Spring Open Campus (SOC) is a time for prospective students, affectionately known as “prospies,” to explore campus and get a small taste of life as a Wellesley student. Current students are encouraged to host prospies in their dorms and introduce them to the college experience. SOC is a great opportunity to showcase all Wellesley can offer its students; however, hosts often feel an obligation to tell prospies about negative experiences they have had here. Although it is important to be honest about Wellesley’s shortcomings, we must also leave space for propsies to make an informed decision about whether or not Wellesley would be a good fit for them.
First and foremost, hosts should not sugarcoat the Wellesley experience and make it seem perfect. Avoiding the negative aspects of the college is doing a disservice to the potential incoming class — and to us. When speaking to prospies, we should be honest about Wellesley’s institutional problems. For instance, Wellesley has a lot of room to grow in terms of equitable services to students, particularly low-income students and students of color. Mental health services could be stronger in many areas, including how staff deals with students returning from leaves of absence. There is also an intense stress culture here, one that the college has only made worse through multiple sets of midterms in classes and the intensely harmful grade deflation policy.
Prospective students should not be kept ignorant of these problems, only to be surprised with them when they arrive to campus as excited first years. They deserve the chance to decide whether Wellesley is a good fit for them before they enroll, and that can only be done if they are properly informed of the pros and cons of Wellesley.
Although we should be open about Wellesley’s problems, students should not bluntly disparage the entire college to prospies. While Wellesley does have unique challenges, it shares struggles with other institutions. For example, mental health facilities at universities across the world are struggling to handle the growing demand for services. Baldly telling a prospie to attend an institution other than Wellesley because of its lack of mental health services suggests that Wellesley is uniquely poor in regards to mental health, when in fact it’s a problem plaguing colleges worldwide.
Low-income students and students of color deserve support and chances to succeed at Wellesley. At the same time, services for these students are never going to improve if they are discouraged from ever attending the college in the first place. This does not mean that these students should be sacrificial in the college’s never-ending journey to improve life for them. But telling them not to come to Wellesley negates the fact that low-income students, first generation students and students of color are not receiving the support that they need in many university settings, not just at ours. Wellesley needs help from its students to improve, as all institutions do, and discouraging the students who are going to make the biggest difference in the school from attending it in the first place is not a good tactic for improving student life. Instead, these students should be encouraged to come to Wellesley if they feel like it is the right choice for them, and they should have more of an opportunity to influence their own services than they do now.
Of course, hosts should be honest about their experiences at Wellesley with prospies, even if those experiences are negative. When discussing the college, however, they should be nuanced in their critiques, giving prospies enough information to make a decision about what will be best for them. Prospies deserve a detailed picture of what life would be like at Wellesley, for better or for worse. Giving a vehemently negative critique of the school, thus scaring prospies into not choosing Wellesley, is doing a disservice to the prospie’s right to choose where they go to college.
With that being said, Wellesley does offer its own unique set of challenges that prospies could negate at other institutions. If a prospective student is looking for a school with a robust social scene and easy access to parties, hosts should make clear that Wellesley struggles in that department. If a prospie desires to live in a city, hosts should be honest that Wellesley is in the suburbs and going to Boston everyday is tough. Wellesley does place a lot of individualized pressure on students, where some larger state schools might not. Knowing about these issues beforehand can change a prospie’s decision and lead them to not pick Wellesley. In being honest about the college’s shortcomings, we are not doing a disservice to our school. Rather, we are giving a prospective student a measured account of life here and allowing them to make a decision about how they want to spend their four years of college.
Oftentimes, students at Wellesley ruminate over how they might have decided differently had their hosts been more honest with them. We understand that the desire to save someone from the suffering we experienced exists and it comes from a good place. However, complete disavowal of Wellesley robs a prospie of a choice just as much as sugarcoating. Therefore, we should be measured in our praises and critiques of Wellesley. Only the prospie knows if Wellesley will be the best fit for them, and we as students need to trust that a prospie will take all the information and make an informed decision for themselves. As sibs, that’s the best we can do.