Adapting Admissions

COVID-19 restrictions prompt virtual admissions process for prospective families


Photo: Abby Headstrom

Prospective students were only able to attend virtual admissions events before applying to UPrep.

This year, University Prep enrolled 21 new high school students for the 2021-2022 school year, many of whom have never stepped foot on UPrep’s campus, witnessed a class or held face-to-face conversations with community members.

According to Associate Director of Upper School Admission Margaret Marks, the admissions office transitioned to a fully online model from a number of information sessions on various departments, trivia events for prospective students, weekly coffee chats, virtual open houses and virtual tours of the campus.

“In some ways, we were able to reach more people that we might not have been able to give as much information for or support in the same way in the past,” Marks said. “A lot of families can, and do, put aside a lot of time to focus on the admissions process for their students, but not every family is able to devote three or four hours to coming to an event,” Marks said.

While there are benefits to a more accessible online admissions model, Marks acknowledged that prospective families missed out on key parts of the UPrep experience.

“[Families missed] the experience of walking through the school and [being able to] see learning happening and how our community feels during a regular school day,” Marks said.

According to Marks, UPrep invited families of admitted students to tour the campus, but they were not able to witness any in-person classes.

Among one of the new students is current eighth grader at the Evergreen School Nava Ruthfield. Ruthfield attended information sessions about academics and global programs, UPrep’s virtual open house and the virtual visit day.

“Most of [the events] were really helpful, especially the virtual visit day because I had never seen the campus before,” Ruthfield said.

Ruthfield also applied to and attended virtual events at Bush and Seattle Academy.

“I think that out of the three,” Ruthfield said, “UPrep did the best job [based on] how it was formatted and the information they shared.”

According to current freshman Roxanne Smith, who attended Northwest for middle school, COVID-19 also hindered the admissions process for prospective students in 2020. Smith was only able to attend Zoom information sessions once she was admitted.

Freshman Skylar Coulter applied to UPrep in 2019 and attended one of UPrep’s open houses.

“I remember that there were a lot of different clubs and information about them. It was really cool to see how many people were involved,” Coulter said.

In the future, Marks hopes that the admissions office will be able to combine the fully online model with the past in-person one that included tours and open houses.

“I really hope that in the future we can [host] some of these opportunities for families online,” Marks said, “but I definitely think that the in-person part is important for people to get a feel so that they know a school is right for them.”