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Friday, December 03, 2021 — Houston, TX °

Admission office to offer self-guided tours for prospective students

Illustrated by Tina Liu

By Savannah Kuchar     10/27/20 10:23pm

The Rice Office of Admission plans to launch a new self-guided tour program for prospective students, starting with a pilot this weekend for Houston area high school seniors and their families, according to Vice President for Enrollment Yvonne Romero da Silva.

Romero da Silva said the Office of Admission designed the program in order to begin the process of welcoming prospective students back to campus in person, while keeping the safety of current students, staff and faculty in mind.

“We came up with an idea of doing a self-guided tour that would show that we are welcoming to families on a limited capacity, and just sort of assess whether that might be a solution that we could look to implement, particularly in the spring and possibly in the summer,” Romero da Silva said.

Romero da Silva said the availability will be very limited initially, and it will be restricted to Houston area students and families only.

“Because this really is a pilot, we’re not wanting to open it up and encourage students to book flights and do anything like that,” Romero da Silva said. “We’re really trying to see how it works and how it runs.”

Sarasota Serulneck, one of two Rice tour guide chairs, said once these visitors arrive on campus, they will also be asked to follow other safety measures reviewed under direction by the Rice Crisis Management Team.

“Visitors doing self-guided tours will be required to wear a mask at all times per Rice University regulations, and will not be allowed to enter any buildings except the Rice Memorial Center and Sewall Hall,” Serulneck, a senior at Sid Richardson College, said.

Chloe Oani, a previous tour guide, said that although she is happy prospective students will get to experience campus in person, she does have some reservations.

“We’ve had issues with guests not abiding by our on-campus mask policy and wandering through the residential colleges despite clear signage,” Oani, a Lovett College senior, said. “But I’m cautiously optimistic that prospective students and families will follow Rice’s COVID guidelines.”

According to Oani, tour guides are being offered opportunities to continue to engage with admissions, including in this impending pilot program. 

“The Admissions Office has offered non -remote tour guides the paid opportunity to check-in guests before their self-guided campus tour experience,” Oani said. “I’ve expressed interest in helping out, so I’m just waiting to hear back about possible shifts.”

Serulneck’s co-chair, Sarah Jin, said she is excited for prospective students to get the opportunity to see campus in person again.

“The self-guided tours balance safety and exploration really well: tour guides get to participate through recording videos about different points of interest and providing customer service at the Welcome Center without having to risk the health and safety of their community through constant exposure to other people,” Jin, a senior at Duncan College, said. “Prospective families also get the personal touch of firsthand student perspectives like they would get on a normal tour, but they’re able to pace it to their leisure and convenience.”

These self-guided tours will likely be offered on Friday afternoons and Saturday mornings, according to Romero da Silva.

“Those times were picked because the campus activity tends to wind down a little bit at that point, and around the weekend would be the more convenient time for [prospective students and their] families,” Romero da Silva said.

In the future, Romero da Silva said they would like to make these tours more interactive, by including components such as QR codes at different campus locations.

“[It would be] a way to have it come a little bit more to life, and be a digital as well as physical experience, without fully going into the building,” Romero da Silva said.

Over the summer, the Office of Admission offered various virtual opportunities for prospective students, including regional information sessions and “Ask Me Anything” sessions with current students. Many of these are still offered now during the semester. 

With early decision applications due Nov. 1, Romero da Silva said the Office of Admission has already begun to see greater interest in Rice overall, including a record number of Questbridge applicants this year. Oani said she would credit the convenience and availability of the new virtual programs in part for the rise in engagement.

“These virtual events are generally more accessible to prospective students than visiting campus in person, so I would not be surprised if we have greater diversity across applicants this year,” Oani said. “Obviously, these events do not provide the same experience as in-person campus tours or overnight visits, but the Admissions Office has done a great job navigating this virtual space and making the best of our current situation.”

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