by Grace Fiorella, Staff Writer, November 2020

The Nobles Admission Office is facing the same obstacles as colleges regarding COVID regulations and guidelines. They have had to rethink their standard protocol on how to know applicants better and how the applicants can know the school better. 

In previous years, the typical applicant could have an in-person Nobles tour, attend multiple open houses, watch sports games, and have an in-person interview to get a sense of the school’s academic, student life, and everyday culture. However, with no visitors allowed on campus, the Admission Office had to find remote ways to communicate with prospective students, “[We have had to become] an all virtual admission process beginning to end so every applicant could have the same experience,” Brooke Asnis (N ’90) said. 

This year, instead of student guides leading tours around campus, there is both a guided virtual tour and an aerial tour on the Nobles website under the Admission tab. The virtual tour is guided by Shield Heads, who talk about specific Nobles spaces using Ben Heider’s pre-COVID B-roll footage or intercut footage with the main shot. The main objective of the guided virtual tour is to replicate a normal year’s visit as much as possible. 

“I’m really proud of our virtual tour because it’s not simply showing the spaces, but the kids in the spaces,” Asnis said. She added, “We tried to capture normal Nobles in a way that’s less stagnant and more vibrant.” The students go through the normal tour stops, including the EXCEL board, Henderson Arts Center, Recital Hall, Foster Gallery, Middle School, Baker Science Building, Academic Center, Castle, and Shattuck. One thing different about the virtual tour is that the applicants can see the athletic spaces and fields being used, whereas in the past, applicants would have to tour the athletic spaces on their own time. 

The seniors could also share their personal experiences and attachments to Nobles spaces, embodying the principles of Nobles like honesty, respect for self, and respect for others. Xavier Welch (Class I) spoke about the opportunities that Nobles provide within the Henderson Arts Center —Foster Gallery, Vinik Theater, and the Goins Dance Studio. “I was trying to emphasize, first of all, how we have this entire wing of the school that’s dedicated to the performing arts, which is pretty impressive for a high school because high school art programs aren’t usually as huge as Nobles’s is,” Welch said. He continued, “Another thing I think is really cool about the virtual tour is that during an in-person tour, I can say and promise these things about the spaces, but this virtual tour with the footage in the tour is proof that it is as cool as I say.” 

The Nobles Open Houses are known to attract big crowds of prospective applicants and their families. Families can get to know more about the school through panels, department courses, and hear from Head of School Cathy Hall. The new virtual Zoom open houses have the same agenda and begin with the usual mock assembly. Following assembly, there is a choice of panels to attend with the Head of the Middle School John Gifford (N‘86), and the Head of the Upper School Michael Denning. 

Leela Dubois (Class I) spoke to the challenge of virtual panels after growing accustomed to in-person tours. “It was hard to answer questions about a daily schedule or a typical year without knowing if I respond with my hybrid year or not,” Dubois said. 

After the panels, there are multiple links to choose from, including the curriculum fair and panels for athletics, performing arts, visual arts, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, EXCEL, or a conversation with Dr. Hall. “We are trying to recreate our open house in a virtual setting, but added current panels every week with shield heads, current parents, and admission and financial aid sessions. We are making ourselves more available,” Asnis said. The new panels allow applicants and their parents to have their specific questions about the school answered. 

The standard admission process for applicants applying to Nobles and other ISL schools requires taking standardized tests — the ISEE for middle school and the SSAT for upper school — and an interview. Testing is still required, but tests are allowed to be taken at home.“We chose to stick with testing because, with kids coming from so many different kinds of schools, it is the only thing we have that is standardized across the pool [of applicants],” Asnis said. 

Additionally, interviews were re-thought and one-on-one interviews are now being held on Zoom or over the phone for all applicants. “I think in some ways, I would not choose to do it because I want people to see Nobles, but I think in some ways it is easier on kids because they don’t have that awkwardness of sitting in the admission lobby and looking around at everybody else that’s there and having to go into in office with somebody [they] don’t know,” Asnis said. The kids and parents can feel more comfortable and relaxed in their own homes with the 20-30 minute interview. 

Although it is not known yet whether the number of Nobles applications will increase or decrease this year, the curve is upwards, with more people signed up for open houses than in previous years. Nobles is giving their best effort to provide every applicant with an equal and immersive application process during a time of so much uncertainty.