Q&A with Meghan Donnelly: Expanding the Ross Community Through Domestic Enrollment

DSC_4759 In her role as assistant director of Admissions, Meghan Donnelly is focused on educating prospective students and families in the United States about the unique advantages of the Ross School curriculum and community. School News recently caught up with Meghan to talk about her experiences at Ross since joining in January 2014, and her plans to increase domestic enrollment at the School.

Describe your role as assistant director of Admissions at Ross. As a member of the Admissions team, my priority is to do my part to support students and families and enrich their overall experience at Ross School. With students from more than 20 countries, we understand the importance of a balanced and diverse student population, and I am focused exclusively on recruiting boarding school students from the United States. Specifically, since I joined Ross, I have spent the majority of my time visiting private middle schools in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut.

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Describe a day in the life of Meghan Donnelly. It’s been busy. In the last four months, I have visited nearly 50 kindergarten through grade 8/9 schools in the tri-state area and New England to meet with heads of school, administrators, and counselors. I share information about Ross, our programs, the community, and student life, including the boarding experience.

The feedback I receive is positive and personally gratifying. I talk with the people who have mentored and cared for their students through the first impressionable years of their education, and they have a dedicated interest in helping the children choose the right institution that will keep them on the path toward a happy, well-rounded, successful future. It’s a pleasure to tell them about the many unique opportunities at Ross and watch the wheels start to turn.

I was at one renowned school in New York City a few weeks ago, and the person I met said he had just the eighth grader in mind who would be a perfect fit for Ross. I received a call the next day from the parents, set up a tour of Upper School, and all signs point to having this gifted student join us in the fall as a member of the class of 2017.

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What types of questions do you get from parents and prospective students? A typical discussion starts with the Ross School Spiral Curriculum and integrated academics. When they have an understanding of our approach to education, we dive into the vast amount of opportunities available to the students, from Innovation Lab @Ross to M-Term to Senior Projects. We see a particular interest in the Innovation Lab and marine science program, but they are also appreciative of the larger course and progression of the studies.

When it comes to boarding, we cover the important topics about health and safety, transportation to and from school, social life, guidance, and mentoring, and generally reassure families that we have the staff and programs in place to take care of their student’s well-being.

A big positive for everyone is that our boarding houses are a home away from home. We have a special thing here, and people find it cool that it is different from expected dorm life. They love that it is “family-style living.”

They also ask about downtime, particularly on the weekends and days off. It’s a great opening to talk about the different experiences that our geographic location offers—the beaches, hiking, museums, shopping, and trips to Manhattan. Of course, we tell parents that their child can simply choose to do nothing, which always gets a laugh.

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Why are you exclusively focused on the United States? As with any global community, areas of growth can shift over time, and we felt we could do more to get the word out about Ross to schools and families in the United States.

How will increasing the domestic enrollment benefit the Ross School community as a whole? A global education includes opening students to a balanced and diverse cultural experience on campus and in the boarding homes. Students from across the United States will benefit from contact with students from our international community and vice versa.

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What can we expect from your department through the end of the school year and into the summer? The spring and fall are my two busiest seasons. I’ll be visiting schools and representing Ross at fairs and events over the next 12 weeks, as well as reconnecting with my contacts at the network of schools who now have Ross School on their radars.

My goal is to continue to foster the relationships with leaders at the K–8/9 schools so that, when their students are ready to make a decision about high school, Ross School is not only on their minds but the top choice.

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You obviously have a passion for your job. What brought you to Ross School? I got started on my career as a student at SUNY Oneonta leading orientation tours and seminars. I was drawn to interacting with people as a guide to the benefits of the institution. On the path towards my master’s in higher education, I worked in administrative roles in Admissions, Orientation, and Residential Life at California Institute of Technology and Colgate University and was most recently an admissions advisor at Stony Brook University.

I love my job at Ross because it’s a very personalized experience. The families I work with are equally impressed with the care, expertise and “humanity” that the Ross staff and faculty bring to their roles as educators as they are with the curriculum. They understand that their child will be in good hands as they discover their many talents during their years at Ross. It’s wonderful to be part of the process of sharing this with families and future students.

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