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Some COVID-19 restrictions still in place as Duke admissions returns to in-person, student-led tours

<p>A pre-pandemic tour group.</p>

A pre-pandemic tour group.

Prospective Duke students can once again attend in-person, student-led tours of campus—but restrictions have not yet been fully lifted.

Devan Wainright, a junior and student tour guide, is excited to see families coming onto campus again after the difficult year the admissions office has had. “It's what we all live for,” Wainright said. 

Throughout the transition back to in-person tours, Duke has kept some policies in place to limit the chance of COVID-19 transmission between visitors and the University community. Registration for in-person tours is currently only open to high school seniors and each student registrant is only allowed one guest. The admissions office cannot ask for vaccination status as part of registration.

Additionally, tour groups are explicitly instructed to not enter buildings. Masks are required throughout the duration of the tour.

“We’re using Duke’s standards that have been put in place for general student involvement,” Wainright said.

Wainright spearheaded many responsibilities last year in the shift to the admissions office’s virtual touring experience, which allowed families to still experience Duke from home.  

“We make it a goal that our tour guides are good storytellers,” Wainright said. “So that's what we were shooting for within the presentation of the virtual form.”

Online tours show significant turnout

The online Duke tour experience will continue to be a resource for prospective students and parents in the future. The virtual option reached more students than in-person touring; Wainright said that the virtual tours had a higher attendance of international students than ever. The high turnout offers a potential explanation of the 25% increase in application numbers between 2020 and 2021.

But many current students admit that the virtual experience does not quite encapsulate the reality of what life as a student entails.

“As someone that toured in person and online, I respect the effort they put in to make the virtual experience representative of Duke,” first-year Karam Bambawale said, “but I don’t think it really did it justice; I got so much more from being on campus than online.”

The tour guides provide an element of life and personality to others’ first impressions of Duke’s campus, which is what excited Wainright the most about his position that he hopes for others to experience, too.

“We’re recruiting the new class of tour guides, either in the Classes of 2025 and 2024, and in some cases 2023,” Wainright said.

After over a year of missed opportunities for the recruitment of new guides, more spots than ever are open for grabs.

“That is why we do this, right?” Wainright said. “You’re hearing from the people that go here because there’s nothing to hide.”

James Cruikshank

James Cruikshank is a Trinity first-year and a staff reporter for the news department.


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