Class Of 2024 Accepted Students Are Touring BU Virtually This Year
Admissions and schools and colleges employ online chats, Instagram takeovers, and more
One harbinger of spring on Comm Ave usually is the sight of packs of high school seniors following a scarlet-clad, headset-wearing BU undergrad on a campus tour. But this spring, college admissions departments around the country have shifted their outreach efforts online as coronavirus has made it impossible to host in-person campus visits and informational events.
At BU, the admitted Class of 2024 has been learning about campus life through virtual online and social media events run by BU Admissions teams as well as by individual schools and colleges. Even clubs have been hosting Q&A sessions aimed at giving prospective students a feel for what awaits them when they finally arrive, in person, on campus.
Since mid-March, Admissions has managed to quickly pivot to virtual and online programming for both admitted first-year and transfer students, as well as for prospective students, says Kelly Walter (Wheelock’81), dean of admissions and associate vice president for enrollment. Admissions aims to enroll 3,100 students into the Class of 2024 this fall; May 1 is National Candidate’s Reply Date across the country, and enrollment deposits are due at BU then.
Walter says her team has learned that hosting a variety of programs is the most impactful way to engage with students, and thus, their menu for potential Terriers includes live talks with Admissions officers and current students, prerecorded YouTube information sessions, informal chats with students, and events on social channels such as Instagram, WeChat, and WhatsApp. To date, Admissions has hosted 25 events for the BU Class of 2024, with 6,000 attendees, both students and parents.
Admitted students hoping for a peek inside a classroom or FitRec should check out the Admissions virtual tour of campus. Stops include academic buildings, dorms, dining halls, research labs, and more, as well as testimonials from students and professors. Walter says visits to this site increased 139 percent between mid-March and mid-April 2020 over 2019 visits.
Events are also being held with international students in mind. Many schools and colleges are hosting the same event at different times during a week, so students in different time zones have a chance to attend. Many sessions are recorded for later viewing, too. BU’s social media and Admissions teams recently took over BU’s WeChat account to answer questions submitted by admitted students and their parents in China.
To learn about BU’s areas of study, potential Class of 2024-ers can drop in to one of the 100-plus programs being run by individual schools and colleges this month. Here is just a smattering of what’s happening at some of them:
College of Arts & Sciences
The College of Arts & Sciences has hosted panel discussions and Instagram Live events featuring undergraduate Dean’s Hosts and the Student Programs and Leadership office staff. These talks have covered topics like choosing a major, internships, research, studying abroad, and deciding to follow a preprofessional pathway such as prehealth or prelaw. Prospective students could ask questions over Zoom or via text, and they were also invited to drop in to a live faculty lecture on the history of black women’s organizing efforts.
Stacy Ulrich, director of Student Programs and Leadership, reports good attendance at these events and positive feedback. “Students have been asking the same types of questions we traditionally get—how easy it is to change their major? Can they major in X and Y and minor in Z and still graduate in four years?” she says. “Some have asked the students how BU has responded to the COVID crisis, but otherwise the questions have been similar to what they were when we did these events in person.”
Kilachand Honors College
Kilachand Honors College has run virtual open house webinars offering information about the curriculum, advising, living-learning community, Keystone Project, and more. Students can log onto Zoom and attend Kilachand’s first-year writing studio, a global challenges course on the refugee crisis, and more. These events have had about 25 viewers on average, the college’s reports show.
Students, faculty, and staff regularly communicate with prospective students one-on-one too, says Kilachand Honors College director Carrie Preston, Arvind and Chandan Nandlal Kilachand Professor and a CAS professor of English and of women’s, gender, and sexuality studies. “It is clear that accepted students are engaging, asking questions, and appreciative of our efforts to bring them digital materials to help them with their decision,” Preston says. “Diverse recruitment is a huge priority at Kilachand, so we had to find creative solutions to the impossibility of meeting prospective students in person.”
College of General Studies
The College of General Studies has been offering twice-daily live Zoom open houses every Friday in April. The college’s students and academic advisors have been running frequent Instagram takeovers, and the Dean’s Hosts and advising staff are responding to questions via email or through one-on-one Zoom meetings. Content is archived and available to watch later, too.
“We’re tracking engagement weekly, and in our first week had nearly 300 people attend our first four Zoom webinars and over 1,900 views across three Instagram events,” says Chelsea Feinstein, CGS manager of marketing and communications. “We’ve fielded hundreds of questions, and are finding that students have been asking their questions across all platforms consistently throughout the month. I think the diversity of voices we’ve had available to answer questions, students, advisors, faculty, and deans, as well as the sheer number of events we’re holding, has enabled us to be just as accessible to the incoming class as ever, if not more so.”
Questrom School of Business
The Questrom School of Business has been purposely aiming its outreach at both students and their families. Susan Fournier, Allen Questrom Professor and Dean, has been available for live Q&As, with the sessions moderated by Rachel Reiser, Questrom’s assistant dean for undergraduate student experiences and services, and Frederic Brunel, associate dean of the undergraduate program and an associate professor of marketing. Later on in these sessions, current Questrom students and alums have been tapped to discuss academics, career support and resources, student leadership, and study abroad opportunities. The school also leads live chats on Facebook, Zoom, and WeChat. Reiser says there are more than 120 unique attendees at these sessions, with many students attending multiple events. Questrom is running a “24 Reasons Why” campaign about the reasons the Class of 2024 should choose BU and Questrom. The school also lists the names and bios of their student ambassadors, and prospective students can email those ambassadors directly with questions, too.
Reiser reflects a bit on the need to employ technology during this time, when normally students and families would be flooding the campus every April weekend for in-person tours and visits. She feels for this year’s high school seniors who, like BU’s senior class, won’t be celebrating their graduations with the usual pomp and circumstance. And at the same time, they’re trying to make college decisions during an unsettling global crisis.
“They’re probably as sick of Zoom and other platforms as the rest of the world, and yet they continue to come to virtual sessions like ours to figure out their college choice amidst a very ambiguous global situation,” Reiser says. “I have tremendous admiration for their fortitude and positivity as in this moment in time they make what for many is the first big life decision they’ll have to make.”
And here’s a sign that current BU students are as excited about meeting the future freshman class as administrators are: clubs have started their outreach efforts online, too. The BU Synchronized Skating Team invited potential students to attend the national synchronized skating information fair, while the BU Garba-Raas team held a live workshop and tryouts for prospective members.