We are pleased to welcome guest blogger, Oriana Isaacson, Associate Director of Admission at Crystal Springs Uplands School in Hillsborough, CA. Previously, she was the Assistant Director of Upper School Admissions at The Bush School in Seattle, WA, and was a member of the Undergraduate Recruitment Committee at her alma mater, Columbia University in New York, NY. She attended Harvard-Westlake in North Hollywood, CA, and vividly remembers taking the ISEE as part of the application process. She still has a copy of her scores; they are not available upon request.

Admission officers work hard. Phone calls, emails, Open Houses, tours, websites and viewbooks filled with smiling happy faces of students and teachers: all intentionally designed to convert the inquiry into an applicant and the admit into an enrolled student.

However, it is unfortunately also not uncommon to hear prospective students say their opinion of a school changed suddenly – and permanently – after a “bad” visit day.

Oh, the visit day. The part of the application process that admissions officers equally love because of its authenticity and fear because we (admissions officers) don’t really know what happens during it.

One of Crystal Spring Uplands School’s Admission Ambassadors, a senior, said to me recently, “the host holds the key to the visit day.” Who your hosts are and what they have been trained to do can help set your mind at east, while providing your visitors with a smooth (and still authentic) campus experience.

What makes for a bad visit day? The two things I hear most often from students are:
My host didn’t talk to me/forgot me.
I had to sit through a quiz/test.

Here are some ways you can improve the “bad” visit day and address those common problems.

Problem 1: My host didn’t talk to me/forgot me
When pairing a host with a visitor, having something instantly in common is a great way to get conversation going. This can be as simple as sharing the same previous school or playing the same sport or musical instrument, and as complex as a similar passion or personality.

At my previous school, we solicited applications from students – primarily 9th graders – who were interested in hosting applicant visitors for class visits. This allowed us to see who was genuinely willing to help (versus just being assigned to be a host), and gave us the opportunity to learn a little bit more about the hosts, their schedules and what they were involved in on campus.

Knowing their schedules meant I was able to pick hosts on days they had unique elective classes or the “rock star” teachers who always won over a visiting student. I would also ask what day were not good to host. Swim practice every Tuesday morning before school? Probably not the best day!

Our students appreciated hosting a visitor they could connect with easily, and not having to host on their stressful days kept us in their good graces. Considering how many times we call on them to host visitors, it is really important for current students to see we care about them just as much as we care about our prospective students.

Because of their self-selection and our intentional matching of hosts to visitors, their engagement and enthusiasm translated into fewer cases of silent visits and forgotten students – meaning happier applicants at the end of the day.

Problem 2: I had to sit through a quiz/test
It surprises me how often I hear this one! I don’t think a visitor should ever have to sit through a test that lasts a whole (or even half) class period.

At the start of the admission season, send out a calendar of your visit days to all faculty. If your teachers know the schedule, they can better plan around those days and can let you know in advance the days or periods that will have tests. Hosts also know when they have tests, so encourage them to speak up when there is one on a day they are scheduled to host.

If you still have to use a particular host despite a test, make arrangements for that one period for the student to visit with another student. The host will appreciate not having to think about their visitor while they take the test. Perhaps that’s a good time for them to have their interview? Or maybe another student has a free period and can give the visitor a tour of campus, or get them a snack? Or possibly they could join a drama or art class? And on the rare occasion of a pop quiz, I’ve had many teachers take the time to chat with the visitor during the quiz because they knew the visitor was coming and were invested in making it a positive experience. That small connection makes a big difference.

A visitor is only on campus for a few hours at most, so make every minute count!

Stay tuned next week, when Oriana gives insight into training Upper School student ambassadors.