On April 17 Western will welcome confirmed students and their families to participate in activities and conversations around admissions and life as a Viking
Virtual Admitted Student Day is on April 17 and is being hosted via Zoom to welcome incoming freshmen, transfer students and their families to Western Washington University.
The goal of this event is to allow admitted students to meet and get to know Western’s faculty and staff, as well as other current students. The event will give students the opportunity to ask questions, voice their concerns and find all of the information they need with the hope of making admitted student transitions as smooth as possible.
According to Cezar Mesquita, Western’s director of admissions, the event will cover information about topics such as orientation, advising, housing applications, financial award letters and confirmation fees.
Because students aren’t able to visit and experience Western like they were before, Mesquita said Western is taking extra strides to “create a spirit of celebration and connection online.”
Due to the ongoing distancing of COVID-19, Jayne Fonash, the president of the National Association for College Admission Counseling, said students are experiencing a greater sense of social isolation. Because of this, new students will look to orientation resources more than before to learn about their school and how to make connections, she said.
“After years of students being told ‘make sure you visit the campus and make sure you’re comfortable there,’ that’s not able to happen,” Fonash said. “So the rubric has gotten thrown out the window and students have been challenged to make some decisions based on not being able to be there in person which is possible, but not what they planned for.”
Fonash also spoke to the unique struggles that may weigh on students when they are making decisions about attending college this year, including family unemployment or illness.
According to numbers released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, at the start of the pandemic, from March to April of 2020 the unemployment rate rose exponentially from 4.7% to 17.17%. As of this February, the rate of unemployment was reported to be 6%, which the bureau said is down considerably.
“Many students look forward to the opportunity to move away, live in a new community, develop a life and get to know new people, and these students who would have never thought twice about taking that leap may be very cautious about it this year,” said Fonash.
Mesquita acknowledged these conflicts as well, specifically among first-generation students who he notes are proceeding with more caution than usual in their decision making.
“We are still monitoring and finalizing our numbers for the entering fall class; we are proceeding with cautious optimism as we enter the critical weeks of late April as students and families make their choices leading up to the May 1 enrollment confirmation priority date,” Mesquita said.
Gabriel Martin is an Edmonds College student who will begin attending Western this fall to study psychology.
Martin said because of the constant isolation, he has experienced more loneliness in this last year and is hopeful that his move to Bellingham will relieve some of that.
“What really influenced my decision was my friends in Bellingham. Just being around them makes me happy,” Martin said.
In case virtual learning remains necessary or preferable in the fall, Martin said that he would still feel content because of the greater connectivity he feels among his friends and the Bellingham atmosphere.
“Heading into my major, I am hoping for professors who are encouraging of students succeeding in their studies because I feel that it is so important for students to feel supported.”
Martin said that he has been disappointed with the lack of connectivity he has experienced in school during the pandemic.
“I like to see my classmates’ and my teachers’ faces. I feel like it legitimizes the class for me,” Martin said.
Martin said he wants to build relationships and make connections at Western and he hopes that the support he finds goes beyond just his classes, but also helps him look forward to future career opportunities in the field of psychology.
“Creating the ability for personal connection right now is important,” said Mesquita who is hoping that Admitted Student Day will be the starting point for many new students to do just that.
In a similar sentiment, Fonash emphasized the importance of creating a welcoming environment and system of support for new students.
“Students feeling comfortable and invited to ask questions is going to be a really key element to beginning college on a positive note. A welcoming message from academic support is a great thing to offer freshman and transfer students,” she said.
Brianna Poulos is a third-year News and Editorial Journalism major and a reporter for The Front. She enjoys exploring art, community, and events in her writing and has also written for Whatcom Community College’s publication, The Horizon. When she is not reporting, Brianna spends her time painting, watching movies and baking. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.