Yale Daily News

Although Yalies have repopulated the campus for months, prospective students have been unable to visit since March 2020. That changed last week, as Yale tours resumed for the first time in a year and a half.

Since Oct. 4, Yale has offered in-person tours twice an hour for six hours each day, six days each week. This has not happened since admissions office programming shifted entirely online in March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Sam Feldman ’23, a second-semester junior and one of the University’s head tour guides, has only led one group around campus so far, but said the experience was “incredible.”

“After not having in-person tours for so long, there was something really special about walking visitors past Sterling, hearing the Harkness Bells go off, and feeling the buzz of campus,” Feldman wrote in an email to the News. “Some of the magic elements of campus can be hard to capture via virtual tour.”

The current schedule allows Yale to welcome the same number of visitors as it would in a non-pandemic year, but within smaller groups. To comply with public health precautions, tours are capped at 20 people each. Even with these restrictions, the University may welcome almost 1,500 guests each week.

Visitors must show proof of vaccination and wear masks during the tour. The only University building they may enter is the Yale Visitor Center, where groups collect for 15 minutes prior to each tour.

According to Feldman, tour attendees have respected the University’s precautions.

“Demand for tours has been strong, but not overwhelming,” said Associate Director of Admissions John Yi. “The guests we have welcomed this week have been enthusiastic and appreciative of the chance to tour.”

Yi, fellow Associate Director of Admissions Debra Johns and Visitor Center Director Nancy Franco, had planned for this return since the beginning of the summer.

This year’s tours will show prospective students the new campus spaces — including the Schwarzman Center, Humanities Quadrangle, Tsai Center for Innovative Thinking at Yale and the Peabody Museum construction — Feldman said, though he added that showing off the residential colleges, and maybe catching sight of Handsome Dan, is his favorite part of every tour.

But the return of on-campus tours does not mean the end of virtual programming. Yale has offered online tours for a decade, and the News found that the increased reliance on virtual outreach during the COVID-19 pandemic contributed to Yale’s spike in applications last admissions cycle. The admissions office will also continue to host virtual information sessions for the foreseeable future.

But Yale guides, who hold one of the most sought-after jobs on campus, are happy to be off of Zoom.

“I was really proud of the virtual tour experience we were able to provide for the past 18 months for visitors, but I think certain elements of campus are harder to capture virtually,” Feldman said. “To be able to show prospective students what a bustling Yale campus looks like again is to be able to give a view into what life is like for Yalies.”

Tours typically run through both the admissions office and the Visitor Center — with the former serving prospective students and the latter catering to tourists. This semester, Yale will only offer tours for prospective students and families and all will depart from the Visitor Center. The admissions office will still handle registration, said Mark Dunn, the Director of Outreach and Recruitment at the Office of Undergraduate Admissions.

Jeremiah Quinlan, Yale’s Dean of Undergraduate Admissions and Financial Aid, expressed his gratitude to admissions office partners like the Yale Visitor Center and the Yale COVID-19 Review Team for making live tours a possibility once again.

“The admissions office and our visitors are the beneficiaries of their thoughtful and generous work,” Quinlan wrote in an email to the News.

The Yale Visitor Center sits at 149 Elm St.

Jordan Fitzgerald edits for WKND and writes about admissions, financial aid & alumni. She is a junior in Trumbull College majoring in American history.