Amina T. Salahou, a prospective Harvard freshman from Syracuse, N.Y., said her “favorite” part of Virtual Visitas was touring Annenberg Hall over Zoom.
“I’m still not over the waffles that they showed, which have the Harvard logo. That was super cool,” she said. “Obviously, you know, the club [events] are super important but dining at Harvard? That was definitely the best one I went to.”
Virtual Visitas, the College’s online version of its welcome weekend for prospective students, began on Saturday, drawing largely positive responses from both student attendees of events and organizations hosting panels for the Class of 2025. Visitas events are scheduled to conclude at the end of this week.
This year’s Virtual Visitas marks the second time the College will welcome an incoming freshman class remotely due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Salahou said she believes this year's Visitas is “super accessible” due to its online format.
“Realistically, if it was in person, if there’s one [event] at 3:00 and one at 4:00, you probably couldn’t make it in time or commute to the area — wherever it is — but it being virtual, again, it’s just super accessible,” she said.
Salahou said she attended information sessions for clubs including the Harvard Undergraduate Law Review and the Nigerian Students Association.
“I just thought that was super cool they had so many different identity-based groups, I know usually it’s kind of generalized,” she said.
Some students lamented the online format of Virtual Visitas but said they nevertheless enjoyed their experiences.
“Obviously would’ve rather had it in person, but circumstances didn’t allow that,” prospective student Carter G. Demaray said. “And I think the Visitas program really rose to the occasion.”
Demaray said he was “a lot more sure” of committing to Harvard after attending the online welcome.
“I’ve had a lot of my questions answered, and so I feel it’s been an overall positive experience,” Demaray said.
“In the beginning, I was a little apprehensive,” Priyanka Kaul, another admitted student, said. “Being virtual and everything, I didn’t know what to expect. I was honestly really looking forward to Visitas being in person.”
Kaul said she had “a pretty good experience” despite the online format.
Student organizations hosting panels during Virtual Visitas said they worked to provide an engaging experience for students online.
Sabrina P. Goldfischer ’23, the communications director at the Institute of Politics, wrote in email that the IOP was “considering how we could give the Class of 2025 our warmest welcome.”
“We also turned to social media engagement to provide an alternative way for students to learn more about IOP programming,” she wrote. “Throughout the week of Visitas, we are releasing an IOP 101 series, short videos filmed by each member of our Executive Team that describe different facets of our work.”
The International Relations Council has hosted takeovers on Instagram and messaging prospective students on social media throughout Virtual Visitas.
“What gets people to be involved with things when it’s all digital is when you reach out to them one-on-one,” Alexander P. Glynn ’24, an IRC recruitment officer, said.
“Something that I love the most is Instagram takeovers where you can actually get to know someone,” Caroline A. Bukowski ’24, another recruitment officer for the IRC, said.
Danika Luo ’23, co-vice president of the Harvard-Radcliffe Chinese Students Association, said her organization has also been using Instagram takeovers to connect with incoming freshmen during Virtual Visitas.
“So every day, a different committee of our organization will answer questions on our Instagram story, and so far it’s been going really well,” Luo said.
Allison R. Chang ’23, a co-president of the Harvard College Undergraduate Research Association, said HCURA used online platforms like Zoom and Congregate to connect with students.
“It was interesting because Harvard didn’t organize a universal platform for everyone like they did last year with Remo, and I think many of the frosh actually appreciated that because it gave organizations the ability to use more familiar platforms like Zoom, for example,” she said.
Chang said Congregate provided a more “interactive” platform for the prospective freshmen.
“You have separate tables where we had different HCURA members staff those tables from different committees, so freshmen could choose their own table that they wanted to join,” Chang said. “We had some freshmen who stayed at tables for 30 minutes or more during the event so I think it was a great way for them to meet people.”
Shania D. Hurtado from Houston, T.X., who committed to Harvard in December, said she was “impressed” by the Virtual Visitas events.
“I think I definitely came into Visitas with doubts and concerns about different things like, ‘Is this going to be the right college for me? Am I going to fit in with the environment? With the community?’” she asked. “But I think this past week, I feel like all of my doubts have been reassured because I just feel like everyone that I spoke to in these webinars, they were all just so kind and so willing to give information and to talk through any questions.”
—Staff writer Hannah J. Martinez can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @martinezhannahj.
—Staff writer Sixiao Yu can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @sixiaoy.