Admissions programming moves online for fall semester, virtual campus tours

The Academic Quad is pictured on Aug. 28. Ann Marie Burke / The Tufts Daily

The Office of Undergraduate Admissions has adopted several virtual alternatives for prospective students, following an announcement in August that in-person campus tours would not be allowed for the fall semester due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and Massachusetts’ travel restrictions. 

In place of in-person visits, the admissions office has offered virtual information sessions, campus tours, student panels and “Java with a Jumbo,” a program that allows prospective students to speak with current undergraduates.

Admissions is contributing to the university’s efforts to promote a safe and healthy environment for our enrolled students,” Joseph “JT” Duck, dean of admissions, wrote in an email to the Daily.

He underlined that all in-person programming hosted by the office has transitioned to a virtual format, in compliance with the university’s policies.

As part of its recent online initiatives, the admissions office launched an audio tour, narrated by its student interns, and a new program called Fall for Tufts, according to Duck. The program is scheduled to last from Sept. 19 to Oct. 17.

“[Fall for Tufts is] designed to provide access to much of what we would have otherwise offered through our fall open house programs,” Duck said. “Each week of this month-long endeavor will center on a different theme and allow prospective students to deeply explore Tufts from afar.”

He added that the admissions office will also continue its annual Virtual Voices of Tufts Diversity Experience program, which will be held in a two-day synchronous virtual format this year. 

Throughout the Voices program, prospective students will receive virtual campus tours and learn about the application and financial aid process through a series of presentations, according to the program’s website.

Duck noted that the virtual offerings may allow the admissions office to extend its outreach.

We hope that the online format allows us to reach students who may not have otherwise had the resources or time to visit our campus this summer or fall,” he said. 

Curry Brinson, the diversity and recruitment co-chair of Tufts Tour Guides, indicated that tours are being held both through Zoom and YouVisit, a platform that allows students to take part in virtual tours. 

He explained that, though the tours have been conducted online, he has seen more student engagement.

Maybe I don’t get to see their faces on the tour, but I have been getting a lot more emails from prospective students than ever before,” Brinson, a junior, said.

He was also impressed by how quickly the tour guides were able to adapt to the virtual format. 

It was super cool to see, to watch that transition and see how quickly, our guides are able to make that transition and keep that special personal feeling and convey that Tufts community that we’re so famous for showing,” Brinson said.

Senior Jason Getzler, who is also a tour guide, hopes that the online tours leave prospective students with a positive impression of Tufts.

Tours will be very different than what everyone is used to,” Getzler said. “A part of tours is being able to walk around campus … I’m hoping that [the virtual tours] will come together in a coherent model that won’t be the same but will give light to what the Tufts experience is like.

Brinson has had a positive experience giving virtual tours over the summer, and he expects more of the same this upcoming semester.

It would be foolish to say everything is the same and I’m totally feeling normal about this, but all things considered … we still have our cameras on, [and we] still get to share anecdotes,” Brinson said. “It still feels special and it still feels cool.”

Duck acknowledged that the general uncertainty surrounding the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has also affected the admissions process.

It is hard to predict how the admissions cycle will unfold this year,” Duck said. “Given all that high school seniors and prospective transfer students are contending with right now, they may approach their college search process differently than previous classes.”

However, Duck is confident that this semester’s virtual programming will offer the admissions office a strong applicant pool from which to admit students.

Registration numbers have been strong for our virtual programs, and we are confident that we will build a strong applicant pool from which to admit the Class of 2025 and our next transfer cohort,” Duck said.