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Big Siblings and Summer Advisors: Welcoming New Students to Holderness

Greg Kwasnik
While the upcoming school year’s cohort of new students won’t arrive at Holderness School until later this summer, they’re already connecting with current students and faculty through the school’s revamped Big Sibling Program - and the newly-created Summer Advisor Program.
Such programs are important for any new student, and they’re especially crucial this year. With the COVID-19 pandemic effectively closing the Holderness campus in mid-March and cancelling second visits for accepted students, the Big Sibling and Summer Advisor programs have become critical avenues for welcoming new students into the Holderness community.

The Big Sibling Program, created several years ago, matches incoming students with a current Holderness student - typically a junior or senior. This year, the program launched several months ahead of schedule. For the past several weeks, Big Siblings have been in regular contact with their incoming classmates, getting to know them and answering any questions they may have about life at Holderness. 

“There were no second visits where accepted students could spend some time with a current student and really get to know the ins and outs of the school, spend a normal day here,” says Associate Director of Admission and Financial Aid Alan Thompson ‘04, who also runs the Big Sibling Program. “We feel that having a returning student who can connect with them over the summer and help them feel like they’re part of the community already is going to be big in keeping them engaged - and also getting them to know the school a little bit more before they come here.”

That kind of outreach will go even further with the newly-created Summer Advisor Program. A total of 27 faculty members are each advising three or four incoming students through the program, reaching out to them through regular emails and Zoom calls. It’s a great way for incoming students to meet an adult on campus and ask them important questions about academics, sports, or campus life. And unlike the Big Sibling Program, the Summer Advisor Program is open to parents who may have questions of their own about their child’s future life at Holderness. So far, the program has been a big success with incoming students, their parents, and the Holderness faculty who volunteered to be advisors.

“We just said ‘You know what, we’re going to do this, and we’re going to get more people involved,’” says Assistant Dean of Students Tyler Cabot. “I was psyched to see so many faculty say they’d love to be involved.”

Since Holderness is such a close-knit school, Tyler said, forging strong connections is a key part of its culture and identity. With the events of 2020 having cast the world into uncertainty, those connections - and programs like the Summer Advisor Program - have become even more important.

“It’s a great opportunity to do this, just for families to connect,” Tyler says. “We haven’t done anything like this, really. I think this will become a new normal.”


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Holderness School
33 Chapel Lane, Holderness, NH 03245
mail P.O Box 1879 Plymouth, NH 03264-1879
phone (603) 536-1257