Small groups of admitted students are being welcomed back on campus for in-person tours during the month of April—it’s the first time prospective students have been allowed to participate in on-campus programming since Boston College first closed in March 2020.
“I’m very excited that tours are coming back and we’re having visitors on campus again,” said Annie Xie, tours coordinator for the Student Admission Program (SAP) and MCAS ’21.
Xie has been involved in SAP for the past four years, and has seen the admissions process go through some major overhaul in recent months, she said.
“In previous years, we would have, like, hundreds of visitors every single day, they would be everywhere, and [we’d] have large tour groups with 30 to 40 people,” Xie said. “That definitely looks different because now we are only having up to 20 visitors in a single time slot. So, that’s 20 visitors in the timeslot versus 250 visitors in the time slot.”
Limiting the number of prospective students on campus hasn’t been the only change the BC admissions process has undergone. Now, only students admitted in the regular decision pool—those still in the process of making their college decision ahead of the May 1 deadline—are allowed to book on-campus tours, and they can only bring one guest with them.
In order to make following COVID-19 restrictions easier, the format of tours themselves has also been updated, according to Director of Undergraduate Admissions Grant Gosselin. Tour guides’ routes now avoid the busiest parts of campus and are outdoors only. Presentations during tours have also changed so that prospective students don’t have to crowd around their guide.
“What we’ve done is we’ve set up predetermined locations on campus. The tour guides bring the group to that spot. Everyone spreads out, and then they present from that spot about all the things from that part of campus that they feel they ought to know,” Gosselin said. “They field the questions from that point, and then they move on to the next stop on the tour. So, it’s really worked well to give people the chance to get their questions answered, and do so in a safe way.”
Throughout the process of bringing back in-person tours, safety has been a priority, according to Gosselin and Xie.
“We started working on this back in November and mapping out a plan for how we could do this safely to protect our own community, and also to keep the safety of our visitors in mind,” Gosselin said. “We thought a lot about the safety precautions that we could put in place.”
Guests welcomed on campus are given clear directions to maintain physical distance from other families, wear their masks at all times, and complete a health check prior to the tour, Xie said.
Gosselin said he thinks that having a sanctioned way to visit campus is safer for both prospective and current students.
“We also knew that many students would come to campus to walk around, whether we invited them or not,” Gosselin said. “And so, we felt that having something very set in stone, with very clear safety guidelines and expectations would actually help protect the community.”
For those who don’t want to travel to BC or for those that cannot snag a tour spot, BC admissions continues to offer comprehensive virtual programming. Xie said that most other programming, including Eagle for a Discussion, panels, information sessions, and the Keith A. Francis AHANA+ Weekend have all gone virtual, but that SAP works to make it as interactive as possible.
There are also around 30 virtual events for admitted students during the month of April, and a pre-recorded audio tour of campus with detailed photos, Gosselin added.
“I think we’ve done an exceptional job of providing variety for students and helping meet them where they are in terms of what they feel comfortable with, and for some students that might not be able to travel here, giving them as many resources as we possibly could,” Gosselin said.
In his conversations with families and prospective students, though, Gosselin said that most say coming to campus is a much-preferred option.
“They’re thrilled to be here,” Gosselin said. “I would say half of the people that I’ve talked to have never been on a college tour before this one. This is their first college tour ever. And so, just the excitement of being able to be here has been very, very apparent.”
Gosselin said that many have asked about what the fall semester may look like. On Friday, BC announced that it would require vaccinations for all students coming to campus for the next academic year.
Other students, Gosselin said, don’t know how to compare schools when they’ve seen some in person and others only online.
“It’s not the same reading about something as it is seeing it in person,” Xie said. “I think that’s one of the main challenges of the students so far.”
Though virtual programming might not be the same as seeing BC’s campus in person, Gosselin and Xie both said that expanding the admissions office’s online programming has had its benefits.
“Our biggest goal is to move everything back in person that we can as soon as possible, because nothing can really match that,” Xie said. “But, something that we realized is that virtual programming offers an opportunity to reach a lot more students, especially students who don’t have the capabilities to visit campus, whether that’s a financial constraint or a geographic constraint.”
Featured Image by Ikram Ali / Heights Editor