Admission Overhauls Campus Visit For Students

By Michael Seele
Chronicle Editor

Aiming to distinguish Boston College from its competition, the Office of Undergraduate Admission is overhauling the campus experience for the legions of prospective students and their parents who visit Boston College each year.

Though the office's campus programming has long been successful, said Undergraduate Admission Director John Mahoney Jr., research has revealed that some aspects of it were losing their effectiveness and they will be changed by the fall.

Some changes already have been implemented. The long-standing practice of offering optional interviews - with a student or Admission professional on campus, or with an alumni volunteer off-campus - has been discontinued, Mahoney said. In addition, presentations to campus visitors will be dramatically revamped, campus tours will be reduced in size, and alumni volunteers will devote more attention to attracting accepted students to BC.

Mahoney said the decision to eliminate evaluative interviews was based on their limited value and the office's inability to offer an interview to everyone who requests one.

"For three years running, we've had well over 16,000 applications [see story on page 1]," Mahoney said. "Despite our very best efforts, we've been able to accommodate 5,000 requests for interviews, less than one-third of the applicants."

The research revealed that those who could not obtain interviews felt disadvantaged in the admission process, though that is rarely the case, Mahoney said. Other subjective factors - teacher and guidance counselor recommendations, extracurricular involvement and the student's essay, for example - play a larger role and will continue to be critical in the application process, he added.

"In the final analysis, which subjective factor is going to be more useful: a 20-minute interview or a recommendation from someone who's known the student for a year or more?" Mahoney asked. "An interview will not provide anything more than we will learn in a teacher recommendation."

Other changes in campus programming are aimed at enhancing the campus visit experience for prospective students and their parents and setting Boston College apart from the other universities they are likely visiting on the Northeast "circuit," Mahoney said.

The use of undergraduate "greeters," who approach visitors in the Admission Office and engage them in informal conversations, will be expanded. "Our greatest asset here is our undergraduates," Mahoney noted, and they also will play a larger role in the presentations made to prospective students and parents.

Research revealed that the 30-45 minute Admission staff presentations were virtually identical to the presentations students and parents had endured at other schools. As a result, beginning this summer, a staff member will offer only a brief overview of Boston College before introducing a panel of carefully selected and trained undergraduates, who will discuss their personal experiences at BC.

"We'll let them talk about themselves and, in doing so, illustrate the academic possibilities at Boston College," Mahoney said. A question-and-answer session will follow.

Campus tours, which have included 50 people or more, will be reduced to groups of no more than 25, Mahoney said, and their frequency will be stepped up. This will allow everyone on each tour to feel comfortable asking questions of the student tour guides.

In addition, beginning this fall, alumni volunteers will host recruitment and yield functions for small groups of prospective students at their homes or offices. They also will be calling and writing to accepted students.

Said Mahoney, "Our goal is simple: Have people at the end of their trek through the Northeast say, 'BC really distinguished itself. We saw students, we met with Admission staff, we had a very memorable visit to the campus.'"

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