Revealing Shadows

How the admissions team has adapted the application process to fit the trying times of COVID-19


Everyone remembers the first time they stepped on campus. The fresh La Jolla breeze blowing the nearby palm trees and the first look of the belltower all added to the beauty of Bishop’s.

The admissions process is often the first time that people see this beauty. It begins with a first look at the school through open houses, tours, shadows, and student panels.

If I had a shadow, I probably would have known the campus a bit better.

— Sami Bitar ('28)


From there, if a person decides to apply, they can submit ISEE (Independent School Entrance Examinations) or SSAT (Secondary School Admissions Test) scores and an interview. However, regulations and policies have constantly been in flux this past year as the pandemic became more and less prevalent. So how has the Bishop’s admissions process been altered due to COVID-19?

The admissions team has had to make changes to the ways potential candidates were able to tour and apply to the school due to COVID-19 restrictions. Mask mandates were put in place, and for a while, all admissions events were held online. Now, as restrictions begin to relax, aspects of the application process are being changed with that, including entry testing requirements and the application process. 

Before COVID-19, potential applicants would get to experience the day-in-the-life of a Bishop’s student with the Knight for a Day program. Through this process, they can get a feel for what being a student would feel like by going from class to class with a student guide. “It enhanced my understanding of Bishop’s,” said Head Ambassador Alina Kureshi (‘22) when reflecting on her own experience shadowing at Bishop’s. Sami Bitar (‘28), who did not have a shadow day experience, confirmed this. “If I had a shadow, I probably would have known the campus a bit better.”

Unfortunately, this year Knight for a Day has been put on hold due to campus health and safety guidelines. “We hope to resume this program in some form in the spring for newly admitted students,” Director of Admissions Vivien Mallick said. 

Usually students would have to take the ISEE or SSAT, but this year, that has drastically changed. “Perhaps the biggest change [in the admissions procedure] is that we have moved to a Test Optional policy, meaning that students are not required to submit ISEE or SSAT test scores in order to apply to The Bishop’s School,” Director of Admissions Vivien Mallick continued. She stated that the admissions process has been simplified and made more accessible this year, with interviews being conducted through Zoom and a shorter initial writing application containing personal information, which is mandatory before an interview. 

Like his fellow classmates and other new students, Andrew Chen (‘28) had the option of not taking the ISEE or SSAT. He felt that the Test-Optional policy “made the admissions [process] easier.” 

In 2019, before the pandemic, sights like this were frequent for prospective students, where student-ambassadors would host information sessions without the need for social distancing. From left: Mr. Johnston, Dane Jorgensen (’24), Serena Zhang (’24),Kiran Dhupa (’25), Carmen Morera (’25), Sophie Arrowsmith(’26), Dominic Simopoulos Carlson (’26), Jake Shim (’26) (Photo Credit: Jen Jordan)


Adelaide Kessler (‘25) took the ISEE in 5th grade and says she remembers the feeling of nervousness before taking it and during her preparation for it. “I don’t think it really reflects a student’s intellect.” She explained her claim by saying that success in the ISEE often relies on tutors and when lower-income students don’t have access to those resources, they are at a disadvantage. James A. Kulik, a professor of psychology at the University of San Diego, headed a meta-analysis on 65 school tutoring programs. His research proved that tutored students outperform non-tutored students on exams.

 “I don’t know what the alternative is, but hopefully there is an alternative,” said Adelaide in response to the new test-optional policies.

You may have seen tours around campus, led by administrators or even students. The tours have stayed relatively similar to before the pandemic. The main difference is that tours are not spending as much time in each individual classroom, and that mask protocols are enforced.

Last year, Andrew Kao (‘28) did not get to have a normal admissions process when applying to Bishop’s, so he got to experience the virtual tour instead. “The virtual tour was good. It gave me a good idea of [Bishop’s],” he said when asked how he felt about the alternative to the in-person tours.

 In regards to this year’s in-person tours, Alina said “the tours are going to be more student-led and student-driven.” She feels that the admissions team now, compared to previous years, allows the students to more freely present Bishops’ ideals in a thoughtful and proper way to potential applicants. “There’s more trust in us as Head Ambassadors.”

In addition to the changes made in student-led tours, admissions events are slowly getting back to normal. “I’ve been on panels for admissions, [but] recently that’s been over Zoom,” Alina said, while reflecting on past events.

 Panels are ways for applicants and their families to ask open questions to students who attend Bishop’s. These can be in a large group setting like the open house or a smaller group through parent coffees. But this year, instead of all events being online, there will be a mix of Zoom and in-person events. “I had many questions about the sports [at Bishop’s] and [balancing it] with good academics,” Andrew said. These questions were answered by faculty and through informational interviews, like a one-on-one session with an admissions officer. 

On-campus events, like the open house (which is taking place in December), will be held outside and, of course, all COVID-19 rules apply. The open house is an admissions event that is open to everyone who is interested in applying. Through the open house, potential applicants can get a feel for the school through student panels and student-led tours of the campus. The admissions team plans to hold two in-person open houses in December and hope to hold more events online. 

In the future, Director of Admissions Ms. Vivien Mallick hopes that “all interested families will feel warmly welcomed to our campus” and that “the application process itself is not too much of a burden” and that members of the Bishop’s community show that warmth through their actions.