In lieu of its traditional, in-person admitted students weekend, Admissions is hosting accepted student events virtually this spring for the second year in a row. However, with organizers having had close to a full year to prepare, this year’s programming is much more comprehensive than last year’s. March 22 kicked off six full weeks of accepted student events that will culminate just before the College’s deposit deadline of May 1.
It is already clear that this forced re-thinking of accepted student programming will have a permanent impact on how Bowdoin communicates with accepted students—even if admitted students are allowed to experience campus in person next spring, some level of virtual programming is here to stay.
Last year’s Open House weekend was scheduled for April 16-18, 2020, just a few weeks after the College announced that students would not be returning to campus after spring break because of COVID-19. The Admissions team, which had by then been planning for over seven months to host students on campus, needed to scramble to put together virtual programming as a substitute.
“Last year, we were planning [for] everything to be in person, and then we had to switch it up and move everything online,” Admitted Students Yield Programming Intern Nora Greene ’22 said in a phone interview with the Orient. “This year, we’re working with that online format we established, but just amping it up because we have more resources and more time to make it better.”
Last year’s programming primarily involved engagement through social media, with a limited number of Zoom events featuring deans and other administrators. Next week alone, Admissions is featuring a plethora of programs each weekday. Admitted students can sign up to meet individually with faculty to discuss advising and the curriculum in “Faculty Chats,” meet fellow accepted students from their geographic region in “Polar Nights,” learn about Health Professions Advising or even log in to “Late Night at the Library” as student Admissions interns live stream themselves walking around Hawthorne-Longfellow Library and conducting impromptu interviews with other students.
“I think it’s so important to give people as honest and true an impression of the school as we can … because it’s so important for them in deciding if they want to come here,” said Greene. “This year, we’re trying to do a better balance of still keeping social media super active … but also with more time and understanding, we’re doing more events”
The expansion of what would normally be three days of events into six full weeks has allowed for a far greater range of programming, involving students, faculty, staff, administrators and alumni.
“We know that admitted students are especially interested in connecting with faculty, current students, campus life and support systems,” Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid Whitney Soule wrote in an email to the Orient. “So, this year’s array includes more than 50 events supported by … participation from about 250 Bowdoin volunteers (70 faculty, 50 staff, 100 students and 30 alumni) to bring it all to life.”
“We’re getting a lot more engagement than last year,” Greene said. “We’ve been doing Dinner with Six Strangers for accepted students, and we got over 70 people both times we did it. So there’s a lot more engagement from students online than I expected.”
Although hosting this programming virtually was done out of necessity, the fact that it’s allowing all accepted students to engage with Bowdoin, no matter how far they live from the College, is promoting access in new ways.
“We feel like a lot of the focus is [usually] on the students who have the resources to come and visit, and that’s one of the things that’s really great about this,” Greene said. “It’s opened up having this program where we’re able to engage with international students or other students who might not be able to come here for admitted students weekend”
Indeed, although the Admissions team hopes to be able to host accepted students with an on-campus experience next year, the success of this year’s virtual programming means that it won’t be going away anytime soon.
“Once we can bring students on campus, [we will, but] that’s a huge effort and it requires a huge amount of planning and energy,” Greene said. “We’ll see what happens next year, but I think there’s no way [accepted student events] will be only in person. I’m sure they’ll be structured so that there are some events online.”