College tours are typically most high schoolers’ first chance to get to know a school on a deeper level and get a glimpse of campus life. At a time where visiting Bowdoin’s campus is not possible, given COVID-19 restrictions, the Office of Admissions has shifted to an online format for its tours and information sessions. The virtual experience contains a prerecorded half-hour video tour of campus, with live narrations and a live question-and-answer session from two student tour guides.
“I was helping to develop what a virtual tour looks like because we wanted to respond to the inability to bring people to campus,” said Brooke Wrubel ’21, head tour guide for admissions in a Zoom interview with the Orient. “We started with showing what the campus looks like and what it means to be a Bowdoin student.”
Wrubel was one of six tour guides who led weekly virtual tours last semester.
“We modeled this version after our in-person tour route, really focusing on making sure these potential students could at least see the same amount of campus as before,” added Wrubel.
This semester’s tours began this past week and are delivered by rotating pairs from a team of six student tour guides. The tour’s first half allows the two guides to share their experiences with the College and make comments as the video plays. Prospective students sign up to attend the webinar and are able to ask questions later on through Zoom’s question-and-answer function.
The first tour of the semester, which took place on February 15, saw a turnout of around 45 prospective students.
“I’m going to miss the energy of the in-person tours; it was great to meet new interesting people all the time,” said Joseph Copeland ’21, a current tour guide, in a Zoom interview with the Orient. “But, the online tours are really great. They give potential students a snapshot of Bowdoin and our experiences. The video we narrate is our campus during the summer months and walks through most of our normal route.”
Wrubel noted that it is harder to make connections with the prospective students on the tour because of the webinar format, which only allows tour guides to see one another and the video of campus.
Learning how to give tours online has been a challenge for the tour guides, but the tours are much more accessible for applicants. Brunswick is far out of the way for many prospective students, and an online tour grants more students a chance to hear from a Bowdoin student. Additionally, two out of the three tours are in the evening, making it possible for parents and guardians to join if they work during the day.
“I’ll always remember this one kid who drove up from the south without telling his parents, by himself, because he really wanted to see Bowdoin,” said Copeland. “Now, with the online tours, it is much easier for students like him, for whom visiting here might not be an easy option.”