“Like a nimble boxer,” Watkinson has dodged the buffets of bad economic times, demographic troughs and constant competition to continue 140 years of serving central Connecticut’s students and families with an innovative and progressive educational model. The metaphor of Watkinson as a wily boxer is attributed to John Ratté, one-time Head of Loomis Chaffee, and has been uttered reflectively by Watkinson leaders since the 1970s when the comparison was first noted. Director of Admission and Asst. Head of School John Crosson says any time the school outperforms expectations, the image and the story are conjured anew.
In fact, one area of the school that is outpacing many schools, is the admissions department itself, in its practice of meeting prospective students during the pandemic. This year, Crosson’s team has been outpacing many schools, as the 4-person squad has constantly bobbed and weaved through the pandemic to find ways for prospective families to experience the authentic Watkinson. Last fall, most schools closed all of their in-person admission practices and began only offering virtual tours and Zoom-based open houses. Crosson was particularly prescient as Watkinson was creating its COVID admission policies, and was dogged in figuring a way to welcome families to campus for individual family outdoor tours. This option, which has been in place for Watkinson since September 2020, is now just being considered or implemented by many other schools in the region.
Crosson, who has 33 years of experience at Watkinson, knew that making in-person tours available wasn’t about letting prospective families see our buildings. “Relationships are at the heart of everything we do here. Most private schools will tell you they ‘know their kids well’. At Watkinson, this is our core, and it starts here, with my team at the very beginning of the admissions process. Because Watkinson is a small school, we had the flexibility to adapt our practices to ensure that in-person conversations could take place, even if they were masked and outside. Simultaneously, families could see our beautiful campus; but even more importantly, they see our community in action. They see the way students interact with each other and with our faculty as they walk between classes. They feel the culture of kindness that permeates this place.”
Not surprisingly, just as other schools are opening up drive-through tours of their campus and/or outdoor tours, Crosson’s team is ahead of the curve by setting up outdoor interviews so that both students and parents have the very best chance to get a first-hand understanding of Watkinson and vice versa. Though virtual info sessions are still part of Watkinson’s practice, having more and more established ways for students, parents and the admissions team to interact and build relationships is much like what has happened in our classrooms this year. Though the school has had brief windows of being fully virtual, the campus has been open and occupied by kids most of the year…just how we like it.
Associate Director of Admission, Carol Martino points out additional effective counter-punching responses by Watkinson; “As soon as we saw the need to schedule virtual interviews this year, we created a new system for self-scheduling online. When we couldn’t do day visits, we responded by creating more opportunities for the RAMbassadors (student admission reps) to connect, including videos to greet families on tours, and cards/emails/care packages from current students to prospective and newly accepted students.”
It has been a year of big punches all around and some schools have been knocked backwards… or even out for good, but Watkinson remains nimble, slipping the big swings and advancing ever-forward.
This year, the school still has financial aid available for incoming middle school students (especially 6th graders) who qualify…which is very rare at this point in the admission cycle. If you know a student who’d benefit from Watkinson’s exceptional educational philosophy, please invite them to visit us!