Admissions introduces new technology to capture school experience

Tour guides praise accessibility but miss personal connections

Maya Benjamin, On-Campus Editor

A typical fall on campus features prospective families perusing the halls, tour guides by their sides, and open house flyers pasted on every wall. This school year, as campus is closed to visitors, 80 Gerry’s Landing has seen no new faces. Instead, applicants have considered the school on their computer screens through a virtual tour and open house.
Over the summer, with the help of Director of Enrollment Management Jorge Delgado, the admissions team reflected on its spring virtual events for accepted students and families to predict how best to attract families this fall. By September, the team had plans.
To provide the most well-rounded perception of the school, the group enlisted the help of Circlescapes, the “most dynamic virtual tour provider on the net,” according to its website.
A Circlescapes photographer visited campus in August to shoot a series of “spins,” or 360-degree videos, in numerous locations. Thirteen spins featuring the Upper School grounds, as well as photos and videos of life on campus, now appear as Zoom backgrounds during virtual tours.
The admissions team hopes that this campus- life coverage creates an engaging, inclusive experience for prospective students and their families, Mr. Delgado said.
In addition to virtual tours, the school hosted three days of open houses during which prospective families heard from the campus directors, the Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Global Education (DEIG) team, and Head of School Jen Price.
Aimée Seppenwolde ’21, one of three tour
guides present on an October 22 virtual tour, said the tour’s online nature gave families more accessibility to the school.
“I think finding time before the corona era to come to BB&N, finding a parking spot, and coming with parents who might have to miss work or take a day off to bring their kid was difficult,” she said. “The webinar definitely gives a lot of opportunity for people to join, especially because it’s at night. People don’t have to miss obligations that they may have, and more people can partake in a virtual tour.”
A tour guide since her freshman year, Aimée also said the virtual experience was much different than it had been in past admission seasons.
“Because it’s a webinar, we can’t see the participants,” she said. “We can only see the people who are speaking—the two admissions officers who were on the call plus the two other tour guides. You can see the participant number, but that’s the only real thing showing that there are people on the call.”
Aimée estimated about 73 people joined the October 22 event, a high volume compared to her more typical tour of just a prospective student and their parents.
“Now I just see this huge number, but I don’t actually get to see the people in real life,” she said. “It’s weird.”
Tour guide Kat Chen ’22 also highlighted the loss of intimacy.
“There’s that lack of connection,” Kat said.
“I think that’s my main thing with tour guides because it’s something I really enjoyed: getting to know the people who were trying to apply to BB&N or getting to know what they like, what sports they were thinking of doing if they were to get in, that kind of stuff.”
To help influence conversation among viewers
and allow prospective students to ask questions, the admissions team set up a Q&A feature on the call, Kat said. During the tour, applicants typed questions into the chat that were then answered by either the tour guides or one of the admissions officers. Still, Kat felt as though she could not indulge in the kind of personal conversations she had enjoyed in the past, she said.
“It was a 45-minute tour, and it’s definitely hard to cover everything about our school,” she said. “Usually, when I give in-person tours, my first question is always, ‘What’s your favorite subject?’ or ‘What are you most looking forward to studying at BB&N?’ Then I sort of gear my tour around that to give more information, but [now] it’s definitely harder.”
Mr. Delgado said the admissions team’s focus has been on portraying the school as accurately as possible through a screen.
“The magic of BB&N lies in the people that make up our vibrant and supportive community,” he said. “More than anything, the admissions team has worked hard to feature a variety of voices in our programming so prospective students and families can see this for themselves. Hearing from students, faculty, and parents as well as from the admissions team will help families see if BB&N is the right community for them.”
One prospective parent and virtual tour attendee told The Vanguard they felt fulfilled with the information provided and as though they had a clear representation of school culture.
“All of the BB&N virtual admissions events have been very informative thus far. The open house really gave us a chance to dive deep into all that the school has to offer,” they said. “Sessions with parents and students demonstrated, over and over, the strength and warmth of the BB&N community.”