Increased virtual engagement has allowed more students to see college campuses without actually having to travel there. Emory University has said new online tours and information sessions have led to an increase in low-income and first-generation applicants to the school. 

At the University, 13% of the applicants for the fall 2021 class were first generation students. This is an increase from 8% of applicants in fall 2020 and 11% in fall 2019, according to Dean of Admission and Associate Vice Provost John Latting. 

“The numbers have been extraordinary,” Latting said. “We used to do a fall fly-in program for low-income first-generation college students and we tried to bring in 90 to 100 students. Now, that same program is able to reach 10,000 students.”

Emory Admissions Building. (The Emory Wheel/Matthew Friedman)

Throughout the pandemic, students have been able to utilize virtual tours to safely get a feel for what schools look like.

“[Virtual tours] were the only way I could remotely feel I was on campus when I was really just a nervous junior locked in my room trying to make a decision about my future,” Delaney Fischer (25C) said. “I tried my best to get on campus without actually getting on campus.”

Additionally, Fischer noted that the tour was “well done and interactive” and was the ultimate factor in her decision to apply early to Emory.

In addition to virtual tours, the College’s Office of Admission has many resources available online for virtual engagement, including live Q&A sessions with admissions staff and additional videos of the campus. Prospective students can also chat with a current student about their experiences at Emory. 

Latting said that this feature “has really taken off” as a popular option for students wanting to connect virtually with the campus. 

“We’re doing a lot of programming to make sure people don’t have to leave their home or their hometown to learn about Emory,” Latting said. 

In addition to providing resources for students, Emory has been able to connect with more high school guidance counselors and parents that otherwise may not have had this opportunity.

In fall 2021, the University offered Q&As, student panels, Oxford College information sessions and a cultural overnight recruitment experience virtual series for incoming applicants. 

“Both [virtual tours and Emory’s Day In The Life videos] were great resources to learn more about Emory’s campus and what life is like at Emory,” QuestBridge student Rafael Piloto (24C) said. 

Latting said that these information sessions aren’t “just about Emory.”

“We want to talk to students about just going to college or traveling from home to college,” Latting said. 

Additionally, themed virtual sessions about the Black experience at Emory, gender identities and affinity groups have enabled Emory’s Office of Admission to share the Emory experience across the world. 

Although the COVID-19 pandemic played a huge role in increasing the prevalence of virtual tours available on college websites, people have expressed concerns that the end of the pandemic will mean the end of virtual tours. However, Latting has asserted that this will most definitely not be the case for Emory. 

“It has really opened up a lot of doors,” Latting said. “The pandemic has had a lot of challenges with it. This is a result that I would say is pretty great.”