When high school students begin the college application process, it can often feel dehumanizing for them to summarize everything they are as a person and then send their application into an anxiety-filled void. By involving current Wellesley students as assistants and volunteers, the Admission Office at Wellesley emphasizes the human connection that is so often lacking in the system.
“Wellesley establishes a human connection at all points of the application process. What makes the Wellesley experience so unique is that it’s genuine from the very beginning,” said Karen Su ’19, a student assistant at the Admission Office, who regularly exchanges letters and emails with prospective students.
Current Wellesley students involved in the Admission Office do much more than just provide tours of the campus. For example, students can apply to evaluate applications and conduct interviews for prospective students. Additionally, Student Admission Representative (STAR) volunteers have the opportunity to write handwritten letters to admitted students, host prospective students overnight or chat with them over lunch. The STAR volunteers recently sent out a batch of letters to Early Evaluation applicants and will do so again for Regular Decision applicants soon.
Many students express that the handwritten letters they received as prospective students meant a lot to them. When she was a senior in high school, Kindred Obas ’19 remembers feeling elated after receiving a handwritten letter from a Wellesley STAR volunteer.
“I remember feeling very wanted, and I don’t think that any other school did that for me. I felt like they were saving a spot for me, not just a number, but actually a spot for me, Kindred.”
Any student at Wellesley can volunteer for the STAR program.
“It’s a great way for students to get involved if they do not wish to have the full-time responsibility of being a part-time worker for the Admission Office. It’s flexible in terms of scheduling, and we always need volunteers for our big events like Spring Open Campus,” Su said.
In addition to writing letters, STAR volunteers can also be hometown ambassadors over winter break. The Admission Office trains volunteers and sends them home with material for them to hold their own type of college fair at their high schools. These conversations are meant to be informal.
Although an admission counselor may be able to provide certain statistics about Wellesley, many of them did not attend Wellesley themselves and therefore may not be able to convey personal anecdotes about student life, which student volunteers can do.
“One of the best ways to get people to apply to Wellesley is to have someone like them that they know and trust. It’s easier to trust your peers, and it can make a difference in the perception of the school,” said Chelsea Gell ’18, another student assistant at the Admission Office.
The Admission Office encourages their student assistants to share their personal experiences at Wellesley with prospective students and to be authentic. “One of the things I like about Wellesley’s Admission Office is from the moment they hired me, they told me that I should be selling my honest experience—so when people ask you tough questions, you don’t lie to them,” Gell said. “I talk a lot about my experience with art history, my experience with House Council and being involved in my dorm,” she added.
Because of the diversity of the tour guides’ experiences at Wellesley, no two tours are exactly alike. The Admission Office provides the guides with main points to touch on, but they urge student assistants to add their own personal anecdotes as they walk around campus.
For example, Obas explained that she tends to focus on the theme of female empowerment, especially when she guides prospective students around the science center. Su tries to incorporate her friends’ experiences as well so that she can share a more comprehensive view of opportunities at Wellesley.
“The Admission Office wants you, as a prospective student, to know what you’re getting into and understand that Wellesley might not be for you. Of course, I’m doing this job because I love Wellesley and I want them to apply. But I would never want to recruit someone knowing they would be unhappy if they were here,” Gell said.
Besides giving tours, an Admission Office student assistant’s responsibilities include answering phone calls, checking people in and blowing up balloons before big events. They help organize three major events in the Admission Office: the Discover Wellesley Weekend in October, Spring Open Campus and Junior Open Campus at the end of April.
While Discover Wellesley Weekend is attended by high school seniors who may decide to apply to Wellesley that year, Junior Open Campus focuses on high school juniors who are just beginning to think about the application process. It is held the weekend after Spring Open Campus, which is Wellesley’s version of Accepted Students Day.
During Spring Open Campus, Wellesley students can volunteer to host admitted students, greet them at the airport and greet them along the roads on campus. The Admission Office will soon send out requests for volunteers to help out with Spring Open Campus.
“It’s really nice to have the assurance that you will have friends and you will have a community to welcome you when you come to campus,” Su said.