Inside the Admission Office at College Prep

From expanded community outreach efforts to creating new admissions events designed to reach more BIPOC families, the Admission Office is actively embracing the strategic equity and inclusion work that is happening at College Prep. Read on to hear how Evie Koh, Director of Admission, describes the exciting changes and plans underway.

Q: What do you feel is important to the Admission Office in this moment?
EVIE: Admissions lives in a world where we have one foot inside the school and one foot outside. For example, I’m actively participating as a mixed grade advisor and JZ, our Director of Financial Aid/Associate Director of Admissions, is a ninth grade advisor. Then, of course, we have much of our focus outside of campus, on families considering College Prep for high school. Our job is to allow the world at large into our community, sharing our academic and co-curricular programs along with our culture of joy and care. In this moment, we are also embracing the strategic E&I work that is happening in our department and throughout the school because recruitment and running a school program don't ever work in isolation from each other.
Q: What steps are you and the Admission Office taking to enroll more Black and Black-identifying students in College Prep?
EVIE: This year we’ve increased the number of admissions events, with special emphasis on reaching families who aren’t as well represented in the current community. Our new BIPOC admission event will be run like an affinity space, led by College Prep’s BIPOC students and adults so that Black-, Latinx-, and Indigenous-identifying families can get an authentic sense of what it’s like to be a BIPOC student at College Prep. About 20-30% of our students come from public schools in a typical year, and we are excited to offer a new event for public school applicants, helping to demystify the admission process and sharing wisdom about the transition to an independent school. And as we have for the past decade, we offer an Equity and Inclusion evening for all prospective families. 

Q: What kind of community partners does College Prep have now and how are you looking to expand the school's referral network beyond the traditional independent sending schools?
EVIE: The way we partner with organizations depends on the organization because they can have very different goals for their work. We have a long and successful partnership with A Better Chance, a national organization that's been supporting and developing young leaders of color since the 1960s. As of the last time I checked, we had graduated the second-most A Better Chance scholars among Bay Area independent schools. In return, we provide resources such as space to conduct workshops and fairs. JZ has given financial aid workshops at the ABC fair for years, which aren’t necessarily specific to College Prep, but help families who are considering any tuition-charging school. We are also working with Breakthrough SF, a program that provides academic enrichment and support to students with limited educational opportunities, with a special focus on guidance and support around the high school application process. We are in early discussions with another organization whose mission is to provide tools and resources for girls from underserved communities to dismantle habitually negative messaging, discriminatory practices, and systemically limited resources they are surrounded by. 
Q: What kinds of outreach are you planning for students and families in public schools?
EVIE: Right now, most of our students come from independent schools. They are already familiar with the application timing and process. We take great care to make the language on our application as clear as possible, but it’s long and can be daunting, especially for families who have never done this before. As mentioned earlier, one of our new events is for students considering College Prep who currently attend public or parochial schools. We want to create visibility and support so these families can better understand the differences between schools, school types, and the financial aid process. Public school families are often shocked that the independent school application deadline is in January, so we are excited to get the word out and to support those going through a first-time experience. 
Q: Are there any plans to partner directly with middle schools in the Oakland Unified School District?
EVIE: We visit more than 20 different private schools to talk with their eighth graders about College Prep, introducing them to our school and answering questions, but public schools don't typically invite independent schools into their spaces. Occasionally, individual public schools are open to these kinds of visits, but our outreach usually focuses on inviting public school students to the huge East Bay High School Fair, which features 20+ independent and parochial high schools at one event. There’s also the San Francisco Public and Parochial School Fair, which we attend annually and has helped us enroll a number of public school students from across the Bay. Individual relationships with public school teachers and word of mouth among College Prep families who came from public schools are important ways that people initially get connected to our school. It's generally not through a Google search or through cold calling us. It's through people that they know, who attend the school and are having a great experience.  

Q: How can you develop relationships within the public-school system?
EVIE: We often develop relationships with teachers from public schools who write recommendations for their students year after year. We reach out and thank them for writing on their students’ behalf and invite them to tour campus and visit with their former students. It’s about creating connections with individual teachers who might recommend College Prep if they have a student who is a good match. An important point to all outreach work is that ideas are not enough. It takes financial resources and personnel to do successful outreach. We hired a third person last year in the Admission Office, which will allow us to make inroads in all of these areas. In fact, we're already seeing the benefit of increasing our staffing.
Q: How can the broader College Prep community and alumni help in your outreach efforts?
EVIE: Developing individual relationships is important but takes time. Our word of mouth reputation serves us well.  We always appreciate when parents and faculty go into their own communities to help people understand who we are and what we do. Recent alums are great at connecting with our prospective students. Whether it's connecting one-on-one or through admissions panels, we are always looking to make these connections. I love to celebrate what our alums are doing in the world publicly, so that prospective College Prep students can envision what a College Prep education can mean for them. The interesting experiences and varied professions that our alums engage in are so diverse and wide ranging, and, frankly, inspiring.

Q: Current students also help with admissions. How has your student Ambassador Program changed this year to include BIPOC student perspectives?
EVIE: Our ambassadors are current students who volunteer to help admissions in different aspects of our work, though primarily by connecting with prospective students and families to share their experiences about College Prep. This year, five or six BIPOC students who are also leaders in diversity work on campus, decided to join the ambassador program. We are so fortunate to have these amazing students, with their passion for equity and inclusion, sharing their authentic experiences with prospective families.
Q: One of the longer-term strategies outlined on the website is "to provide and communicate clearly about non-tuition aid and other resources to ensure that all students have access to the full experience of the school." Can you explain more about what non-tuition aid is?
EVIE: We’re in a very competitive market here in the Bay Area, and most independent schools publish their tuition costs and use that to benchmark against other schools. This tuition is what families tend to see when they look at the sticker price of schools, but we know that tuition is not the only cost associated with attending school. There are technology fees, books, trips, prom tickets, and in our case, Intraterm. College Prep has one of the more generous non-tuition financial aid programs in the Bay Area. The main non-tuition costs at our school are the 1:1 laptop program, books, and Intraterm. Even with the school’s generous financial aid program, we are studying whether there are changes that could make financial aid at College Prep more transparent and equitable.

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