test (SSAT) and Independent School Entrance Examination (ISEE).

However, the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) test was required for international students.

The pandemic also changed the evaluation of an applicant’s transcript. Sometimes the Admissions team was looking at the previous year’s grades. Some parts of the transcript were pass/fail, so they had to trust the school and their process of transcripts. Ms. Brown further explained, the Admissions team looked at each school to see what they did in order to make learning happen in the midst of the pandemic, recognizing that some schools tweaked their curriculum or recommendation forms. 

No campus tours were given, because Dana Hall had closed the campus to the public in efforts to keep the campus safe from COVID-19. Admissions hired a company to create a virtual bird’s eye view tour, so students could have the best glimpse of Dana Hall possible. 

All interviews were conducted through Zoom. However, at the end of March, admitted students were allowed to come to campus, as there were no teachers and students on campus that week. Each admitted student was allowed to come with one adult, and Dana Hall hosted about 101 families, with 10 families entering at a time.

The applicant pool was also slightly affected by the pandemic. According to Ms. Brown, there was a slight decrease to the number of boarding applicants, as anticipated. Moreover, international applicants may have been more reluctant to apply because of the pandemic and the state of politics in the United States. Some applicants worried whether it was safe to study in the United States and asked questions about issues such as gun safety, something that Ms. Brown said was “not surprising” to be asked. Ms. Brown stated the biggest spike of questions were about COVID-19 safety. 

Ms. Brown reflected, “Despite the challenges of the pandemic, we were able to connect with prospective families around the world to share what makes Dana Hall such a fiercely empowering place. We are delighted to welcome 120 bright, curious, and talented new students to campus this fall.”

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