Admitted students welcomed at a distance

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University of Washington Bothell operations are restricted because of the coronavirus pandemic, and all spring quarter courses are being held remotely.

So when only critically necessary faculty and staff are on campus, how can newly admitted students get acquainted?

The Admissions Office had to scrap four scheduled Admitted Student Days on campus. Instead, the office launched Dawgs at a Distance, a two-week long campaign of online events and chat sessions for prospective students and their parents.

Meet me online

Screenshot of students on Zoom.
The kickoff session led by Director of Admissions Dennis Gagaoin on April 7 had more than 200 participants, said Lindsey Burns, assistant director of admissions for marketing and communications.

With more than 330 participating students overall, the Dawgs at a Distance event was a success, reported David VanDeusen, the assistant director of admissions for campus visits who managed the new digital events.

“We were able to deliver a lot of different content, and people seemed pretty pleased,” he said.

Importantly, the feedback gathered from students was highly positive, he said. Most were happy they could talk to people. “Thank you for doing this. There aren’t a lot of places with a similar program,” they said.

VanDeusen said he knows of some other colleges with a day-long program for admitted students but no others that had a robust, two-week campaign.

A three-hour talk

The UW Bothell events included Q&A sessions, held on the Zoom teleconferencing platform, that gave prospective students the opportunity to chat with academic advisers and current students of all five schools: Business, Educational Studies, Interdisciplinary Arts & Sciences, Nursing & Health Studies and STEM.

More than 200 parents of admitted students also had the opportunity to log on to a live discussion panel of UW Bothell alumni. And there were sessions on financial aid, housing, orientation, community-based learning and research, study abroad and career services. The sessions were recorded and posted for later reference.

Chats in breakout rooms gave students the chance to speak to advisers. One UW Bothell student ambassador had a three-hour talk, VanDeusen said.

One of the ambassadors, Yasmin Guzman, said that the prospective students wanted to find out more about what it's like to be a Husky at UW Bothell.

“Many students asked about the average class size, how easy or difficult it is to communicate with professors, how can students become involved in undergraduate research and, finally, how can students find or build their community here,” Guzman said.

“From personal experience, I told students everything they could do to become more involved on and off campus through clubs, organizations and undergraduate research,” said Guzman, a senior in Health Studies.

A compassionate campaign

Because of the sudden switch to remote operations, the Admissions Office had only two weeks to create the remote alternative to four Admitted Student Days, which normally would serve a total of about 500 prospective students.

From all the questions they were receiving, staff members knew high school seniors were worried if they would be able to graduate and go to any college. So the campaign intentionally took a compassionate tone, said Burns, who developed the marketing plan.

The main message: “We understand this is a tough time. We’re going to do as much as we can to help you.”

Although it was difficult to approximate the experience of Admitted Student Days held on campus, the campaign allowed students to ask questions and make connections so they could make their college choice by May 1, the national deadline to commit to a college.

Admissions staff hope students felt, “Yes, UW Bothell is the right place for me. I feel good here. I can see myself being a student here.”

And cyberspace continues

The Admissions Office continues to engage prospective students through social media, including the popular posts of campus photos on Instagram. Meanwhile, the welcome desk in Husky Hall also continues to operate remotely, with staffers answering calls and emails from home.

In the future, admissions staff expects new students will always want to see the campus in person. Hopefully, Admitted Student Days and tours will resume next year. But parts of Dawgs at a Distance may continue as well, said VanDeusen, who has been at UW Bothell since 2017.

“It’s really opened our eyes about providing virtual experiences moving forward, regardless of whether it’s required or not,” he said. “This shows us we can deliver quite a bit virtually.”

 


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