When incoming Elon University freshman Maggie Jacoby was accepted Early Decision she expected to tour the campus on a sunny spring day amidst a lively group of her future peers.
Instead, alone, she watched Elon’s academic advising staff explain which AP test scores qualified as course credits at her home in Connecticut.
Elon canceled on-campus admissions events for prospective and admitted students through April 30, in order to maintain social distancing during the coronavirus pandemic, also known as COVID-19.
Events designed as a way for admitted students to socialize and picture life at Elon like Phoenix Friday and Phoenix Fusion are no longer scheduled to run.
With campus closed, admission events have been reformatted on a webpage that gives prospective students access to a virtual tour experience, Life as a Phoenix.
If students have questions that weren’t answered on the virtual tour, they can sign up for one-on-one video chats with professors or admissions counselors.
Greg Zaiser, vice president for enrollment, said that through the online experience they hope to cement what admitted students already know about the university.
“The vast majority of students have previously visited so our goal is to virtually reinforce what families learned about Elon the first time they were here,” Zaiser wrote in an email.
While conducting their work, Zaiser said his team is staying mindful of the fact applicants had prior plans and expectations for the admission process that now look very different because of the coronavirus.
To adapt to the pandemic, Elon has been hosting two to three Facebook Live sessions per week on Elon’s undergraduate admissions account. Each video receiving an average of 1400 views, these Facebook Live events cover a wide range of topics from the Campus Recreation and Wellness Center to Elon Dining.
Although disappointed by the cancellation of admissions events, Jacoby said she has taken advantage of Elon’s new virtual experience by attending three of the Facebook Live events: Ask Academic Advising, Ask Elon Dining and Ask Residence Life. During these video broadcasts, Jacoby said the university did a good job answering her questions.
“I could tell it felt unfamiliar to them and that they would obviously rather have us been there and they mention that in the live session, but they still did their best to actually cover everyone’s questions,” Jacoby said.
When Jacoby saw a user post in the comment section with a question she also had, she clicked the like button to emphasize it. The popular questions were then answered by the undergraduate admissions team. After live sessions conclude the most frequently asked questions during each session are added to The Life as a Phoenix webpage.
After attending, Jacoby was happy she decided to tune in the livestreams.
“I am glad that I did them because there were a lot of specifics that I hadn't really thought of myself,” Jacoby said. “Things that I kind of figured I would just figure out on my own, but we're really helpful to hear from them.”
Other admitted students are also given the opportunity to hear from students currently enrolled at the university.
Ariana Tristani, an incoming Elon freshman from Massachusetts, thought attending one of the admitted student virtual sessions would be helpful.
During her online session, she was joined with around 60 other accepted students where she watched a PowerPoint presentation from an admissions team representative and two Elon seniors.
“I thought it was super helpful, especially because it was from people who had gone through Elon for four years. So they were able to answer our questions from a personal standpoint,” Tristani said.
Zaiser said Elon is doing all they can to make this new admission experience positive for all admitted and prospective students involved. After each of the online sessions, the admissions office sends out a survey to get feedback from the students that participated.
Both Jacoby and Tristani said that in the midst of the pandemic social media has been a great tool for them to meet other students. Making use of Instagram and Facebook, both girls have messaged with other incoming students and found roommates for the 2020-2021 school year.
While missing out on springtime admissions events, incoming freshman still have the opportunity to meet others prior to move-in through Elon’s freshman summer experience trips that are scheduled to run in July. These programs are designed to help prepare incoming students for life in college while simultaneously providing them the opportunity to meet some of their new peers.
For high school juniors and sophomores that are preparing for their college applications, a separate online info session exists on the undergraduate admissions page of Elon’s website. Similar to the virtual session Tristani attended, this virtual meeting provides prospective students with the opportunity to hear from currently enrolled undergraduates at Elon about their experiences.
For future applications, the coronavirus could potentially affect the role that standardized testing plays in the process. Zaiser said the admissions team is monitoring changes in standardized testing dates closely. As of now, rising high school seniors still have the opportunity to take the SAT or ACT prior to any of the admissions deadlines.
“The reality is, test dates are available each month July – November. All of these will make a student eligible for Early Decision, Early Action or Regular Deadline admission,” Zaiser wrote.