As we start this new academic year, it occurs to me that I started my career in a great independent school exactly 40 years ago. (Yes, I am that old). Back then, everything was new to me. This year, everything is new to all of us – though we did have a trial run last spring.
As we start this new academic year, it occurs to me that I started my career in a great independent school exactly 40 years ago. (Yes, I am that old). Back then, everything was new to me. This year, everything is new to all of us – though we did have a trial run last spring. Now that we’ve had more time to reflect and prepare for our COVID reality, we are in a better position to deliver the best possible experience to our students. We will do just that.
As we do, there are changes in how students will engage in the college process. The first is the lack of direct, personal contact with college campuses and recruiters. Most colleges shut down on-campus information sessions, tours and visits to high schools last spring. They replaced those staples of spring and summer with virtual experiences, including individual Zoom visits to high schools. Students and parents interested in colleges need to get onto websites and look for virtual tours, information sessions and opportunities to contact the admissions officer that reads applications from Wardlaw+Hartridge. (If you can’t figure out who that is at a given college, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and I’ll help you.)
September and October are usually months when we welcome more than 100 representatives from colleges to our campus, so they can talk with our students. Due to the pandemic, those reps are not traveling this year. We have adjusted to that change and invited representatives to visit us on Zoom. As of my writing, 112 representatives have scheduled times to visit us and talk with our students via Zoom. Everyone will stay safe, and our students will continue to have chances to learn about colleges, demonstrate interest in those colleges and prepare to write essays and do interviews in a more informed way. In short, the format has changed, but the substance remains the same.
As you may have read, many college campuses have had trouble controlling the spread of the virus, not so much due to classroom interaction as to dormitory living, and especially the large social gatherings of the type college life has long included. As challenging as our day school reality presently is, it is more manageable than what residential schools and colleges have on their hands. I feel for students who are asked to live with health-required restrictions on their freedoms, for parents who have additional concern about their children’s safety and the value of online rather than in-person instruction, and for administrators who have to try to keep everyone safe while delivering the best possible academic experience. Relatively speaking, we are in a more advantageous position than residential communities are. We will forge ahead accordingly, hoping that our community will stay as healthy as possible, and knowing our seniors will graduate next June, on their way toward colleges that will, an effective vaccine willing, be back to something more like normal a year from now.
We are all in this together. Stay healthy, safe, and in touch.