With spring revisit days canceled due to the COVID-19 outbreak, the Deerfield Admissions Office has been forced to develop new and creative ways to offer admitted students a taste of life on campus.
Incoming families were invited to participate in a series of virtual panels during which Deerfield students, teachers, and parents provided their perspectives on life at Deerfield. Admitted students could also connect with teachers to ask specific questions.
“It was all about how everyone loved Deerfield, which really stuck out to me,” said Maddie Benello ’22, an incoming junior. “Even though it was virtual, they managed to spread that message quite clearly.”
In addition to the panels, Deerfield also hosted an event titled “Saturday Night Lights,” during which there were virtual meeting rooms for all of its extracurricular programs, including co-curriculars and student-run clubs. Students could come and go as they pleased, similar to the format of the meet and greet events held after all revisit days in the Spring.
“My revisit day at Deerfield was a deciding factor in me choosing the school, so I was happy to answer questions and provide some excitement around the prospect of Deerfield for potential incoming students,” said Kareena Bhakta ’20, a club leader who attended the event.
The virtual events started on March 21, earlier than revisit days would have originally been held. Chip Davis, Dean of Admissions, believed that families would make their decisions a little sooner in a virtual space. The events went so well that Mr. Davis said they will continue to run them in the future as a resource for admitted students that are unable to attend revisit days.
“What we realized through all this is that these are things that we should be doing even when things go back to normal,” Mr. Davis said.
In the simulation of Deerfield’s life, the classroom experience was notably left out. Admitted students did not visit online classes, and their academic questions were handed off to individual teachers instead.
“That was the only thing that we didn’t recreate. We recreated every other part of the day except for a sit-down meal,” Mr. Davis said. He noted that it was difficult to gauge how the community would respond to showcasing online classes as an emulation of a physical Deerfield class.
“Obviously it wasn’t the same… but I think given the situation it was quite well-handled,” Benello said.
Social media also played an increasingly important role in showcasing Deerfield to admitted students. On Instagram, the Communications Office opted to increase the amount of dynamic short-term content, allowing students and alumni to contribute through interactive Instagram stories.
While no revisit days were hosted this spring, several families were still able to drive around to look at the campus. Though school was not in session and no students were there, families who decided to visit were able to get a glimpse of what life at Deerfield could be like.
One of the challenges the Admissions Office faced this spring was the uncertainty surrounding the fall term. Benello, who lives in London, explained that the uncertainty of whether she would be able to travel to the U.S. for school factored into her family’s decision to commit to Deerfield. International students who do not have dual citizenship cannot obtain a student visa until the consulates reopen, according to Mr. Davis.
As a result, the Admissions Office gave incoming families a full refund on their deposit and pushed the first tuition payment deadline back to July 1st.
“We want you to say yes to Deerfield but we’re going to build in some safeguards for you, in the event that either you choose not to be here because of something around health or you can’t physically get here even though you want to,” Mr. Davis said.
On March 10th, Deerfield admitted 319 students, 204 of which accepted the offer of admission. This year’s yield of 64% is an increase from last year, which Mr. Davis called “ironic.”
Looking forward to next year, it is unclear whether the Admissions Office will be able to travel to recruit students and what an on-campus visit will look like for prospective families. Mr. Davis said he thinks it will be much harder to attract as many applicants as in previous years.
There were more than twenty families that decided to stay home for the next year instead of commiting to boarding school because of the uncertainty about the coronavirus pandemic. Mr. Davis said the students would likely reapply in the future.
Despite the complications the COVID-19 pandemic has caused for Deerfield admissions and prospective students, the admissions office has designed a creative, interactive way to experience Deerfield even halfway across the world.