For Yale College admissions, Fall 2020 is a kind of spring

Screen captures of Yale Admissions’ Instagram stories.

In a typical autumn, more than 20 Yale admissions officers travel the world meeting with students, parents, and counselors, and the Office of Undergraduate Admissions hosts thousands of visitors in New Haven for a first-hand campus experience. This year’s pivot to all-online admissions programming has led to lively new ways of bringing the world to Yale — and dramatically expanded the office’s reach through virtual versions of traditional tours, information sessions, and student forums with Yale undergraduates. Here we survey some highlights.

Reimagining the Multicultural Open House

For decades, the Yale admissions office has hosted the Multicultural Open House, a special one-day event that helps campus visitors explore Yale’s many cultural centers, watch student performance groups, and hear from Yale scholars and campus leaders. Rather than simply move the event online, the admissions office’s director of multicultural recruitment, Moira Poe, opted to expand the program to a series of 12 virtual events scheduled over two weeks.

Our goal was to generate the same warmth and energy that prospective students and families get from visiting campus,” she said. “Fortunately, dozens of our amazing colleagues across Yale College and hundreds of Yale students were eager to rise to the occasion with panel discussions and presentations highlighting residential college life, research opportunities, and more.”

The resulting collection of events included open houses hosted by each of Yale’s four cultural centers, a student performance group showcase, live remarks from Dean of Undergraduate Admissions and Financial Aid Jeremiah Quinlan, and a discussion of resources for first-generation and low-income students hosted by The Community Initiative. The virtual format and timing of the events allowed more prospective students and family members to participate than ever before — nearly quadrupling attendance from the 2019 event on campus. Prospective students can continue engaging through recordings of the events available at admissions.yale.edu/MOH.

Expanding social media

With traditional campus tours suspended due to the pandemic, many high school students are looking to social media for insights about colleges, and the Yale undergraduate admissions office’s Instagram account has seen engagement soar in 2020. To give prospective students an inside look at the Yale experience, student tour guides are hosting Tour Stop Tuesdays on IGTV to highlight spaces visited on a typical campus tour and Day-in-the-Life stories featuring Yalies with diverse backgrounds and experiences.

Our social media strategy centers around the idea of meeting students where they are, and these days, that’s on Instagram,” said Christopher Bowman, who coordinates the admissions office’s social media efforts. “With many students spending hours in webinars for their classes, we wanted to deliver compelling content on a platform that doesn’t require logging in or signing up. Instagram is a great space to show off what makes Yale fun. Of course, we also love showcasing the beautiful Yale campus.”

The nearly 60,000 Instagram users who follow @yaleadmissions can also explore Yale through Residential College Wednesdays, STEM Thursdays, and Feature Fridays. They’re also likely to see shared posts from the admissions office’s favorite dog on Instagram: @handsomedanxviii.

Science & engineering faculty features

Since 2009, the admissions office has showcased Yale’s extraordinary opportunities in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) through a series of Science and Engineering Forums, annual events held in major cities across the U.S. The sessions feature STEM faculty members who present their scholarship and discuss collaborations with undergraduate researchers.

This year, six faculty members who previously participated in the live events were eager to record their presentations at the Yale Broadcast Studio to share with the public. The new collection of recordings will allow more prospective STEM students than ever to learn about Yale’s undergraduate research opportunities, state-of-the-art facilities, and commitment to classroom teaching.

What always strikes me about these STEM forums is that some of our most renowned faculty take the time out of their schedules to connect directly to prospective students,” said Hannah Mendlowitz, director of the admissions office’s STEM outreach and recruitment efforts. “I’m glad we took the opportunity to produce lasting content that will be available anywhere in the world. Now anyone can hear from Yale’s impressive and amazingly accessible and faculty for themselves.”

New podcast proves popular

In May, the admissions office premiered “Inside the Yale Admissions Office,” a podcast created in an effort to increase transparency and reduce anxiety around the selective admissions process. Since the podcast’s debut less than six months ago, more than 10,000 people have listened in 87 countries. The first 10 episodes include advice on application essays, admissions interviews, and letters of recommendation with firsthand accounts from admissions officers about reading applications and voting in the Admissions Committee.

Although the project began before the pandemic, the podcast has become an especially valuable communication platform in the current circumstances, said director of outreach and communications and podcast co-host Mark Dunn. “In the midst of so much uncertainty, I think students really appreciate getting some additional clarity and honesty about the notoriously opaque admissions process,” said Dunn. “Our goal from the beginning has been to demystify the process and help students ground their application process in sound advice, straight from the source.”

The Yale campus remains closed to visitors, but the Office of Undergraduate Admissions continues to offer a series of regular virtual events online.

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Part of the In Focus Collection: Yale responds to COVID-19