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Monday, Apr 15, 2024

Middlebury fly-in program returns for prospective students, on-campus tours continue for second year

The daunting, competitive college admissions process often leaves prospective students struggling to gauge what a school truly offers. For that reason, Middlebury’s admissions team relies on firsthand experiences at Middlebury to overcome this obstacle. Campus tours are in their second year back in person after a pandemic-induced hiatus, and many tour groups can be seen moving about campus twice daily throughout the week. 

The Discover Middlebury fly-in program will finally return this fall after also being forced to move to a virtual format during the pandemic. The program sponsors all-expenses-paid trips to Middlebury for prospective students lacking the resources to visit, who were asked to submit an unofficial high school transcript and a one-page letter describing an important educational moment in their life.

Students from across the country will arrive on campus the weekend of Oct. 8–10 to attend various programs such as conversations with student leaders in affinity spaces, an academic fair to meet with professors, a fall-themed dinner in Atwater and a meeting with the Center for Careers and Internships, according to the Fly-in Program’s web page. Additionally, the prospective students will attend workshops with student-led dance groups RIDDIM World Dance Troupe and Evolution Dance Crew.

As for in-person tours, the return has been gradual in comparison to the abrupt switch to virtual tours in 2020.

Cynthia Hatch, an admissions office manager, emphasized the dedication of tour guides who played a pivotal role in originally transitioning to virtual tours. 

“Many dedicated tour guides remained committed to the program during this transition,” Hatch said. “Their dedication played a crucial role in laying the groundwork for the eventual return of in-person tours when conditions allowed.” 

Admissions Assistant Agnes Roche ’24 wrote in an email to The Campus that during her first year working in the admissions office in spring 2021, tour sizes were limited to approximately 10 families due to the pandemic. Roche recalled having to verify the vaccination status of all tour attendees. By the end of the semester, she was able to take groups into BiHall and Proctor Dining Hall, but some buildings, like Allen Hall, were still off limits.

Maya Alexander ’26 toured Middlebury in 2021, when Covid-19 regulations limited her ability to enter buildings and get a complete sense of dorm life and classrooms. Despite these limitations, Alexander found her touring experience at Middlebury valuable, leading her to apply Early Decision the following November. 

“Online, a lot of colleges may start blending in and feel the same,” Alexander said. “It’s really important to see the environment for yourself, especially at a place like Middlebury that has such a unique location surrounded by nature. I don’t think you can understand the feeling of that until you step foot on this campus.”

In the fall of 2022, the tour guide program fully resumed in-person with the original tour routes reinstated. The number of tour guides also returned to full capacity and began receiving compensation for the first time. This addition allowed for students who were previously unable to become tour guides because they needed on-campus jobs to join the tour guide program.

“Although there was a temporary decrease in the number of tour guides during the move to virtual programming prompted by the pandemic, the tour guide program successfully rebounded, demonstrating the effectiveness of these changes in sustaining, and strengthening the tour guide team,” Hatch said.

Despite the challenges posed by Covid-19, Middlebury’s tour program has not only returned to its pre-pandemic state, but has continued to evolve and improve. The admissions office and student employees, including tour guides, work together to share Middlebury’s unique qualities with visitors. 

“At the admissions office, we don’t provide a script for the tour guides but let each student provide their experiences on how they came and what they love about Middlebury,” Hatch said. “This often creates a bond; many students remember their tour guide, forming friendships even before they arrive here on campus.”

In fact, Alexander said that she shared a class with her Middlebury tour guide during her first semester at Middlebury and the two have grown to be very friendly since.

“Our visitors are always eager to hear from a current student, and I love this place,” Roche said. “So, it's great to be able to share that joy!”

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