Katelynn Singleton, Campus Carrier deputy news editor
Despite the pandemic, Berry has been able to hold multiple in-person admissions events and create new ways for prospective students to visit campus from the safety of their homes. Campus visitors are expected to follow the Berry COVID-19 safety measures, which include wearing masks and social distancing. Campus events have also been reduced in size. Virtual admissions events have allowed students to learn about life at Berry without having to come on campus.
Prospective students are required to follow several new rules if they do come to campus. As soon as they register for a visit, they are informed of these expected protocols. Students and their two guests are expected to wear a mask at all times on campus, including when they are outside. Shira Kerce, the campus visit coordinator at the admissions office, explained that the size of campus tours has also been reduced.
“Generally speaking, the tours that we have on a daily basis, or even on an event day, are no more than 10 to 15 people total,” Kerce said.
Students are also asked to limit their number of guests. In previous years, students were allowed to bring multiple people, including friends or younger siblings. This year, however, students are being asked to keep the number of guests as low as possible, with the maximum number being two. Campus admission events in general have been reduced in size from about 100-150 students to 60 students.
Additionally, social distancing is highly encouraged. Students and their guests are asked to stick together as a group and distance themselves from the other tour groups.
With social distancing protocol in place, events such as Discover Berry and Decision Berry have had to be held in updated ways. Discover Berry became a “preview day”, where students recieved a bare-bones version of previous Discover Berry sessions. There was an information session and a campus tour. Kinsey Stout, the Director of Marketing, Communication and Event Strategy, says that “tent talks” made use of the outdoor tents around the Main Campus to make up for the lack of an Academic and Campus Life Showcase.
Generally, the showcase would be held in the Cage Athletic Center. Representatives from all of Berry’s academic programs and areas of student life would come and set up tables in the gym for students to walk around and meet. However, due to guidelines in place, it would be impossible to do this indoors and too large of an event to do outdoors. Instead, “tent talks” were used, where prospective students were given introductions to the various aspects of academics, student work, and student life at Berry.
Stout says that Decision Berry this spring will be following a similar model. A major aspect of Decision Berry is students’ ability to pick what parts of the campus they would like to see. This year, students told Kerce and her team what they wanted to see while on campus, and the team has come up with schedules for the students. This is to make sure that certain areas don’t become too crowded at certain times.
“They still get that element of choice, but we’re able to control where they’re going, and we can control capacity issues and make sure we’re keeping people safe,” Stout said.
For the students who still feel unsafe coming to visit the campus, Berry has made use of various virtual platforms, including a website called YouVisit, a way for students to tour the Berry campus virtually. It includes 360° views of locations around campus and a voiceover explaining what the student sees on the screen. Normally, there is a lot of filming and photography of the campus, but due to safety protocols that were in place, the marketing team was able to use archival footage, with the campus photography team capturing any additional footage.
Several parts of campus tours have been cut, including tours of residence halls and the dining hall. To make up for this, the social media team has filmed their own tours of freshmen residence halls and posted them to Facebook. Prospective students still don’t have a way to experience the dining hall personally, and so they rely on the tour guides’ personal experiences and perspectives.
The Admissions team has also held numerous webinars and live chats to help students and parents gain insight into Berry. The team pivoted quickly to virtual events, and has held around 100 virtual events since the start of the pandemic, Stout said
Both Stout and Kerce said there haven’t been any incidents with guests not following protocols. Both agree that guests seem grateful that Berry is even hosting tours, as many colleges aren’t. There hasn’t been a drastic reduction in visitors. Additionally, junior Rich Morrison, a student admission training coordinator, explained that even though so many changes have been made, the tours and admissions office still feel normal.
“It hasn’t really slowed us down, and it hasn’t scared many people off from coming to visit us,” Morrison said.