Despite consistently high COVID-19 case counts on campus, the Duke Undergraduate Admissions Office has relaxed its prospective student visitor policies for the spring semester.
Last fall, the admissions office brought back in-person tours for the first time March 2020. Visitors were strongly encouraged to wear a mask for the duration of the tours, which were restricted to outdoor areas, and only high school seniors could attend.
This semester, the admissions office has opened tours to all prospective students. Visitors are now required to remain masked for the duration of the tour and tour guides are encouraged not to remove their masks, even when socially distanced during stops.
Sophomore tour guide Aaron Price said that “every month there is a different [masking] policy, which has been a little confusing to follow.” However, he added that the admissions office has “done a good job” supporting its tour guides.
Susan Semonite, associate director of undergraduate admissions, said that visitors have been overwhelmingly compliant despite changing policies. “When people come to visit admissions, they are generally on their best behavior,” she said.
As an added precaution, the admissions office contracts with Rhino Entertainment, the same company used by Duke basketball, to post a staff member in the office to remind visitors to comply with mask requirements. Tour guides have also also been given permission to end tours if an individual refuses to wear a mask.
Senior Ramya Ginjupalli, head of operations for the tour guide program, said that most tour guides are “pretty excited about giving tours again.”
Having experienced tours before COVID-19 and now under the current conditions, Ginjupalli pointed out that the size of the tour group changes the dynamic. She used to give tours of upwards of 50 people, but now, groups are about 10 to 15 people in size.
Total registration for each guided campus visit is now limited to 40 students with one guest each. This group of 80 or fewer visitors is then split into smaller groups for the campus tours.
Ginjupalli finds that the only downside to the current tour format is that prospective students “have less of a sense of how Duke really is because we don’t go into buildings.”
The admissions office disseminates numerous virtual resources, including YouTube videos, virtual tours and online information pamphlets. Price noted that “there’s an important equity piece, as these virtual events make Duke a lot more accessible.”
Semonite echoed these sentiments, citing increased attendance and reporting that “the admissions office is really happy with these virtual [information] sessions.”
Duke’s Early Decision Blue Devil Days for the Class of 2026 is a virtual event that began in late January and will end in mid-February. The admissions office “hopes to bring admitted students to campus as soon as COVID-19 conditions allow,” according to Semonite.
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