Madelyn Kumar, Senior Photographer

As the Yale Office of Undergraduate Admissions kicks off its 2021-2022 admissions cycle, admissions staff are planning a return to in-person tours while still continuing some modes of virtual outreach.

The admissions office has held all outreach initiatives, including campus tours, online since the COVID-19 pandemic hit campus in March 2020. But in a new step forward, the admissions office is planning to resume in-person tours on Oct. 4, barring any changes in the public health situation. The office will continue to hold all information sessions and other outreach presentations online after such efforts proved successful last admissions cycle.

“Last year, we had tremendous success in connecting with students and parents virtually,” Dean of Undergraduate Admissions and Financial Aid Jeremiah Quinlan told the News. “And the plan this year that the admissions team has come up with takes some of the best practices from last year, but connects it with a broader strategy of who we want to be connecting with. … We have come up with a really sound plan that I think allows us to connect with a lot of students.”

The admissions office plans to offer in-person tours six times a day, six days per week, up from the number of in-person tours hosted during the admissions cycle of pre-pandemic years. Each time slot will offer two tours for twenty people each. In accordance with public safety guidelines, all visitors will have to sign up for tour slots in advance to keep the numbers low.

All tours will be offered out of the Yale Visitor Center on Elm Street, rather than out of the admissions office, which previously held tours. The admissions office will remain closed for the time being. According to Yale Visitor Center Director Nancy Franco, the Visitor Center will be closed to the general public so that it can serve solely as the host site for admissions tours. The Visitor Center staff hopes to re-open the building to the public early next year or once public health conditions allow, Franco told the News.

Debra Johns, an associate director of admissions and the team leader for hospitality, told the News that admissions office staff have been planning the return to in-person tours since the beginning of the summer. The admissions office has worked closely with the University-wide COVID-19 Review Team to ensure that the tour plans abide by all university health and safety policies.

“There is no true substitute for walking around campus, seeing buildings, hearing about Yale from our amazing tour guides, or feeling the Yale community buzzing with energy,” Johns said. “The staffs at the Office of Undergraduate Admissions and the Visitor Center knew we needed to return to offering those opportunities as soon as we safely could do so.”

On top of on-campus tours and information sessions, admissions officers also visit various locations throughout the country during a typical admissions cycle. When the pandemic hit, the admissions office moved all information sessions and presentations online, and saw immense success. In the first nine months of 2020, 47,000 prospective students registered for joint virtual events featuring Yale, as opposed to around 8,500 prospective students throughout the entirety of 2019. And in the period from April 1 to Sept. 15 in 2020, 39 percent more students registered for a virtual information session than students who registered for in-person information sessions in the same period in 2019.

Public safety is the primary reason that Yale is only holding virtual information sessions and outreach presentations this fall, Mark Dunn, the director of outreach and communications at the Office of Undergraduate Admissions, told the News. But after the success of 2020, the admissions office is seriously considering keeping virtual elements to their outreach strategy even after the pandemic subsides.

“Last year, we were really just throwing everything out there and seeing what works,” Dunn said. “And we were overwhelmingly very happy with it. If you just look at the basic numbers of how many students engaged with Yale admissions last year, the virtual piece just really blew it out of the water.”

In addition to virtual standard information sessions, the admissions office plans to conduct more targeted outreach initiatives over the course of a five-week period beginning Sept. 13. Admissions officers will host virtual presentations for specific geographic regions, as well as presentations with specialized topics, such as STEM and performance arts.

The admissions office also plans to take advantage of virtual outreach to connect with students who might not typically be able to visit Yale’s campus. Admissions officers will host sessions specifically for prospective students from small towns, and will talk about the transition from a rural area to an urban area like Yale.

Finally, Yale plans to continue hosting joint virtual events with peer institutions such as Harvard, University of Virginia, University of Chicago and more. The admissions office has hosted such events throughout the spring and summer, and they are often attended by thousands of prospective students, Dunn said.

“Even when you can travel to a big high school and get 1,500 people in an auditorium, these virtual events can pull in 2,000, 3,000 or more people in one zoom session and that’s just a super great way to reach people,” Dunn said.

Although the admissions office will conclude most targeted outreach efforts in mid-October, the office plans to continue in-person tours year-round as in years past, so long as the public health situation allows.

Amelia Davidson was the University Editor for the Yale Daily News. Before that, she covered admissions, financial aid and alumni as a staff reporter. Originally from the Washington D.C. area, she is a junior in Pauli Murray College majoring in American studies.