From Virtual Revisits to Webinars

Adapting Admissions in the Wake of COVID-19

Faced with the cancellations of city receptions and Revisit Day, the Admission Office discovered new ways to reach Groton’s newly admitted applicants around the world. The virtual Revisit hosts, Groton Admission Instagram, webinars, and Choose Groton website all received excellent reviews; the office will “keep each one of the new features going in 2020-21,” Mr. Gracey wrote.

This year’s admission statistics remained similar to years past, a testament to the success of the new digital programming. The admit rate was 11 percent, one percent down from last year. The overall yield was 64 percent, similar to six of the last seven years, and the yield for applicants receiving financial aid (46 percent of the pool) was 70 percent. Groton’s biggest competitors, Andover and Exeter, together claimed 22 admitted students. “No other school won more than four,” Mr. Gracey wrote.

On March 10, 133 applicants received their acceptance letters adorned with the iconic “YES!” welcome video from current students. By March 27, 57 students had already committed to attending Groton (compared to only 26 last year by that same date), according to Mr. Gracey. He added that 13 applicants already decided to attend a different institution by the 27, triple the number of “lost” applicants the previous year. “Applicants were clearly making their decisions earlier,” he wrote. 

Assistant Director of Admission Carolyn Chica attributed this trend to the fact that, “with families not being able to visit campus, families were doing their research via the Internet or personal connections.”

On March 11, interviewers sent personalized congratulatory messages to applicants, as per usual. Furthermore, coaches and art directors reached out to students who showed a special interest in their fields, whereas in previous years this process happened “more organically and informally through fairs on Revisit Day,” Ms. Chica wrote. In addition, parents of newly admitted students received a list of current families who had indicated a willingness to answer their questions.

The next big milestones in the Choose Groton process would have been the Embrace Tour –– a global series of receptions to formally welcome newly admitted students to the Circle in their home countries –– and Revisit Day. However, following Governor of Massachusetts Charlie Baker’s stay-at-home order and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines that encourage social distancing, the Admission Office canceled both programs. 

“Our Asian receptions were canceled in late February. Soon after, receptions were canceled in New York, Groton, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, Montreal, Princeton, and Washington,” Mr. Gracey explained. 

Another important facet of the admission process, Revisit Day, grants prospective students an unfiltered lens of the school from its lively classroom discussions to competitive athletic fields. To fill the gaps left by this canceled program, the Admission Office recruited 133 current students to pair with newly admitted students and answer their questions. 

“I sent my Revisit a lot of photos from campus and videos of student life. I also talked to other admitted students as well, and they all said how welcoming it felt to have current students contacting them,” virtual Revisit host Jacinta Lopez ’22 said. 

The Instagram account (@grotonadmission) also helped admitted students get to know the Circle. It featured the various aspects of life on campus, from state-of-the-art laboratories to century-old traditions like handshaking and parlor. A group of seniors hosted interactive Q&A sessions on the account’s “Story” feature, through which anyone could ask a question and have it answered by various sixth formers. 

“The account aimed to give an insider perspective on life in the Circle. We were trying to represent various programs on campus, and the Q&A’s experienced a lot of student interest. We also asked students and alumni to share what their favorite class was,” Ms. Chica, who manages the account, wrote.

If the Instagram outreach was more geared towards students, webinars addressed parents’ questions and concerns. There were webinars regarding current parents’ advice, the student experience, financial aid, and faculty mentors.

“Webinars may be used for virtual Open House and other upcoming campus opportunities. It’s important for us to be spreading awareness about Groton, but there are ways other than on-site fairs and receptions to recruit interest,” Ms. Chica wrote.

Finally, the Admission Office and Communications Department collaborated on creating an informative Choose Groton web page. The page began with the signature “YES!” video and featured an introduction from the Maqubelas, seniors and graduates’ descriptions of their favorite memories from the Circle, profiles of extracurricular activities, alumni profiles, Chapel Talks, and Quarterly articles. 

“In spite of various cancellations, we have been working hard to determine ways that we can give applicants a thorough understanding of what their lives would be like at Groton,” Mr. Gracey wrote.