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Improving Previews

Previews finish up today. Making them (and other campus visits like WOW) better next year is a worthwhile goal.

Summary: Involving wanna-be JAs in the overnight visit process in general, and Previews specifically, would improve admissions yields, improve the JA selection process and (perhaps) marginally increase the quality of the match between matriculating students and Williams.

Jonathan Landsman ’05 writes.

I chose Williams because my pre-frosh weekend host was eager to welcome me, dopey, and enough like me that I trusted I would find a place for myself here. Also, the weather was good.

We can’t control the weather but we could significantly improve the over-night/Preview process by incorporating wanna-be and might-wanna-be JAs.

Inform freshmen and sophomores (during the fall/winter) that any experience they have hosting overnight visits from applicants will be considered when they apply to be a JA. No JA wanna-be is forced to participate, but many/most would. There is a huge demand for JA spots. Would-be applicants know this and will act accordingly. The Admissions Office would keep track of how many applicants each student hosted (I assume that it already does this), survey hosted students on the quality of their visit, and then report the results to the JA Selection Committee. The JASC would be under no obligation to use the survey results. Such a scheme would:

a) Dramatically improve the overnight process. If you motivate a Williams students to show off the campus in the best possible light, then she is likely to do a marvelous job. I bet that applicants under this scheme would have much more fun during their visits and would, therefore, be more likely to select Williams.

b) Make the typical overnight visit for non-athletes as fun as those for athletes. I believe that most (all?) overnight visits involving athletes that a coach is interested in are handled outside of the standard system. In those cases, the coach (who wants the applicant to have a good time) ensures that the visitor is placed with player on the team (who both wants to make the coach happy and improve the quality of the athletes she plays with), thereby generating fun-filled visits. No one can sell Williams as well as an undergraduate who wants to.

c) Provide would-be JAs with some insight into what they might be getting themselves into. Although the vast majority of JAs perform superbly, some discover (once it is too late) that the sacrificing their own time and GPAs for the benefit of selfish, annoying and socially-awkward 18 year-olds is not for them. Alas, once they are a JA, it is too late, much to the chagrin of the students in their entry. By ensuring that these Ephs have some experience with hosting overnights, the College will decrease the likelihood of such mismatches.

d) Provide the JASC with more information. The JASC would be under no obligation to use that information, but, if I were a member, I would certainly be impressed with an applicant who hosted 5 or 10 high school seniors, devoted a lot of time and energy to their visits, and received lavish praise from those visitors. I would suspect that, all else equal, such students make for better JAs than those who don’t host visits and/or don’t do a good job of it.

e) Any applicant who, after such a visit, doesn’t like Williams probably shouldn’t come. The fit just isn’t right.

Imagine that you are a high school senior choosing between Yale and Williams. At Yale, your visit consists of sleeping on the floor with four other students while your “host” ignores you. At William, your host is someone with the same interests as you (whether that be an academic subject or an extra-curricular activity), someone who spends time with you, someone who wants to ensure that your visit is as enjoyable and informative as possible. Would that, alone, be enough of a reason to choose Williams over Yale? No. But it couldn’t hurt!

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