To overcome the travel barriers posed by Covid-19, Andover Admissions has instituted a variety of virtual programming for the 2020-2021 admission cycle that have replaced the traditional in-person opportunities.
Admission events that previously required travel, such as “Conversations with Andover,” were transformed into “Andover at Home,” a series of Zoom webinar information sessions. Head tour guides led virtual campus tours on a weekly or twice-weekly basis, and all interviews were conducted via Zoom. This year, Andover Admissions also piloted a test-optional admission policy due to concerns over the safety of and access to standardized testing in the current environment.
The admissions process has dramatically changed for the current applicants due to the ongoing pandemic, according to Jill Thompson, Director of Admission. Although prospective students are unable to see and feel the campus atmosphere in-person, Thompson noted that virtual interviews allowed the Andover Admission team to reach an even broader applicant pool. The team was not constrained by time or the financial impacts of travel.
Thompson wrote in an email to The Phillipian, “Like with many organizations, the pandemic has caused our team to take a careful look at what we do and how we do it, especially with respect to our recruitment efforts. It has invited us to think about how we find bright and motivated students all around the globe, and how we can help them to learn about what the Andover experience is all about.”
Since July, Andover Admissions has offered several types of virtual events, including essay-writing workshops and short videos that serve as virtual information sessions.
“We took some of our other special events that we have done in person and just repackaged them as online sessions. For example, we offered four essay-writing workshops (via Zoom webinar) that we normally do as part of our Fall Open House on campus. In addition to the essay-writing workshops, we also hosted virtual information sessions specific to financial aid, academics, athletics, the arts, the student of color experience, and the specific experiences of new Lowers, Uppers, and one-year Seniors/Post-Graduates,” wrote Thompson.
According to Thompson, many applicants seemed like they were already accustomed to using Zoom from their experiences of virtual learning and interacting with adults online. Thompson hopes that applicants and families gained a further insight on Andover’s community values through the interviews and programs showcasing the school’s character.
“We found that students often seemed more comfortable, since they were most often interviewing from a familiar place—their home or school, as opposed to an unfamiliar place like one of our offices in Shuman. We have met so many wonderful prospective students and their parents over Zoom this summer and fall, and we hope that they were able to get a good sense of our Non Sibi spirit and the Big Blue community, even in a virtual setting,” wrote Thompson.
Current students compared their experience with the admissions process to this year’s virtual process. While Angela Chen ’23 found that a virtual interview could mitigate the anxiety typically felt by applicants, she noted the inevitable disadvantage of being interviewed without visiting the school in-person.
“In my opinion, although having a virtual interview erases that intimidation of being in a room with an admissions officer, being in a Zoom meeting for an interview is actually more difficult for the student and the faculty. I remember, during my interview two years ago, it was visiting the campus that made me amazed by Andover, and I talked a lot about that in my interview,” Chen wrote in an email to The Phillipian.
Abdiasis Daauud ’23 recalled the complications that Covid-19 caused during the final stages of his application process as a new Lower. Due to Covid-19 restrictions, Daauud was unable to mail his SSAT papers to many schools he applied to.
“I remember getting emails marked as ‘urgent’ from the other schools I was applying to, giving me deadlines for when I need to submit my SSAT scores. Knowing that your application to a school you wanted is marked as incomplete and there is nothing you could do about it, is not a pleasant feeling. I was forced to give up on applications I had been working on for months. While these immediate changes caused by the pandemic were not to blame on anyone, sticking to the old protocols was a choice that was made,” Daauud wrote in an email to The Phillipian.
Daauud expressed his support for Andover Admissions’ efforts to transition the traditional admission process to a virtual one.
“The Andover Admission committee is very aware of students’ situations and honestly, I believe that they will do everything in their power to make this year’s admission process the same as last years regardless of the obstacles,” wrote Daauud.
While there were some changes to the application process this year, Andover Admissions’ values for assessing applicants remain the same. The Admission team upholds their commitment to a holistic review, meaning an applicant’s standardized test scores, if shared, will be just one part of a comprehensive portfolio of documents that make up an application and help the team understand who the applicant is, what excites them, what challenges them, and what they would give to and gain from the Andover community.
Thompson added, “While nothing can replace the opportunity to meet students in person on the road to understand their stories and appreciate what it would be like for them to embark on this experience from where they live, it is clear to our team that we will continue to pursue at least some level of virtual recruitment in future years to reach the broadest audience possible.”