On March 24, students accepted into the Class of 2024 received an email bearing the subject line “Greetings from Haverford!” However, this email contained far more than a welcome message or promotional material; it announced the cancellation of all admitted student programs that were scheduled to occur in the spring, a result of the College’s response to COVID-19. For some admitted students, this announcement is a minor inconvenience. For others, the move is proving to be a major barrier in deciding whether Haverford is the right institution for them.
Lia Lubit of New York City was admitted into the Class of 2024, and she says that the cancellation is inducing a fear of choosing the wrong college. When discussing the merits of one university she is considering, Lubit said, “It looks really good on paper, but when I visited the place, I just didn’t love it, and I didn’t feel the community that I felt at Haverford. I was really relying on accepted students’ days to differentiate between the two. And now I’m not going to get that, which is a stressful prospect, because I never want to feel like I should be at a different place.”
Haverford’s Office of Admissions has faced its own difficulties in figuring out how to support admitted students in the absence of in-person visits, which are arguably one of the most telling and important resources in the college decision process. As Meghan Vaughan, the Director of Admission Communications, wrote through email, “This situation is certainly presenting a lot of challenges for the admissions office in how we connect with admitted students, but we’re working on digital engagement opportunities that we hope will be useful and informative.”
A number of internet initiatives have been introduced; one notable one is the virtual visit site, which is meant to act as a substitute for tours while campus is closed to visitors. This site features five “scenes,” or 360-degree panoramic images with interactive banners designating notable campus buildings, and four themed photo albums titled “Academics,” “Campus Highlights,” “Res Life,” and “Student Life.”
Furthermore, Admissions is working on initiatives intended to connect admitted students with members of the Haverford community. The most prominent program at the moment is HaverChats, a series of online video conferences that a password-protected Admissions site describes as “an opportunity for you to ask questions about classes, campus life, or anything else that is on your mind.”
Ellen Patrickson, a Swede living in Singapore who was accepted to Haverford, attended a HaverChat for international students. She says she appreciates the greater availability of online resources, as distance would have prevented her from attending in-person events anyway. Due to the easily accessible nature of the online programs, she said, “it kind of makes it feel like it’s a level playing field with students in the U.S. because none of us can visit Philly. It’s really unfortunate, but we all have to consider the same set of information when making our decisions about college.”
However, according to an email from Admissions that was sent to current students who volunteer with the office, HaverChats will soon be supplemented by Squirrel Seeker. This program will connect current Fords with admitted students via one-on-one email correspondences, enabling admits to better understand the College’s personality and culture.
Admissions is also introducing accepted students to academics at Haverford by giving them the option of attending an online class session via Zoom. The password-protected Admitted Students site provides meeting IDs for a set of selected classes that can be observed with the professor’s permission. The homepage acknowledges that these Zoom lectures and seminars are quite different from typical Haverford courses, but notes that it hopes they provide some sort of approximation to a physical visit.
Most admitted students interviewed seemed content with the support provided by Admissions in these unusual circumstances, but they also noted that there were limitations to online resources. Johnny Donovan ’24 was admitted early decision, and says he was looking forward to connecting with his future classmates at accepted students’ events. In regard to the virtual tour, he said, “it was solid, it gives you a feel for the overall layout and stuff like that. But the one thing is, it doesn’t really capture the students there, so it’s hard to get a sense of the Haverford ethos just from these admissions videos.”
Despite these attempts to support accepted students while they decide whether to spend the next four years at Haverford, many still feel the weight of anxiety—anxiety over not just their own personal futures, but also over how the pandemic will play out. Lia Lubit cited the possibility of a COVID-19 resurgence in the fall, saying, “I think there’s also uncertainty about what next year will even look like, but I get that Haverford doesn’t know that either.” Only time will tell when the Class of 2024 will arrive on campus, and how their Haverford experience will be shaped by the crisis.