Stanford turns to virtual programming for incoming students

May 3, 2020, 9:46 p.m.

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has canceled study abroad programs, sent the majority of undergraduates off campus and disrupted campus construction. But, the University has continued to organize events for the newest members of the Stanford community — the incoming class of 2024.

“We look forward to welcoming our new admits to the Stanford family,” wrote Dean of Undergraduate Admission and Financial Aid Richard Shaw in a statement to The Daily. “While this year has presented unprecedented challenges in how we engage with and counsel our admitted students, it has also inspired us to think creatively and proactively about how we connect with our admits.”

One creative approach that the University took was sending each admitted student a virtual reality headset. Students can use the device to scan a QR code that leads to a video allowing them to virtually tour Stanford’s campus and listen to testimonials of current students.

“I feel like Stanford really one-upped all of the other schools,” said Camille Luong ’24. “I was super excited to go from the Oval to the quad to other places on campus using the VR headset. Obviously, you know you’re not really there because you have a piece of plastic on your head, but it was still a really cool experience.”

Alongside booklets and flyers detailing the undergraduate experience at Stanford, prospective students also received a Stanford-branded hat, reusable cup and drawstring bag.

The University also hosted a series of online events for admits to meet each other, current students and their admissions officers.

“When we made the difficult decision to cancel the traditional Admit Weekend event, we realized we would not be able to recreate that experience in a directly translated online event,” Shaw wrote. “Our goal has therefore been to work with campus partners to examine the goals of those events, and how they were helpful to admitted students, and then use that to guide us in creating a new virtual admitted student experience throughout the month of April.”

The Admit Weekend team created virtual programming throughout the five-week period between when regular decision students were admitted and the May 1 commitment deadline, according to Shaw.

This programming involves Zoom meetings with admissions officers, a virtual activities fair, a program where alumni call every admitted student and a program where current Stanford undergrads call every admitted student. For those who are not able to make the scheduled online events, the University has also recorded sessions for students to watch them on their own time.

Phone calls with current students and alumni would help establish connections that “would traditionally be made through admitting receptions around the world,” Shaw said.

Allie Lee ’24, who has been attending events for the incoming class, said that Stanford has made it easy for students to register for events.

“I attended a Zoom session with prospective freshmen from my area hosted by my admissions representative, and it was nice to put a name to their face and learn about my peers’ backgrounds and interests,” Lee said. “I also attended a couple Zoom sessions for OSE’s Activities Fair that provided insight into aspects of pre-professional and recreational life from a student’s point of view.”

The University also hosted a virtual Admit Weekend day on April 25, where students heard from the president and provost, the dean of admission, faculty and current students, according to Stanford’s website for admitted students.

According to Nella Tucker ’24, Stanford has been accessible and accommodating to the incoming class.

“The University has honestly been really helpful throughout this entire process, especially when I had to go through and figure out my financial aid,” Tucker said. “They have been quick to respond and open to a bunch of questions.”

Contact Camryn Pak at cpak23 ‘at’

Camryn Pak is a news managing editor. Contact her at cpak 'at'

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