If a prospective student wants to go to Harvard University right now, the university doesn’t want her to come.
“The admissions and financial assistance office and visitor center are temporarily closed while staff work remotely. We encourage you to explore Harvard College through our student stories and virtual tour, ”reads a notice on the admissions office website.
Across the country, Stanford University says, “The general public is welcome to visit the campus outside. In anticipation of ongoing health considerations in the community, guided tours are provisionally planned, which will resume in mid-winter for prospective students and in spring for organized group visits. The visitor center is currently closed to the public, as is most of the interior of the campus. “
Of course, there is no shortage of applicants at Harvard and Stanford either. You don’t have to worry that a few weeks or more with no attendance from potential students will be an issue. For most colleges, however, the current freshman class didn’t break records (or even hit goals). According to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, student enrollment fell 3.2 percent this fall, reflecting the 3.4 percent decline in fall 2020.
The University of California’s system, for example, has no shortage of applicants either, and several UC campuses recently extended the time they will offer undergraduate education entirely remotely. But some of its campuses still offer guided tours with restrictions.
On the San Diego campus, the campus tours website states, “These tours are very limited right now. The tours are aimed at students interested in applying, who have already applied, or who have just been admitted to UC San Diego. A vaccination certificate or a negative COVID test must be presented upon check-in. For reasons of space, all visitors must register before their visit. “
At UCLA, the website says reservations are required and “You will be wearing a face mask for the entire duration of the campus tour. There is a mask requirement and failure to comply with this requirement leads to exclusion from the tour. “
“Our guides know every corner”
The College of the Holy Cross in Massachusetts has (for the time being) canceled all face-to-face meetings and is evaluating safety issues. It allows campus tours, but only for up to 20 people at a time (including students and their guests), said Andrew N. Carter, deputy director of the admissions office.
The college explains the value of the tours on its website: “Our guides know every corner of our campus and give you an insight into life and study here. After all, for many guides, the tour was an enlightening part of their college search process. They will make sure that it is just as valuable to you. “
At the University of the Pacific in California, Christopher P. Ferguson, vice president of enrollment strategy, said visitors are encouraged to wear masks and maintain social distance.
“We also started a virtual tour last year and tweaked it just before the winter break to encourage families to use this technology when they can’t come by in person,” he said, adding, “We also have a lot of family visits without one Plan visits with small or large groups. To make this type of visit more personal, we’re partnering with a San Francisco Bay Area company to create a self-guided augmented reality tour. “
Lawrence University in Wisconsin offers tours of the campus, but visitors cannot attend classes or use the campus dining rooms.
North Carolina Lees-McRae College also limits attendance, said Kevin J. Phillips, vice president of enrollment management.
Four students and their families could be visiting at the same time, he said. But the college will organize a different guide if more than four students want to visit on a given day.
Masks are recommended but aren’t required for tours, he said.
Lees-McRae brought in more freshmen than ever this fall. But the college’s total number was 301, and it needs to keep growing, Phillips said.
At the University of Charleston in West Virginia, Beth Wolfe, Executive Vice President of Enrollment Management said, “When COVID first showed up and everything shut down, we knew we needed a way to keep interacting with students and providing them with the information and connections they would have made through on-campus events and tours. ”The college, in partnership with PlatformQ, created“ a library of excellent video content ”for students unable to attend campus. The college now offers live and on-demand content “for students in one central location with the ability to also track and follow student engagement”.
Wolfe added via email: “As a small private school, we were very fortunate to be able to fully return to face-to-face teaching in the fall of 2020, and we opened the campus for one-on-one visits at that time. also. But while we always prefer a student to come to our campus and see them in person, we have a large international student body and we know that they (as well as our local non-local students) cannot always make this trip beforehand they sign up. While COVID may have been the catalyst for our expansion of virtual engagement options, the benefits go well beyond crisis management and give us better access to a larger group of students around the world. “
Where universities are in the admission world
Robert J. Massa, director and co-founder of Enrollment Intelligence Now, said he anticipates “institutions in high demand will have little impact and lesser-known institutions will be disproportionately affected. The main difference between now and last year, of course, is that most universities are experienced and likely ready to host virtual visits, interviews, meetings with faculty and students, and general briefings. Therefore, the overall impact on recruitment should be less than last year. “
Gil Rogers, executive vice president of PlatformQ Education, said via email that “The biggest challenge facing registration managers right now is being pulled in two different directions. On the one hand, they understand the value of digital engagement as a tool in their toolbox. On the other hand, they are under pressure to return to what their leadership believes is “normal”. And all while being asked to make up for the Great Resignation. Additionally, after two years of declining returns trying to virtually replicate personal experiences, they are beginning to understand that a hybrid approach is less about virtual events and trade shows and more about meaningful content. This is not dissimilar to the pre-pandemic when we understand that the right content at the right time via the right medium moves the needle. “
Rick Hesel, of the Art & Science Group, said the loss of visiting days in January could heighten the challenges in higher education over the classroom. “The wealthier students tend to be more open to visiting campus,” and will be when visits reopen, he said.
He urged colleges to expand their video content and allow all students to learn about the campus.
Greg O’Brien, chief growth officer at Ruffalo Noel Levitz, said the most important change in approvals this year wasn’t caused by Omicron, but rather the increase in approvals with an exam option.
He predicted colleges would try to resume campus visits this month if they can.
But O’Brien added, “The truth is, no one knows what will happen in February.”