After years of essentially random pairings of Bowdoin overnight hosts and prospective students, the Student Admissions Volunteer Organization (SAVO), in collaboration with the Office of Admissions, instituted a new overnight process last fall. Visitors and hosts are now matched on the basis of on similar interests.
Anna Wright '12, who is serving in her second year as the SAVO overnight student coordinator, said in an interview, "Before this year, it was really kind of random; I had a list of all my hosts, and I would just match them up, men with men, women with women."
Admissions Counselor Taylor McCormack, who oversees the overnight program, stressed that the change was not the result of a spike in negative feedback from prospective students, but rather Wright's idea to draw inspiration from the way the College's tour guides identify their interests.
"It was just something that made sense to do—sort of like how tour guides introduce themselves and talk about their interests and activities before starting their tours," Wright wrote in an email to the Orient. "Talking to students who have first hand experience on a team or in a discipline can really help visitors get a sense of the programs that interest them."
Volunteer student hosts must now attend a training session, in which members of SAVO guide them through the general principles of an overnight visit. Most importantly, SAVO emphasizes that hosts should make secondary arrangements for their prospective students if they are swamped with homework.
Claudia Marroquin, assistant dean and coordinator of multicultural recruitment, worked on the overnight program last year and said that the negative feedback she remembers stemmed from the "unrealistic" expectations of the prospective students.
"Every now and then there's always a handful of students who didn't have a positive experience while they were here, and from vague memory, it's usually because their host was overwhelmed with work that they were doing, so they may not have had as much time to show them around," Marroquin said.
"Sometimes prospective students expect a lot, and they sometimes think that Bowdoin's hosts are able to drop everything for them, which is not what we expect of them at all. We understand they have their own lives," she added.
Marroquin said that she expects matching students as Wright suggested will improve visitor experiences.
"As much as we can get interests to line up, that's how we get the prospective students' questions answered," Marroquin said.
The new training process and interest matching could help prevent experiences like that of Marina Anastopoulos '14. When Anastopoulos visited campus as a high school senior, she was paired with a student who had dissimilar passions and a busy schedule, which almost turned her off of Bowdoin completely.
"I was going to apply ED before I did an overnight, and I considered not doing it afterwards," she said. "We got back to her room and she kind of left me and went off to do homework. She left her roommates to take me out."
After their overnight stays, prospective students are asked to fill out feedback forms that rate aspects of their experience on a scale from one to 10. McCormack, who started working in admissions this fall, said that there is not a complete record of past years' overnight feedback ratings, so she has not been able to gauge the success of the new program.
"I don't have the data from past years, but I can tell you that this year we've made," record this information, she said.
An average rating for fall overnights, along with the number of total overnights, was published in a newsletter to SAVO earlier in the fall. McCormack said the data will not be released until it is compiled with responses from the open houses this month.
"This year, I have yet to get negative feedback...the only piece of information that comes across...that I don't think there's a solution to...is that they say 'there's not much to do,'" McCormack said.
However, the favorable reviews could be potentially misleading, as dissapointed students may not bother filling out a form. Anastopoulos recalls that while she was provided a form, she opted not to fill it out, something that could be the case for many disenchanted visiting students.
"There were no specific incidents that prompted the new protocol," wrote Wright.
"It's not so much that things didn't run smoothly last year as it is that they run very smoothly this year," she said. "Both years I've done this, we have had a great group of dedicated and enthusiastic hosts," she added.