As students wait to hear whether or not they can return to campus in the fall, the newest Hoyas wonder when they will see Georgetown for the first time. The journey to college for the class of 2024 has already taken an unorthodox turn, with virtual Georgetown Admissions Ambassador Program (GAAP) weekends replacing in-person visit days, and travel restrictions changing the calculus for over 3000 admitted students.
The university is expected to make a decision on opening campus for the fall semester in the coming weeks. In the meantime, virtual events have replaced physical programming in educating accepted students about what the Hilltop will have in store for them when they arrive. Georgetown has regularly held Q&A sessions on Zoom, Instagram Story, and Facebook Live to address the concerns of graduating high school seniors and their parents, sometimes half a world away.
Renato Josué Llontop Calosi (SFS ’24), who hails from Lima, Peru, said the online resources were useful but was unsure how an online semester would impact his transition to Georgetown. “I’m really worried about the start of the fall semester and how a possible virtual learning environment will affect a traditional Georgetown welcome,” he said. Llontop has never traveled to D.C. before, but added, “the good energy from students at the virtual GAAP events made me feel at home.”
For Jiani Tian (SFS ’24), the virtual resources offered affected how she chose her university. “Since I can’t visit a lot of campuses, and personally I value the school environment a lot, I gravitated toward schools that I already visited or had a lot of resources to help me understand the school culture,” she said. Having already visited the Hilltop twice, Tian was able to draw on previous in-person experience when making her decision. “It was really cool to get to meet my potential future classmates,” Tian said of the virtual events she attended.
Virtual events shared across social media platforms have made some information more accessible to international and low-income students. Without having to take time off their studies and incur travel expenses, the greater number of online resources has brought an approximation of the visitor experience into the homes of students who may not have been able to take part in person.
However, financial constraints intensified by the pandemic are weighing heavily on students with four years of tuition left to pay, according to Katie Cooper (SFS ’24). “I was strongly considering my safety school because of the pandemic since it is much cheaper,” she said. “I’m trying to stay positive and not dwell on the worst case scenario,” she added.
In the meantime, these new Hoyas are doing what they can to get their questions answered and their voices heard. While the university has monitored the situations of current students through regular questionnaires and communications, a group of students in the class of 2024 wrote an open letter to the Georgetown administration petitioning to avoid a virtual learning environment for the fall semester.
As of this writing, the letter has 186 signatures and suggests that incoming students should have the option to defer their acceptance by appealing for a gap year. The letter also asks that the deadline for appeal be extended beyond August 1, giving students more time to sort out their plans and consider an administration decision about the beginning of the fall semester. Other points call for guaranteed housing for vulnerable student groups, ensuring pay for university staff and faculty, and a suggestion to postpone the start of the fall semester rather than beginning online.
Accepted students whose current high schools are continuing their studies remotely expressed concerns about learning in an online environment. “I have found it more difficult to retain information and stay on task than I did before remote learning,” Tian said. Cooper had similar expectations, saying, “If we begin this semester virtually, I think it’s going to be really hard for me to adjust to college course load when I’m sitting in my living room doing homework.”
Megan Ohlinger (MSB ’24) said her high school has been assigning work to do but not holding many classes. If Georgetown returns in the fall, she said, “It will be nice to get back, be productive and feel like I’m learning something.” Even though the virtual information sessions answered most of her questions, she still regretted not being able to attend the events in-person. “There are some things that you can’t necessarily do over Zoom, like getting the feeling of campus and meeting people in person,” she said.
Dominic Gordon (SFS ’24) put it simply: “I hate the idea of Zoom Georgetown.”
In spite of the uncertainty, the bottom line remains the same for many. Gordon said he is still committed to Georgetown, although he is more nervous about what the coming fall holds. “Georgetown has been my dream, and if that dream has to be adjusted to fit the virus, I will accept that.”
Image Credits: Deborah Han