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IU admissions office moves online; incoming freshmen express fears



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Sunshine illuminates the Sample Gates on June 28, 2019, on the IU-Bloomington campus. Prospective students have been able to take virtual tours of campus in lieu of in-person visits during the coronavirus pandemic. Alex Deryn

The coronavirus pandemic has forced the Office of Admissions to move its largely in-person services online. Meanwhile, incoming first-year students are fearful of how the coronavirus will shape their first year at IU.

The IU admissions office has pushed back the final enrollment date from May 1 to June 1, while continuing to provide services online to prospective students through virtual tours and programming.

“We wanted to make sure that all students know that they had more time to consider,” Assistant Vice Provost and Executive Director of Admissions Sacha Thieme said.

Thieme said March and April are popular times for prospective students to visit campus, but this year’s class was unable to visit during that time. Instead, she said students were able to take a virtual tour or watch a videos with one of the admissions ambassadors. 

“That was kind of the first priority was to create immediate programming for admitted students,” Thieme said. “And we did that pretty quickly.”

Natalie Ingalls is an incoming freshman who lives in northern Virginia. She said she was going to visit IU over her spring break but was unable to due to tour cancellations. Ingalls said the first time she will set foot on campus will be this fall during move-in, if students are allowed to move in. 

“I know I'm going to love being there, but I’m just a little nervous knowing that I'm gonna be so unfamiliar with the campus,” Ingalls said.

Ingalls said she viewed many of the online tours with the admissions office to get a better sense of the university. She said these programs helped her make her decision.

However, she said she is weighing her options if the fall semester is online. She said she may decide to defer enrollment for a semester to work at home or attend a community college.

“I just don't feel like it would be worth it to take online classes when I could hypothetically attend community college,” Ingalls said.

Thieme also said about half of the IU Red Carpet Days, days when admitted students and their families can learn more about IU, were able to take place. For those who missed out, programming was put together on the IU Admissions website.

She also said June and July are also popular for high school juniors to visit, so they created programming for those students as well. The admissions office is also arranging virtual college fairs with high schools.

Thieme said the office is being accommodating to students because there was also a large difference in how high schools dealt with the switch to online learning. She said they will be flexible when reviewing students’ final transcripts if they had an issue with a high school class or needed to choose a pass/fail option. 

Thieme said the office has received a lot of questions as families weigh their options. She said she can't guarantee what the fall semester will look like, but she wants students to know that the university is ready to welcome them so they can start their college experience.

“The IU family and the IU community is going to stand behind them,” Thieme said. “We don't want them to feel like they have to put their future on hold.”

Emily Ren, an incoming student from New Jersey, was also not able to visit campus before enrolling. She said the coronavirus impacted how she made her college decision due to IU being cheaper than some of the other colleges she applied to. 

Like Ingalls, Ren said she attended online programs and Zoom meetings to get a better sense of the university and what lies ahead in her college career. She also spoke with a former high school classmate to learn more about IU and the Kelley School of Business.

“Talking with her really gave me a better sense of how the school works,” Ren said.

Ren said that she, like other people she knows, feels she did not receive closure from her high school experience. Thus, she said she is nervous to start a new chapter in college.

“A lot of it is still very uncertain, just like how the end of high school was,” Ren said. “So definitely there's that fear.”

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