Late last spring, Mr. Charles Davis made the transition from Athletic Director and economics teacher to Dean of Admissions, a process finalized in June 2016. Filling Mr. Davis’ former positions, Ms. Kristen McVaugh is teaching economics at Deerfield this year, while Mr. Bob Howe has taken on the role as the new Athletic Director. As Dean of Admissions, Mr. Davis represents the admissions office as a member of the senior staff team, comprised of eleven individuals including the Director of College Advising, the Director of Inclusion, and the Academic Dean.
Speaking about the change from Athletic Director to Dean of Admissions, Mr. Davis elaborated on how he was able to draw on past experiences when collaborating with the admissions team and coalescing around strategies.
However, Mr. Davis did note that some differences exist between his former and current positions, the most notable being the constantly evolving nature of admissions. He expressed this sentiment explaining, “Admissions is all-encompassing. [During the admission team’s weekly meeting last Thursday], we were both digesting the 2016-17 admissions cycle…while already strategizing for 2017-18. You’re never really stopping, whereas in the athletic world, I felt that there was a stop when students left for the summer.”
For his first year in the position, Mr. Davis’ goal for the 2016-17 admissions cycle was to improve internal strategizing, encompassing the way in which the students who apply to Deerfield are evaluated. This evaluation includes drawing conclusions based off of interviews, essays, and supplements in prospective students’ total applications. Specifically speaking about improvements in the interview process, Mr. Davis stated, “We attempted to [conduct more] interviews. If we thought the candidate was viable and worthy, we made a large effort to conduct an interview over Skype or on campus. The number of waived interviews declined significantly this year.” Mr. Davis also remarked, “Internally, we [the admissions team] did a better job of recognizing the most gifted and promising academic candidates…We shepherded them through our admissions process more consciously and strategically to…give them more propulsion through the process.”
Acknowledging the challenges of this year’s admissions cycle, Mr. Davis expressed that determining how many admitted students will actually accept Deerfield’s offer is often difficult. He stated, “We tried to attach a yield indicator to each student that was admitted,” the yield indicator being an estimate of their likelihood of accepting the offer to attend Deerfield Academy. This yield indicator seems to have been effective. Associate Dean of Admissions Mr. Jose Briones stated, “We are on target…We are not overenrolled, [which] gives us a little breathing room. Overenrollment has been a problem in previous years.”
As for the 2017-18 admissions cycle, Mr. Davis indicated that the admissions team plans to specifically focus on external strategy, referring to raising awareness about Deerfield. Particularly, Mr. Davis mentioned that while international interest remains robust and steadily increasing, the volume of domestic applications in recent years has decreased. Mr. Davis pointed to specific areas, such as Florida, Texas, and Southern California that the admission teams intends to focus on next year. Mr. Davis concluded, “Our main goal is to develop new footholds in the US to show off the opportunities at Deerfield and to dispel old notions about boarding school.” These notions include the idea that boarding school is a place to send miscreant children or that boarding school is completely inaccessible for many families. In order to actualize this objective, Mr. Davis intends “to use the Deerfield network to spread the word of Deerfield and then follow up with admission officer travel in order to meet prospective families, hold receptions, and conduct interviews.”
Overall, Mr. Davis described the position of Director of Admissions as “wonderfully challenging,” and while the admissions team is already underway with its work to improve Deerfield admissions and its external strategy, Mr. Davis noted, “[This process] is the beauty of the admissions cycle. Faces change each year. You get to refresh your strategy every year.”