Admissions Sees Spike in Applications and Anticipates Full Enrollment for September
“We are in a really strong position.”
That’s the message from Fenn’s Admission and Financial Aid Director Tory Hayes ’02, who says the School has experienced not just a solid admissions year, but also a 25% spike in applications. He predicts that Fenn will be fully enrolled for the fall by early June, with 325 students, including some 75 to 80 new boys. Among the applicants this year are ten boys from out of state whose families are moving to the area.
Fenn’s sixth grade applications were up a stunning 50%, with 50 applications for a dozen spaces.
Tory attributes the spike in applications largely to the pandemic. Parents who may be dissatisfied with how their public schools have handled the pandemic in many cases turned to independent schools, he says. Secondary independent schools, for example, saw an increase in applications of 40% to 50%.
“I’m a public school advocate and it brings me no joy to see our applications spike because public schools had to move to remote or hybrid learning, likely due to a lack of resources,” Tory says. “But it’s the reality, and now our challenge is to sustain that momentum."
Admissions has been fully remote this year, with online interviews, tours, and open houses. An exception was made during the recent March break, when the campus was empty. Fenn invited 57 accepted students and their parents, in small groups, to tour the campus to help them make their decisions.
For the past five years the trend had been for a longer admission season that ran into the summer, but this year that will not be the case given the number of applicants and the School’s ability to “be able to uphold selectivity and find the strongest matches for Fenn,” Tory says.
The only downward trend is with the ninth grade, with next fall’s class expected to be between 18 and 22 boys. Tory says this is due largely to the success of Fenn’s secondary school counseling program. But it also reflects “a growing demand for financial aid that goes beyond what we have to offer.”
Tory says that “there’s no question that Covid-related financial hardship has led to a rise in requests for financial aid by both returning and potentially new families, though he adds that the demand for financial aid had been rising prior to the pandemic. Currently, 19% of the student body receives aid.
In order for Fenn to be a school “of not entirely full paying or fully funded boys, we want a middle range of socioeconomic need, and that will require a larger aid budget,” Tory says. Even though the aid budget has expanded significantly due to “a growing endowment and wonderful gifts, we still can’t meet the changing demand.” It is difficult, he adds, when Fenn accepts “some great boys whom we really want but who have limited resources to attend.”
The Admissions Office is working with Fenn’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion team in its efforts to build diversity. “When we go into a community of color, DEI representatives are with us to help make families feel confident that their sons will be cared for, seen, and valued,” he says. “There are many facets to diversifying,” he adds, including same sex couples, single parents, and English language learning parents. Efforts are being made to address potential obstacles to families who want to visit the school but lack transportation as, “We want them to be able to assess Fenn as an option.”
Currently 24% of the student body is boys of color and the School’s five-year goal is to raise that figure to 30%.
Tory says he has “an enormous appreciation for the support financial aid has gotten.” He hopes that alumni and their parents will continue to support or will consider supporting the financial aid program. “Our brand as a personal, caring place that really sees, values, and celebrates boys continues to resonate with families,” he says. “We have no doubt of our continuing ability to be a strong option for families.”
Contributed by Laurie O'Neill