In virtual admissions programming, Yale students play starring role

Even as campus remains closed to visitors amid the pandemic, tens of thousands of high school students around the world are getting an inside view.
Screen capture of virtual tour.

Screen capture from virtual information session.

Even as campus remains closed to visitors amid the pandemic, tens of thousands of high school students around the world are getting an inside view of the student experience directly from Yale undergraduates.

Since April, the Office of Undergraduate Admissions has been offering daily hour-long virtual information sessions with admissions officers and current students, as well as informal virtual student forums that give participants direct, real-time access to Yale students. 

Given the turmoil of the pandemic, the admissions office initially expected summer registrations for the new virtual events to fall short of the more than 20,000 visitors who attended on-campus events in summer 2019. But the opposite has been true: total registrations were up nearly 40%. 

Virtual events really make our reach global,” said Debra Johns, associate director of admissions, who coordinates the office’s visitor programming. “In a single virtual session in June, we had prospective students participating from 23 different countries.”

The new sessions are offered at various times throughout the week to make attendance convenient irrespective of time zones.

Yale’s undergraduate admissions office has hosted nearly 100 virtual information sessions since April, plus 50 virtual student forums and 50 virtual events with other colleges and universities. The number of people exploring Yale’s popular virtual tour also has increased significantly between April and August — by nearly 300%­.

Before public health considerations ruled out in-person admissions events, the admissions office had never offered virtual events to the public. 

We’ve learned a lot in a very short amount of time,” said Mark Dunn, the office’s director of outreach and communications. “One of the most obvious lessons is that there’s no going back. I expect we will continue to offer virtual events even after campus opens to visitors again.”

The pandemic has also led Yale’s corps of admissions officers to adapt. This year, instead of traveling the country and world by plane, train, and automobile, admissions officers are meeting thousands of high school students through virtual visits coordinated directly with schools. They’re also hosting a series of regional “Virtual Sessions & Current Student Conversations” that include current Yalies with local ties.

A recent event for students in the Southeast, for example, featured seniors Angelica Walker from Chapin, South Carolina., and Rowan Palmer from Knoxville, Tennessee. The event drew hundreds of prospective students who asked live questions about undergraduate research, studying abroad, life in New Haven, and the best meals in the residential college dining halls.  

In September and October alone, admissions officers will conduct approximately 500 virtual visits with high schools from Boise, Idaho to Biloxi, Mississippi; and Honolulu, Hawaii to Helena, Montana.

The Yale admissions office also partners with other colleges and universities for joint events that allow prospective students to get to know multiple schools in a single session. One consortium designed for lower-income students interested in applying to colleges through QuestBridge drew more than 5,000 students across four summer events. Other group events aim to give high school counselors insights and advice about the coming admissions cycle. 

The admissions office has been able to keep all returning student tour guides and recruitment coordinators on the payroll to work on these virtual events, along with many other projects, according to Johns.

The virtual space allows us to recreate and showcase Yale’s diverse community even if some student employees aren’t located in New Haven,” she said. 

Muriel Wang ’20, for example, co-hosted sessions live from her family’s home in Singapore, broadcasting alongside admissions officers in New Haven throughout the summer. With just a laptop and her favorite Yale stories to share, she was able to manage a 12-hour time difference and underscore Yale’s global reach.  

There’s no substitute for visiting campus, but our new virtual events allow us to connect with more prospective students and to feature amazing Yale students in a new way,” Dunn said. “No matter the platform, whenever we connect with prospective students from diverse communities around the world, our current students are our most valuable asset.”

For a full collection of virtual events for prospective undergraduates, visit Students interested in applying to Yale may submit an application by the November 1 Early Action deadline or January 2 Regular Decision deadline.

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