Photo Credits: UC Davis. A UC Davis campus tour guide leads a group of visitors.
COVID-19 prompts university to host a series online sessions, webinars for admitted students, their families
Aggie Experience Live!, a virtual open house, was created in response to shelter-in-place directives addressing the COVID-19 pandemic that prevented admitted students and families from going to campus to attend the annual Decision UC Davis.
“While you’re staying close to home to flatten the COVID-19 curve, we’re still working hard to plan your enrollment here,” said Chancellor Gary May in a video prefacing Aggie Experience Live! “We’re going to try to give you everything you need to make the right decision, and we hope that decision is to come to UC Davis and be an Aggie. Everyone associated with the university has a bond, and we want to make that bond one of the mechanisms that we use to get through this difficult time.”
Spanning across two weeks, from April 6 to April 10 and April 13 to April 20, admitted students and their families were given the opportunity to attend interactive, online sessions and webinars covering an array of topics pertaining to UC Davis.
“The purpose of Aggie Experience Live! is to help admitted students and their families get to know the campus and what it offers,” said Ebony Lewis, the executive director of Undergraduate Admissions, via email. “Many people made Aggie Experience Live! happen because they care so much about helping students get the wonderful education that UC Davis offers.”
Lewis added that the virtual event offered participants the opportunity to ask questions to advisers, “hear from staff, faculty, and current students” and “take a virtual tour.”
“Special sessions provided opportunities to explore campus communities, learn about financial aid and scholarships, tour residence halls, and all other things incoming students and their families want to learn about,” Lewis said.
Alumna Katerina Kountouris, from the class of 2014, was the host of Aggie Experience Live!. On April 6, Kountouris virtually introduced viewers to the campus, students and representatives from groups at UC Davis, followed by a session covering financial aid and support for undocumented students on April 7.
“We understand that families’ financial circumstances may have changed or may change in the future,” Lewis said. “UC Davis will consider revisions to financial aid where there have been significant changes to financial conditions due to things like job loss, loss of a family member of medical expenses.”
On April 8, Aggie Experience Live! touched on living in the residence halls and the dining options available to students. The 25 Division I athletics programs on campus as well as the club sports, intramural programs and wellness services were showcased in the session on April 9.
“Thousands of admitted students and family members have participated in Aggie Experience Live! And there’s a lot of excitement,” Lewis said.
The week closed with an introduction to the four academic colleges: the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, the College of Biological Sciences, the College of Engineering and the College of Letters and Sciences. There was also an introduction to majors, programs for first-year students and research opportunities.
“Aggies — including students, faculty and staff — offered their insights on the academic colleges, how to get involved in undergraduate research and much more,” Lewis said.
The videos were presented at 3:30 p.m. each day and were made available through Facebook or Zoom. Students who missed the sessions or who would like to review the information can view the recordings of the videos.
“These are challenging times, especially for our young people and their families making important decisions for their future,” Lewis said. “We want to do all we can to help. We focused on creating an event that would help [prospective students] experience the UC Davis campus as much as possible, short of actually being here.”
Incoming first-year student Renee Wang, from Sunnyvale, California, plans to major in communication and committed to UC Davis after receiving her acceptance.
“I committed to UC Davis because I really appreciate what a well-rounded school it is,” Wang said. “A really common thing I’ve heard about Davis is how nice everyone is and how there is not so much a competitive culture in terms of academics, but more of a collaborative one. I also like the more unique aspects like what a big biking community is and how there are animals on campus.”
In addition to attending a few sessions and webinars through Aggie Experience Live!, Wang watched YouTube videos filmed by UC Davis students.
“A big influence on my decision are the current students at UC Davis who make YouTube videos about campus life,” Wang said. “I liked that they portrayed the campus in an intimate and honest way, and the videos really helped me to imagine myself at Davis, although I did not get a chance to visit due to COVID-19. In all honesty, compared to the other schools I was considering, I could not find a disadvantage in attending Davis.”
Overall, Wang appreciated how the moderators directly answered her questions and the information she received from attending.
“Because we are in a pandemic, how prospective students visit and explore a school is limited to the internet, as we are unable to visit the campus in person,” Wang said. “As such, I think it is important for schools to keep an open line of communication to prospective students and really utilize the internet during this time.”
For the freshman class for fall 2019, 5,982 first-years and 3,101 transfer students have enrolled, according to the UC Davis website. This year, however, due to external factors related to the COVID-19 pandemic, Lewis said “we won’t know for months how fall enrollment will be affected.”
If students have additional questions, Lewis encourages students to contact the Office of Undergraduate Admissions.
“Most of all, we want to encourage students to remain committed to their future and why they’ve chosen to pursue higher education,” Lewis said.
Written by: Aarya Gupta — firstname.lastname@example.org