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Office of Admission hosts Junior Visit Day for first time since start of pandemic


By Mira Diamond-Berman

Grinnell College hosted a Junior Visit Day for prospective students on Monday, Feb. 21., the first of its kind since before the COVID-19 pandemic.

Most of the students in attendance were high school juniors and their families, but there were also a few seniors and a sophomore, according to Rachel Arseneault, senior assistant director of admission and coordinator of campus visits and events. 

Last year, there was no Junior Visit Day because of COVID-19 protocols. In order to mitigate concerns about the virus, the College admissions office organized smaller sessions and enforced indoor masking for the visitors. Typically, Junior Visit Day consists of only one session of programming for the students and their families, but this year an additional session was added to limit the number of people in a group. 

“This year, given restrictions around the pandemic, we opted to do two sessions shorter in length, so we could have more people take advantage of the program, because as you can imagine, the programs were capped in attendance,” said Arseneault. 

All visitors were required to wear a mask indoors. If a visitor came without a mask, then one was given to them. “All visitors were wearing close fitting surgical masks or higher-grade masks like KN95 and N95, or KN94 masks that was required indoors. So, if a family did not come with a surgical mask or higher-grade mask, we provided them with one,” she said. 

McKenna Doherty `22, a student tour guide, said that there were no hesitation surrounding mask wearing on Junior Visit Day. “No one in my group pushed back at all [about wearing masks]. Like I did have questions about how Grinnell was handling COVID protocol, but for the most part I think it went really smoothly,” she said. 

However, due to COVID-19 protocol the students and their guests could not go inside the Dining Hall or shadow classes, which is often an integral part of a college tour. “We weren’t able to offer any meals on campus,” said Arseneault. “And we weren’t able to offer class visits, which are two options that are normally available to students that are visiting for Junior Visit Day.”

Doherty noted that the lack of access to the Dining Hall can be difficult for prospective students because it can play a big role in the college decision process. “That’s a little bit tricky, because food is a pretty big pull for some people and also can really sway people’s decisions,” she said. 

Visitors were required to wear masks of surgical grade or higher. Photo by Ariel Richards.

To help combat this issue, the Admissions Office offered an alternative to the Dining Hall: vouchers valid at multiple restaurants in downtown Grinnell. Although the prospective students could not try the food they would be eating daily if they were accepted and enrolled, they were given the opportunity to try out the local restaurants. 

“Because we weren’t able to allow visitors to go through the Marketplace Dining Hall for lunch, we provided them with Grinnell Chamber Bucks to use downtown at local restaurants. And so every visitor that came for junior visit day received a coupon to have lunch downtown, and I think that was something they very much appreciated, given that we couldn’t give them a glimpse into our you know, our marketplace,” said Arseneault.

In addition to this perk, the Admissions Office organizes its program for prospective students differently than many other colleges. During tours, the prospective students are split up from their families or guests to hopefully cultivate a more open and comfortable tour. 

“We separate our tours. So, parents and families go on a different tour, than the students, so all the visiting students go on tours,” said Arseneault. “There’s a little bit more freedom for the visiting students to ask questions, they may, you know, hesitate to ask if their parents were on the same tour with them. And it really opens up the parent’s ability to ask questions, they feel like maybe their son or daughter would be embarrassed if they heard.” 

This Junior Visit Day consisted of 41 prospective students and 101 total visitors, according to Arseneault. The enthusiasm of the guests along with the good weather made for successful Junior Visit Day. “The weather was great,” said Doherty. “So, people seem really, really excited. The parents I had were awesome.”

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