A selfie and a cookie at admitted students days didn’t change my college decision. I knew I was coming to GW from the moment I got my acceptance email, and my April visit did not change that.
This year, GW updated its admitted students days, and I doubt the changes will make a huge difference in how many accepted students choose GW. The University hasn’t really changed the information it’s presenting, largely because not that much has actually changed – apart from a few updates to the Columbian College’s G-PAC requirements.
We won’t know whether the revamp was a success or a failure until we see how many students end up enrolling at GW on May 1. But in the meantime, it’s important to note that an elaborate five days in April are not a good representation of college life, and for most students, there are likely other reasons that they choose one school over another.
This year, cookies and milk splashed into luxurious wine glasses replaced the table of normal chocolate chip and sugar cookies offered at my visit. Last year, I didn’t get a phone app that told me about the events of the day, but I did get a mobile download of a schedule. Dean of Admissions Karen Felton came out onto a makeshift stage to take a selfie with me and other hundreds of admitted students from the Class of 2018, just like this year.
Experts say the adjustments to visit days can improve a school’s yield rate – the percent who enroll after being admitted. In the fall of 2013, GW’s yield rate was about 31 percent. But it’s hard to know if that percentage will change much just because the University made some changes to these visits.
Still, GW isn’t necessarily in the wrong for trying to lure students with glitz and glamour. Universities across the country wine and dine their admitted students during April. One of GW’s peers, Tufts University, runs Jumbo Days – where admitted students sleep in a dorm the night before their welcome day and then have a day of breakfast with administrators, lectures by different faculty and student org fairs.
This is a flashy attempt to show students what it’s “really like” on campus. But in reality, campus tours throughout the year are a much better way to get a feel for what a university is like. Cherry blossoms aren’t always in bloom, and tulips aren’t always springing out of the ground. Campus tours can give prospective students the same luxuries as admitted students days – without treating them like royalty. Students can also meet professors in their prospective majors, as well as sit in on lectures, before even applying to GW.
Students will ultimately come here because they’re impressed by the programs the University is offering, and because they think they’ll fit in. And while I don’t think it’s best that students base their decisions on rankings, that’s a factor I didn’t ignore while making my decision – and one that I doubt other students will overlook.
Still, much of what you learn about a college doesn’t come until after you enroll. Admitted students days won’t teach students how to register for classes, how to balance school work and a personal life, or how it feels to be far from home. Those are experiences students really can’t understand until they enroll and move in.
And while GW has given out stipends to a “handful” of students to travel to D.C. for April visit days, there are likely still students who can’t afford the extra plane ticket and won’t experience the programming.
We can’t blame GW for trying to boost the percentage of students who come to Foggy Bottom in August, but we have to be honest. At the end of the day, an admitted students day is just another admitted students day – no matter where you go or how you serve a cookie.
These days don’t even come close to what an average day is like, let alone an give an “inside” view of life at GW.
Melissa Holzberg, a freshman majoring in political communication, is a Hatchet opinions writer. Want to respond to this piece? Submit a letter to the editor.