Planes, trains, automobiles. Regardless of how they’re getting here, more people than ever are visiting Virginia Tech’s Blacksburg campus, making 2019 a record-breaking year. Encouraged by the increased availability of campus visits, more than 50,000 people made Virginia Tech a destination this past year. This is a 58 percent increase in the number of visitors since 2007.
“Making visits to our campus more convenient for families has been a long-term goal for us,” said Juan Espinoza, director of Undergraduate Admissions. “We know that once people set foot on campus, they can imagine themselves here, so we’re extremely pleased that so many prospective students and their families are coming to see for themselves.”
Every day, Monday through Friday, future Hokies and their families come to campus for an undergraduate admissions information session and a campus tour. In the past, admissions could accommodate only about 100 people each day. This limitation forced high numbers of people into special events like Open House and Hokie Focus, straining capacity and resulting in thousands of additional people attempting to navigate and learn about campus at the same time. Campus tours were overloaded, and the visit experience was less than optimum. By opening up the weekday visits to more people so they can come when it’s convenient for them, special events are more manageable and the flow of visitors is more consistent.
Visits are successful when people get the information they need. Virginia Tech’s individual colleges play a large role in providing visitors with a deeper dive into major-specific information. The sessions offered by the college academic recruiters complement admissions information sessions and can answer a prospective student’s specific questions and ultimately set that student on a career path.
When John Gray Williams, the director of recruitment for the College of Natural Resources and Environment, conducts his presentation, he can see what a difference it makes to prospective students. “I love seeing the ‘a-ha’ moment on their faces (and on their parents’ faces) when I tell them ‘Yes, you really can major in this. And yes, you really can have a career in that.'”
The key is offering these sessions frequently throughout the week. “Without the individual college break-out sessions, students wouldn’t get exposed to the depth of expertise offered by individual colleges and departments and might miss the opportunity to find their perfect fit here at Virginia Tech,” said Williams.
Receiving information about the university in a lecture setting is fine, but it’s when they actually walk the campus that many people become Hokies at heart. And it’s the student tour guides – the Hokie Ambassadors – who give the tours that personal touch.
Hokie Ambassador President Anna Schmitt and her fellow tour guides devote hours to making the tour experience the best it can be, often because someone did the same for them. “I came on a tour very early in my college search and fell in love with Virginia Tech and all its traditions. I knew I wanted to show other potential Hokies what makes Virginia Tech so special. This led me to being a Hokie Ambassador,” said Schmitt.
The Hokie Ambassador organization is growing to meet the increased demand created by higher numbers of visitors, and each ambassador has a unique Virginia Tech story to tell. The connections made by these current students as they relate to prospective students bring the Virginia Tech experience to life for each visitor.
The bar has been raised, but it’s not enough to just follow the same formula next year.
“While we’re extremely pleased that we’ve had a record number of visitors in 2019, we’re not going to stop improving our visitor experience,” said Espinoza. “We’re looking forward to working with additional partners across campus as we explore new ways to give people the best visit we can. We want to make sure that Virginia Tech is open and accessible to everyone.”
— Written by Gabrielle Minnich