Inside GW returns in person after pandemic pause for accepted students

Media Credit: Lily Speredelozzi | Photographer

Officials said more than 2,100 students registered for Inside GW programming this year, compared to the 2,000 students who attended virtual admitted students programming in 2021.

The Office of Undergraduate Admissions resumed in-person programming for admitted students and their families this month following a two-year hiatus because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

With the reintroduction of in-person Inside GW programming – eight days of tours and information sessions for admitted students scattered throughout April – prospective freshmen have the opportunity to walk through campus spaces, learn about GW’s academic programs and meet one-on-one with current students. More than 10 admitted students said Inside GW better connected them to the University and provided personal programming they said was absent from the college search process in previous pandemic years when they only had online options throughout their college search.

Officials shifted admissions programming – including tours and information sessions – online to accommodate COVID-19 guidelines in 2020. COVID-19 restrictions forced GW to continue the virtual programming for 2021 applicants, but student leaders said it added masked, outdoor tours for individual families in the spring as incoming freshmen struggled to commit to universities with few in-person events to guide their choice.

Ben Toll, the dean of undergraduate admissions, said Inside GW is designed to be a customizable experience for admitted students that offers access to specific schools, colleges and other areas of interest across the Foggy Bottom and Mount Vernon campuses. He said while virtual programming is still available to accepted students, Inside GW enhances their experience and helps to “build energy and community” among admitted freshmen.

“Many of our admitted students have been connecting with each other virtually since their offer of admission, but Inside GW is their first time to connect in person,” Toll said in an email. “We hope students leave Inside GW with not only a better sense of the opportunities provided by GW but with true connections to the GW community.”

Toll said more than 2,100 admitted students have registered for Inside GW programming this year in addition to 200 students who have registered for off-campus admitted students events in eight cities across the country. More than 2,000 admitted students attended virtual programs in 2021, and nearly 2,000 students attended Inside GW before the pandemic in 2019.

Toll said within five days of GW’s first three admitted students programs this year, 10 percent of attendees committed to the University. He said during the past four years, the overall yield rate of commitment among Inside GW attendees ranged from 56 to 64 percent.

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“Our campus and location is a unique difference that many students need to experience for themselves before making a final decision,” Toll said.

Student Association Vice President Kate Carpenter, who has worked as a tour guide since 2019, said she was able to resume bringing at least 30 students and parents into University buildings and residence halls this year after leading individual families strictly around outdoor campus spaces earlier during the pandemic last spring. She said in-person tours offer a firsthand glimpse into life at GW that’s impossible to embody through online programs, like strolls around Kogan Plaza or peeks into academic buildings.

“While we’re having Inside GW events within Kogan, we have student organizations that just happened to be also having events there at the same exact time, and that’s just the GW way,” Carpenter said. “There’s always something going on in Kogan. There’s always something going on around campus. Regardless of if it’s planned by our office or not, the students are able to see that.”

Carpenter said the admitted students days are the admissions office’s “cherry on top” of the year’s programming, giving tour guides an opportunity to speak face-to-face with families and tell them why they should consider GW. 

“As a tour guide, being able to see this campus so energized, the students that can be the newest legacy of GW on our campus, is so special, and I’m so glad that I get to do it in person,” she said. “Even though Inside GW is a lot of effort for tour guides and the admissions office, it’s so worth it.”

Admitted students said Inside GW programming helped them decide where they would spend their next four years more effectively than past virtual college search options that were introduced at the height of the pandemic.

Peyton Gallant – an incoming freshman from Tallahassee, Florida who plans to study political communication and political science – said the in-person information sessions and tours he attended for GW and other schools were more helpful than virtual programming during his college search process because they offered a “unique” opportunity to explore campus firsthand. 

“I did attend quite a few virtual tours and information sessions for the schools I applied to,” Gallant said in an email. “However, while they all tried their best, many were unable to establish a sense of how the campus felt just because it’s hard to imagine yourself someplace new through a Zoom call.”

Gallant said Inside GW programming was a “perfect and safe balance” to get to know the University’s atmosphere. He said his tour gave him a positive impression of GW because he was able to experience how the campus interacts with the surrounding city during his visit, leading him to commit to the University this spring. 

“Before I flew up to D.C. for my weekend at GW, everything on paper was pointing me there,” Gallant said. “The best school for my major and the best city for my career, but I still wasn’t sure. Being there and touring completely made my decision for me.”

Shira Gilad, a recently committed freshman with plans to study political science and economics, said it was hard to understand the environment of an urban campus through virtual tours from her home in suburban Florida.

“You’re in your home, probably in your pajamas,” Gilad said. “It’s not much of the experience you would want in person.”

She said her tour at GW this year gave her the opportunity to talk with her tour guide about study abroad options and internship opportunities, an aspect of college tours that she says is missing from virtual admissions events.

“You’re able to even talk to the tour guides and get to know them and their experience more often rather than just doing it online,” Gilad said.

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