This admission cycle has been quite busy for the Office of Admission and Financial Aid at Hotchkiss as it experienced an 18% increase in completed applications. With 2,115 total completed applications, Hotchkiss experienced the largest increase in application volume and the largest applicant pool in a five-year period.
The overall boarding school sector has been experiencing declining domestic demand for the past 15 years as more American families have been choosing to keep students at home during their secondary school years. Despite that context, Hotchkiss experienced a 14% increase in applications this year from around the United States. Applications in our five top markets, including New York, Connecticut, New Jersey, California, and Massachusetts increased 14%, and we also experienced increased demand from Texas, Illinois, Maryland, and Colorado, to name just a few. Moreover, the new Michael Mars ’86 Scholarship, an initiative focused on identifying talented young people from agricultural communities across the United States, has contributed to increased interest from some of the mountain states.
Demand from abroad also grew during this admission cycle as applications from international students climbed by 24% over last year. Geopolitical issues in Hong Kong contributed to increased demand in U.S. boarding schools; Hotchkiss saw its pool of candidates from Hong Kong double over last year. In addition, applications from Mainland China grew by 21%, while there was also growth in markets such as South Korea, Russia, Thailand, Singapore, Brazil, and Kazakhstan.
Colleagues in the Office of Admission and Financial Aid worked hard and strategically to grow the number of underrepresented students in this year’s applicant pool, including low-income and first-generation (students who will be the first in their families to attend college). This year we hosted an inaugural fall fly-in program for low-income and first-generation students, which included a campus visit and overnight for talented students from outside of New England. One result of such programming is that completed applications submitted by students who identify as African-American grew by 23% over last year. Applications from domestic families applying for financial aid grew from 624 to 726, fueled in part by a new initiative created by Christopher Redlich ’68 to support low-income and first-generation students by providing full-need based tuition grants, as well as a one-time $5,000 spending stipend for summer enrichment, airfare for custodial parent(s) to visit campus, a transition budget, and a one-time $2,000 budget for standardized test preparation and college visits. According to Jackson Marvel, director of admission and financial aid, “this kind of support of low-income and first-generation students is critical to their families and their knowing and feeling that they have access to the full Hotchkiss experience.”
Erby Mitchell P’21, dean of admission and financial aid, was asked about this admission cycle and how such an increase in applications was achieved: “We are seeing the fruition of an overall strategy begun four years ago when Craig Bradley, head of school, and I began at Hotchkiss. During this period, we have been more explicit in describing Hotchkiss's values and identity as a school offering students a rigorous and relevant academic preparation in a healthy community where they are safe, seen, and supported. We’ve clarified our messaging; paid attention to the research about the value-added proposition of boarding schools; worked with communications to enhance our web presence; traveled strategically to areas where we had not historically recruited talented students; and created new on-campus programs to give prospective families meaningful interaction with our community, particularly around our highly competitive athletics program. Very importantly, many loyal donors have responded generously to the School’s expressed need for additional financial aid resources. Their support increases our capacity to admit the most talented young people without regard to their families’ means.”
Erby Mitchell and his team are thrilled with the increased demand and interest in Hotchkiss. They are looking forward to March Break and some time off after interviewing 400 more prospective students than they did one year ago, and reading those applications. When asked about what this all means, Erby says: “This will be an incredibly selective year for applicants to Hotchkiss. It is a deep pool of wonderful young people, and I look forward to working with our faculty and current students to engage our newly admitted families in the weeks ahead. Though we will not host our traditional on campus Revisit Day programs due to precautions we are taking related to COVID-19, we will lean on every member of the Hotchkiss community, near and far, to ensure that our yield is strong. I feel truly fortunate to be at Hotchkiss with such talented admission professionals, faculty, staff, current students, and alumni who simply love this place.”