The two most important days of the year are upon us: Admissions Revisit Days on Friday March 30 and Friday April 6. Over the course of these two Revisit Days, we will welcome more than 120 accepted students and their families to campus to attend classes, engage with coaches, teachers, dorm parents, and advisors, listen to student panels, and (hopefully) walk away with a deep appreciation for who Proctor is as a school.
As educators, we are always a bit challenged by these Revisit Days as we simultaneously want to put our best foot forward for each visiting family while remaining true to who we are. A well orchestrated Revisit Day is critical to showing families the entirety of the Proctor experience, and yet the trust we place in our students to “sell” Proctor is quite remarkable.
The Admissions team works incredibly hard to organize a valuable, customized experience for each visiting family, and then each accepted student is paired with a host who will ultimately dictate their experience. Student panels are a wonderful window for prospective parents, but they are completely unscripted and you never know what a student will share. A highlight of the day (the afternoon activity fair) affords an opportunity for families to browse Proctor’s incredible breadth of afternoon activity and club programs and chat with coaches, but it is the students at each activity’s table who really engage with the families and leave a lasting impression. How is it that we can leave such a critical decision for families with immense financial implications for our school up to our population of 14-18 year olds? Simple: we trust our students.
While some schools may try to over-plan and micromanage Revisit Days, our focus is very simple: facilitate the opportunity for each family to meet and talk to those individuals within our community who can best speak to their interests, questions, and pain points. For us, it’s not about the glossy brochure or picture perfect website. It’s not about only showing visitors the best facilities Proctor has to offer or moving dirtied snowbanks out of the way to make campus look better than it normally should in the heart of mud season. If you like us for who we are, then perhaps we are the right community for you.
At Proctor, it is about relationships. It is about valuing the bonds that form in small family-style dormitories, advisories, classes, and athletic teams and letting those relationships we’ve formed with students during their time here to organically illustrate the impact of Proctor’s educational model. It’s about the intangibles a visiting family will observe entirely outside the control of our Admissions teams’ control: how students treat each other on the walk to assembly, the mutual respect demonstrated in classes between teachers and students, the smiles of students genuinely enjoying their high school experience. You can’t fake these things on Revisit Day no matter how hard you may try.
We know adolescence can be a challenging time. (Go ask the next ten people you run into about their adolescent experience and see how many still cling to less than favorable memories from their high school years.) While many schools may want to gloss over this aspect of life at a high school in order to show what a great community they are, we believe it is important to be honest that we are community of real individuals who daily experience real struggles and real joys. It is through this acknowledgement of our humanness that our community is forged and we will never gloss over this reality just to impress visiting families.
A few years ago, David Brooks shared in this article a poignant message that seems especially important for all of us to hear as our Revisit Days approach. “We have a tendency, especially in an achievement-oriented culture, to want to solve problems and repair brokenness — to propose, plan, fix, interpret, explain and solve. But what seems to be needed here is the art of presence — to perform tasks without trying to control or alter the elemental situation.”
This is a great reminder for all of us (both within the Proctor community and for those families preparing to revisit Proctor and other schools over the next week) as Revisit Days arrive. Our goal for these special days is to simply remain present with each other and with our visitors. We should not try to fix a perceived problem - every one of our visiting families is looking at Proctor for a different reason - but instead allow connections to be made and relationships to start to form. There is no better sales strategy than to be yourself.