The Admissions Office, Through Covid and Controversy

Ms. Georgia Warner-Haakmat (left) and Ms. Camilla Campbell from the admissions office. Media provided by Gazette Media Staff.

For many of us at Grace, the Admissions Department was our first experience at this school. I vividly remember the first time I entered the building and immediately turned right into the office as a nervous 8th grade applicant. I had no idea then that I would be calling this school my home for the next four years. Many of us know and love Grace, and we owe much of that to the Admissions Department: they help build a strong community at Grace that will persist for years to come. 

Despite this, a majority of Grace students don’t interact with the office again: never learning about the current cycle or understanding what exactly got them accepted. I set out to learn how exactly the admissions office functions, and, more specifically, to learn more about how they have responded to the incidents in the Spring involving Paul Rossi and if the controversy had any effect on the overall admission for this year’s class. 

The admissions process itself is one that most students are familiar with, but many are unaware of how it works behind the scenes. Camilla Campbell presides over the first step in the process: promoting Grace and its values. This is how we receive many of our students, but not the majority. Most prospective students learn about Grace “through friends and family,” according to Ms. Campbell, the high school’s Director of Admissions and Enrollment. 

Once a family decides they want to explore Grace further, the family visits an open house which involves discussions with the Head of School, teachers, and students. If a family chooses to apply, they then receive an interview and an exclusive tour of the Grace building from a Student Ambassador. The interviews range from questions concerning academics to inquiries about who they would invite to dinner if the prospective student could invite anyone dead or alive. 

When asked about what values her department looks for when interviewing students, Ms. Campbell initially wasn’t sure how to answer, but then decided that they “don’t look for people of specific values but instead try to find people of many different points of view,” demonstrating one of the ways in which Grace admissions strives to collect a diverse pool of students.

The pandemic affected all of us in many different ways, and the admissions process was no exception. During COVID-19, one of the most difficult challenges the office faced was getting to know people who were applying to Grace and whether they would be a good fit for the school or not. 

At first, prospective students seemed rigid and closed-off when the Admissions Department would interview them. But, as everyone got used to online school, doing interviews seemed easier than doing them in person. The reason for this, says Ms. Campbell, was because most people were participating in interviews in the comfort of their own home which allowed them to be more open and comfortable with talking to the admissions team. Ms. Campbell now sees the ability to conduct online interviews as a silver lining of the pandemic.

According to Ms. Campbell, “The whole [Rossi] incident did not lead to scores of students withdrawing from Grace. We were concerned as the Paul Rossi incident happened a mere 36 hours before newly accepted families were making their final decisions about their child’s choice of high school.” 

Ms. Campbell also stated that most of the families who had already signed on to send their children to Grace “were not concerned” about the entire incident but “were in support of the way that Grace responded to the media onslaught and more importantly, to our own community.”

To further explore the impacts of the Rossi incident, I interviewed several 9th-grade students.

When asked if the incident as a whole had changed her opinion on whether to attend Grace in the fall, Halley Rosenzweig ‘24 said, “No, it did not change my opinion on whether to go to Grace or my opinion of Grace as a whole.” Another 9th grader I interviewed Ana Vorderwuelbecke ‘24, said “Yes it was strange to hear because I didn’t think of Grace as having that type of community yet it did not change my opinion on whether or not I would go to Grace.”

All the 9th graders that I interviewed had different variations of the same answer. After this investigation, I now realize that the Rossi incident did not have as large an effect on the admissions process as I, and many other students, had feared it did. It seems that, much like the entirety of the school, the admissions team is also trying to move forward.