During the months of March and April, it’s common for students on campus to see groups of prospective students taking tours, led by the tour guides in their bright blue windbreakers. However, this tour season has been wildly different with a completely closed and deserted campus due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
These times can be critical for incoming first-year students, and with the June 1 decision deadline fast approaching (the deadline has been extended from its original date, May 1), it’s important for prospective students to access the resources they need to make a decision.
For students who didn’t get to visit campus before the pandemic hit, Western Admissions is still providing tours in the non-traditional sense.
“I’m lucky I was able to visit when I could,” said Katie King, a current high school senior who has already decided to attend Western.. King will be joining the volleyball team in the fall, and all of her pre-season meetings have taken place digitally.
“We want to make sure that the season is as normal as possible, even if we don’t have any summer on-campus practices or camps. I just hope they get everything up and running by the fall.”
Students who were unable to visit campus were a priority for university admissions.
“Our guiding principle is the commitment to service and support; this crisis prompted additional flexibility in our systems, as well as adjustments in our processes and timeline,” Cezar Mesquita, director of admissions, said.
Due to the pandemic hitting later in the admissions cycle, Mesquita made sure that future students would still get the resources they need in the spring. “We geared our attention to reaching out to students and engaging them with the offices that could best help in the next steps of the enrollment process,” he said.
Mesquita was focused on still providing campus tours, even if students couldn’t visit campus.
“We are relying on pre-recorded virtual tours, and we will gradually roll out hosted virtual tours where our tour guides will provide information about the campus and community,” Mesquita said.
The student tour guides employed by Western have been able to continue their jobs.Their main job was to provide help on April 17, which was Virtual Admitted Students Day. The event, held completely online, included digital tours of campus, a live question and answer session with Western students and social media takeovers hosted by tour guides and housing ambassadors.
“I was able to visit campus in October,” said Jonah Bolin, who will be attending Western in the fall. “But I didn’t have the chance to get enough info about housing while I was there. I was able to get that info online through this event.”
Mitchell Marquez, a student tour guide and manager of both Personal Visits and Transfer Days for the Office of Admissions, was in charge of the online panel on Virtual Admitted Students Day.
“I helped monitor the livestreamed Q&A, which about 600 people attended,” Marquez said. “I was able to monitor questions and give questions to the panelists that were best suited to answer them.”
Marquez was able to answer questions as well.
“Some people would ask questions that were a little more straightforward, that might not benefit the whole group. Those would be questions I would answer,” Marquez said. “For example, if someone asked, ‘How long does it take to walk from campus to downtown Bellingham?’ I would send a private message that answered the question for them.”
Marquez hopes that more digital events like this can happen in the coming months.
“As someone who works with mainly transfer students, I would love to host an online transfer day,” he said. “We are currently in the very early stages of planning that, since the communications team is at its busiest with everything that’s going digital.”
Mesquita recommends prospective students to get as much information as possible.
“I recommend students and families to become as informed as possible about how their new community, both the campus and the surrounding region, are preparing in these times of uncertainty,” he said. “Just about every facet of the university experience is going through significant revisions about how to engage in experiences, for students, faculty and staff, that is safe and meaningful.”