Lehigh has had to adjust its admissions and recruiting process by providing prospective students with virtual tours of campus throughout the fall semester.
Bruce Bunnick, director of Admissions, said the disruption in the normal admissions process began in March when COVID-19 restrictions were first implemented and Lehigh transitioned online. Once it was clear Lehigh would still have limited campus access for visitors through the summer and fall, Bunnick said the office was able to accelerate its planning.
Bunnick said a big challenge throughout the year in terms of recruiting prospective students has been being unable to have the backdrop of Lehigh’s campus for in-person events. He said they have tried to duplicate many of the same in-person experiences, like information sessions, campus tours and interviews, through virtual settings.
“We basically took our menu of visitation opportunities and we moved them all online,” Bunnick said. “We obviously, like everyone else, used Zoom to a great extent.”
Dan Epstein, ‘21, one of the tour guide program coordinators, helped design the format of the virtual tour and trained the 70 Lehigh students who serve as tour guides.
Epstein said they have been using different formats to deliver online tours, with the most frequent option being Zoom webinars. They have also completed an Instagram live tour, now available on Lehigh’s Instagram account, and may develop an audio recorded tour in the future.
Epstein said prior to the pandemic, Lehigh admissions already had an online walkthrough of campus available on its website. They have been able to adapt this existing tour into an interactive experience by having tour guides click through it on a Zoom webinar while talking about campus and sharing personal anecdotes. During this webinar, prospective students and families are also able to ask the tour guides questions about campus or life at Lehigh.
Epstein said although they know nothing can replicate the feeling of being on campus and seeing everything in person, he believes they have done an effective job in providing prospective students with a beneficial experience.
“What we are trying to do is sort of do justice to our campus and try to give them as close to a real in-person tour as possible,” Epstein said.
Natalie Herr, ’21, another tour guide coordinator, said she thinks the tours have been especially beneficial for students who live far away from Lehigh’s campus, including international students. She said these students now have the ability to attend numerous online tours that previously would not have been an option.
Both Epstein and Herr said they have received positive feedback from prospective families who have appreciated the opportunity to tour campus with student guides virtually.
Herr said although they are unsure of what the spring semester will allow in terms of in-person tours, she thinks they will still aim to offer some virtual options considering how helpful they have been.
“I definitely think that we will try to continue to have some virtual options even once we go back to the regular tour because now that we have really worked through all the technology and figured out how it’s possible, I think it is a really great option for those students who can’t visit campus,” Herr said.