High school admissions season presents new challenges, but creative solutions


By Finn Dossey

It’s fall again, which means that it is time for admissions season. However, this year will look and feel very different. 

When applying to Branson in the past, students had to complete many steps, including: visiting campus, coming to an open house, writing essays for the application, taking the SSAT/ISEE and completing an interview with a faculty member. The admissions team has spent their summer devising a plan that will see all but one of these events moved on-screen or axed from the list completely. 

“All of our admissions events will be virtual this year,” Crys Gray, assistant director of admissions, said. “Virtual visits will look different — we’re going to have some pre-recorded classes for families to watch.”

The new format will be strange and new for all parties involved, but there will also be advantages. The virtual structure will cure the ailments of “sold out” open houses and students’ nerves on visit days.

“The next big change is that we are not requiring test scores this year,” Gray said, “given everything in terms of the safety of test sites … accessibility and equity, it just didn’t seem right for us to require [standardized testing].” However, families are still welcome to submit scores if they want to. 

Additionally, families may ask any prior teachers their student has had for a supplementary recommendation in addition to those already required. The reasoning behind this is that because most schools are teaching in an online format, students may not have had the opportunity to build as strong a connection with their current teachers as they have with those in the past. 

As for current student involvement, “we are not sure yet … but we definitely want to utilize current students as much as possible because they can speak to the Branson experience much more than we can as adults,” Gray said. Students will make appearances on student panels at both virtual visit days and parent “coffees”.

Depending on the success of these changes, they could likely make appearances in the future when the pandemic is behind us. Whether Branson admissions will remain test-optional for future applicants is still up in the air.

While the admissions department navigates the challenges of the new format, “the health and safety of our community members and prospective families is at the heart of all our decisions this season,” according to the Branson admission web page.

And finally, regarding the Minecraft campus, “we definitely want to showcase it,” Gray said.