Springtime at Hamilton normally means a confluence of newly admitted, not-yet-committed students strolling the pathways, sitting in on classes, and meeting with admission officers and students all in an effort to finalize their big decision — Will Hamilton be my home for the next four years?
Likewise, campus sidewalks are typically filled with backwards-walking tour guides dispensing insider information to high school juniors and their parents who are perhaps just beginning the college search process.
April is the busiest month for prospective student visits, which draw roughly 1,000 people each week. But this year the effort to control COVID-19 has shuttered the campus and much of the country, and the resulting list of challenges is long for the Admission Office team.
“Helping admitted students not lose sight of their futures in these extraordinary times is high on that list,” says Vice President for Enrollment Management Monica Inzer. So is helping house-bound high school juniors keep dreaming about colleges that they can’t visit. Admission and financial aid staffers may be working from home, but they are still working hard to provide students and families with the information they need to make well-informed decisions. The deadline for admitted students to commit to Hamilton is May 1.
This year, staff members called every admitted student to answer questions. And when someone calls the admission or financial aid 1-800 number, a phone may ring in a team member’s kitchen. “We’ve tried to make the fact that we’re working remotely invisible to our families, at least when they call or email. Visiting is another story,” Inzer observes.
For some the traditional April open house for admitted students is a major factor in their decision whether to commit to Hamilton. “So now we have to replace that energy and connection with Hamilton in other ways,” Inzer says. “The good news is that this challenge is not unique to us; all colleges are facing this, and all admitted students. We need to make sure they know how much we believe in them and their ability to thrive at Hamilton — and do that better than other places.”
That’s where things really got creative, with ideas and actions flowing from all directions.
A sampling: The student a capella group Special K shared a remote rendition of “Take a Chance on Me” dedicated to the Class of 2024. Before the virus crisis hit, the Admission Office announced a Spotify playlist of songs shared by applicants, and it became an effective way to celebrate class members. A “Congratulations webpage” provides a trove of information for newly admitted students, including links to videos, podcasts, a virtual tour led by Director of Outdoor Leadership Andrew Jillings, and more.
The lineup of live online events includes conversations with current students, panels focused on career exploration, trivia nights, and a Q/A about Hamiton’s open curriculum with Dean of Faculty Suzanne Keen. A live aerial tour of campus drew more than 6,000 views on Facebook. The College is keeping its social media channels fresh with content directed at prospective and admitted students.
The biggest success of the effort so far? The teamwork it engendered across the College, Inzer answers.
“People have pulled together to make this all possible because they believe in the College and our work and our students. And this is the stuff that keeps us going,” she says.