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The Quad

Admissions Program Changes

Recent changes to the school’s admission process have prompted the return of the shadow program, now referred to as the Student Experience, two years after the school’s re-opening in the wake of COVID-19. The closure of campus and possible safety risks posed during the height of the virus caused the program to be cut for the totality of quarantine, as well as last year. 

Last year, besides on-campus events, no other major programs were cut from the admissions process; rather a majority of programs were adapted to the online environment. Virtual tours, question-and-answer seminars, and basic presentations were all substituted for the standard open houses or family tours. When the school reopened its doors, several temporary modifications were made to in-person programs, in order to still host students and families. When asked what changes were made to the shadow program, Ms. Lisa Ignoffo, Associate Director of Admission, commented that during COVID the school created “a curated experience” where “faculty and staff put on mini-lessons” for a small groups of eighth graders. Upperclassmen were also present during the lessons to answer questions and provide the perspective of a student to the applicants. When asked why these specific adjustments were made to isolate the applicants instead of implementing the pre-Covid procedure, Ignoffo responded that the team was “still trying to figure out what the best way to have students back on campus would be.” Because classes were still adjusting from quarantine, the admissions team feared that hosting applicants within the classroom could possibly hinder the delicate learning environment. Given the changes made to the campus visit program, admissions staff were able to easily adjust and manipulate these curated mini-lessons, allowing for a smoother shadow experience. While the curated lessons did not offer the full experience of a shadow day, they served as a safe and adequate way for applicants to experience a day at Sacred Heart.

This year, the school administrative body announced that school policy would be “returning to normal,” which marked the re-implementation of old programs including the pre-COVID Student Experience. While COVID caused changes to many aspects of the admissions process, the removal of in-person events was the most significant. When asked about what the admissions team learned from the program’s removal, Ignoffo commented that “during COVID we got a lot of feedback that it was really hard for families to make a decision.” Ignoffo said a common complaint the admissions team received was that “students were not able to sit in a classroom.” Based on this criticism, the admissions team concluded that “families were having a hard time deciding to go to a school without really being able to experience a day.” Families were unable to get a proper sense of campus without typical in-person opportunities, and given the school’s high tuition and the competition posed by other local schools, many struggled to make a decision on whether or not to attend. As a result, making applicants feel welcome and connected to the community has now become even more of a priority among the admissions staff. The admissions group feels that families are much more receptive to an in-person process and have an easier time making decisions when they are able to view the campus, see the student culture, and witness Sacred Heart in person, not over a screen. Ignoffo stated that “we really want families to understand our mission and to kind of feel how it’s lived at Sacred Heart.” Similarly to the deeper connection the admissions program hopes to foster among applicants and current Sacred Heart students, the team wants to create an intimate environment for parents. Before COVID, many programs hosting parents, such as an Open House, drew up to 800 attendees. The admissions team has now limited the number of people per event to a few hundred in order to provide more attention to the present families. 

The importance of in-person events to the school is reflected in the participation of applicants. Ignoffo mentioned that “we always… are in the hundreds at all [on-campus admissions] events” and that the Student Experience program “will definitely fill up.” Despite high application rates and participation from prospective students and families, the participation from current SHP students is at an all-time low. During one of the standard Open Houses, hosted on the weekend of October 28th, Ignoffo noted a lack of student volunteers, putting more strain on both the staff and students who did participate. Because the school is trying to further its connection with applicants, having students who can share and vouch for the school is increasingly important, according to the admissions team. Ignoffo says that the admissions team wants the help of students “that are really excited and want to show their school to the next generation of gators” and encourages greater engagement among 9-12th graders in the process of welcoming prospective families to SHP.

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