From Memberanda, Summer 2011
Where are your students coming from? How can you best use the SSAT score report to determine their “fit” at your school? Which schools are your biggest competitors? What can a student’s scores tell you about their future needs at your school? HPA Director of Admission Josh Clark invited SSATB Outreach Director Aimee Gruber to campus to answer these questions and more. A daylong discussion of admission with colleagues in key departments was the result. The morning focused on the admission process, with particular emphasis on admission testing, using data to inform decisions, and discussing HPA’s competitive market position. Key participants included Andrew Kelsey, Director of College Counseling, and Shirley Ann Fukumoto, Assistant Headmaster for Internal Relations.
Five years ago when Clark started at HPA, the SSAT was not a requirement for admission. Now that it is, he is eager to use this data beyond admission to support student success. As a jumping-off point for discussion, Gruber gave a presentation, “Using the SSAT in Admission,” to educate everyone on what the test measures, how it is scored, and about the myriad pieces of information that can be gleaned from a score report. The SSAT Shared Tester Report enabled a bit of myth busting and market analysis. It was long believed that HPA’s primary competitors for boarding students were the West Coast boarding schools. While a logical assumption, it turned out that this was not supported by the applicant data. Indeed, unlike many of its colleague boarding schools, HPA has no key crossover schools. Instead, their competition, as Clark noted, is “an inch deep and a mile wide.” Registrar Dana Petteys marveled at the list, which included many well-known East Coast boarding schools.
With this kind of diversity in schools, how can you tell what applicants are seeking? Given families’ (particularly international families’) focus on college admission, the high-level participation of HPA’s Director of College Counseling was a crucial element in creating a whole-school admission perspective. Kelsey realized how much information he could provide Clark to aid student recruitment. For example, given HPA’s sublime location on the island of Hawai‘i, it is not uncommon for visits to be from college deans of admission themselves. International families who worry that HPA’s remote location causes it to be “forgotten” by visiting college admission reps should know that quite the opposite is true—about 60% of college admission visits are from the deans themselves.
The afternoon session on international students brought many of the same players together with the addition of staffers Fred Wawner, Dean of Student Life, and Upper School Principal Mark Noetzel. Discussion included trends and student flow; the reasons students are seeking a U.S. boarding school education; the key benefits of an HPA education; and the unique needs of international students and families. Petteys was inspired to begin working on course selection and planning much earlier with these families, even considering creating a webinar or podcast to help walk families through this often confusing process. Noetzel considered how he and his staff could support admission with class visits and ways for prospective students/parents to connect with teachers. All agreed that HPA would benefit from a full-time International Student Advisor/Coordinator. A visit that began with an overview of the SSAT led to some serious future planning and marketing goals for Hawai‘i Preparatory Academy!