With much of campus shut down due to the spread of the coronavirus, the Office of Undergraduate Admissions has closed its doors to walk-ins, canceled campus tours and transitioned its staff to remote work — making this year’s admission cycle unlike any before for both officers and prospective students alike.
In compliance with University policy and Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s (D-N.Y.) decision to halt non-essential work, the admissions office shuttered its 410 Thurston Avenue office and began shifting operations online.
However, this move proved more challenging for some of the staff in the admissions office than others.
Jonathan Burdick, vice provost of enrollment, recounted the scramble that ensued in ensuring operations workers — those tasked with managing paperwork, data flow and imaging — had the resources required to work from home.
Despite the challenging circumstances, Burdick assured The Sun that admissions officers remained on task and successfully wrapped up their preparations to announce the Class of 2024.
“The admissions reading cycle runs from October to about mid-March, so just as the COVID-19 situation was becoming serious was when admissions was wrapping up deliberations,” Burdick said. “We were lucky.”
Decisions were released on March 26 at 7 p.m.
“We’re still working towards reviewing transfer applications and dealing with other hurdles as they arise, but the decisions that are out are correct and they are fair,” Burdick added.
Despite decisions having been released last Thursday, challenges facing the Office of Admissions continue. With its focus now shifted towards welcoming the new admits, the cancellation of key events has made introducing the Class of 2024 more difficult than ever before.
The end of tours, Cornell Days — an event where admitted students are invited to sit in on lectures and meet their potential classmates — and Diversity hosting, a student-led initiative that hosts and introduces minority students to campus, greatly reduces the opportunity for new admits to familiarize themselves with Cornell.
According to Burdick, Cornell Days typically sees an attendance of about 1,800 students, while the diversity hosting event attracts another 500.
But now that these on-campus experiences are no longer an option, the admissions office and Big Red Ambassadors — a student organization which facilitates Cornell Days — must turn to alternative ways of interacting with newly admitted students.
“We’ve been developing our social media presence and virtual tools such as the CUonTheHill online forum for a few years now so we have a slight advantage over other schools,” Burdick said.
CUonTheHill has been running since 2015 with the goal of virtually connecting admitted students with fellow admits, current students and alumni — and is now poised to play a key role for this year’s prospective students.
While Burdick and the rest of the admissions staff recognize the unfortunate circumstances prospective students are facing, they are hopeful that videos, forums and other online resources will help foster conversations and attract a strong, united class to Ithaca next fall.
“It’s incredibly difficult to convey all that is amazing about Cornell online but we’re adapting, just like everyone else is,” Burdick continued. “It’ll be challenging, but we’re prepared for it.”