After scholarship finalist weekend cancellation, OSP gives virtual welcome to prospective scholars

Claudia Bermudez | Contributing Reporter

In a time marked by unprecedented events and uncertainty, the Office of Scholar Programs has faced an unusual task. Due to the COVID-19 campus closure, the Office of Scholar Programs’ scholarship Finalist Weekend—originally set to be held March 26-29—has been forced to go virtual.

Photo by Grace Bruton

Washington University’s Office of Scholar Programs (OSP) is responsible for creating an environment where students in the Danforth, Rodriguez and Ervin scholarship programs can exchange ideas and build a community.

Every year, the OSP invites all finalists for these scholarship programs to a four-day weekend program that includes bonding events between current scholars and prospective students, getting to know scholarship directors and exploring campus. Now, the organization must accomplish all of these goals without the finalists ever setting foot on campus.

Despite the OSP’s efforts, the finalists will need to make their college decisions based on a different understanding of the University than previous generations of scholars. The finalists themselves also have to cope with even more uncertainty during their college decision process.

“I think to distinguish Wash. U. from other schools, it’s going to come down to the research,” Danforth finalist Guinter Vogg said. “If I got accepted into every school, I would compare the finance and then I would look at research. It sucks because I wanted to get the full Wash. U. experience, but I think I can make the right decision based off virtual scholarship weekend and research I can do online.”

Current scholars are implementing ideas to virtually welcome the finalists, including hosting Zoom meetings and one-on-one phone calls. The Rodriguez scholars group is in the process of creating an Instagram account for the organization and finding a way to give finalists a virtual tour of the University.

“The Ervins are trying to do regular meetings over Zoom instead of dinners,” Ervin Scholar freshman Connor Seger said. “For actual scholarship weekend, we’re trying to do like a virtual experience and then instead of hosting we [will] just be like mentors on the phone. We’re just trying to support them as best we can, you know?”

Similarly to the Rodriguez and Ervin organizations, the Danforth Scholars are also utilizing Zoom and other forms of online communication to connect finalists with current scholars. Additionally, the organization is working to create a Danforth introduction video and slideshow to personalize the process. Danforth Scholar freshman Jake Conniff is hopeful that these efforts will “provide the best finalist weekend given the circumstances.”

Although finalists will not get the full Washington University experience, many are hopeful that the virtual accommodations will be enough for them to get a peek into life as a student at the University.

“It’s definitely upsetting that we don’t get to experience campus and the scholars in the same way that everybody else has,” Danforth finalist Emily Tucker said. “But the experiences we’ve had with the staff and the first-year finalists who have reached out have definitely still made the experience worthwhile and we have all felt welcomed.”

According to Vogg and Tucker, the scholarship finalists have created a GroupMe to communicate with one another during decision time.

“I think actually it’s better to get to know them not on Wash. U. campus to really talk about our college decisions and stuff,” Vogg said. “Of course we’re missing something, but it’s not a big boundary; we’re getting to know each other.”

“Getting to know each other…has been very nice because you can tell everybody comes from different backgrounds but has common interests,” Tucker said. “I know it’s a weird situation, but I think we’re all enjoying it regardless.”

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