Admissions unscripted


For about three seconds after assistant director of admissions Austin Bean, AB’04, asks the audience of close to 300 prospective students and their parents if they have any questions, there’s an awkward pause. Yet that brief moment of silence is the only one during the 40-minute student panel held in Ida Noyes at Friday’s Summer Information Day. Jenny Connell, AB’01, another assistant director of admissions, says the audience and the panel of five student tour guides often sound “like they’re scripted, they work so well together.” They’re not, of course—“sometimes they say things where you’re like, whoa, that was totally unscripted.”

Here’s an example. One father asks panelist Mitch Salm, ’09, who had introduced himself as a potential religious-studies major, why Chicago is such a great place for that interest. Salm hedges, saying, “Well, I’m still not sure,” and, “Technically, I haven’t taken any religious-studies courses yet—but I’m sure it’s great!” The audience eats it up. Another panelist chimes in: “He just likes this one religious-studies professor who looks like Gandalf.”

The panelists generally agree that it’s the people who drew them to this campus. Jeffrey Crane, ’09, says, “For me it was really the academic atmosphere—the nerdiness, if you will.” Salm waxes romantic about his peers. “I’m just constantly impressed by my classmates . . . There’s just this constant drive and desire to share ideas, this passion that so many people have here.”

Are the prospects buying it? While it’s too soon to tell, Bean says, “People who attend are very likely to apply.” Session over, about 30 students and parents stick around to talk to the admissions staff one-on-one in the Ida Noyes courtyard. Kelly Hofer, a rising senior at Phillips Exeter Academy who hails from Memphis, says the panel was “pretty telling.” Her next stop? Lollapalooza.

Jenny Fisher, ’07

Photos: The crowd listens to the panel at Ida Noyes (top); Prospies and parents enjoy refreshments afterward (bottom).

August 7, 2006