In-person tours will resume for the first time in over a year

Grace Mamon

Starting April 5, Washington and Lee will conduct in-person tours for the first time in over a year, said Sally Stone Richmond, vice president of admissions.

“Enrolling next year’s class is mission critical to the university,” she said. “Now that we are not in the red, we’re in the yellow, we have been approved to host admitted students.”

Student university ambassadors will conduct tours several times a day, Monday through Saturday. There will be no more than two families in each tour group.

The tours will only be available to students already admitted to the class of 2025, not prospective students, Stone Richmond said.

This will be useful for many members of the class of 2025, who applied or even accepted admission to the university without visiting campus. 

Shae Reinberg, an incoming Johnson scholar from North Carolina, said she has never even been to the Lexington area before. But she said Washington and Lee still stood out in her virtual college search.

“I got more attention and kind of a personal touch when it came to the virtual experiences from W&L than I had from any other college that I applied to,” Reinberg said, “which is a huge reason why I fell in love with the college and decided to go there and commit even without being able to tour.”

Reinburg said she will be visiting Lexington with her family soon to get a better feel for the town and the campus.

Sophie Wilks, ’21, who works as a liaison between the admissions officers and the university ambassadors, helped coordinate the effort to begin in-person tours again. She said she’s excited to welcome visitors back to campus.

“I think that visiting W&L is such an important step in falling in love with it,” Wilks said. 

Stone Richmond said she is also looking forward to seeing admitted students in person. 

“I’m excited for that moment when our team can come back together and that we can absolutely not only welcome folks but congratulate them in person too,” she said.

And university ambassadors are more excited than apprehensive about giving tours during a pandemic.

“There are definitely challenges in figuring our tour timing and visitor capacity, but the university ambassadors have responded so well to our call to action and the vast majority feels comfortable giving in-person tours this spring,” Wilks said. 

Stone Richmond said that the admissions office started making self-guided tours available over winter break, when campus was mostly empty.

Prospective or admitted students and their families could scan a QR code on the door of Gilliam Admissions office, linking to the daily attestation, and then grab a map and guide themselves around campus.

“Since we posted that in December,” Stone Richmond said, “we’ve had over 400 people visit campus, formally but singularly.”

This number evidences that interest in Washington and Lee was not dampened by the pandemic. Stone Richmond said the university saw a 32% increase in applications from last year.

Because many high school students had difficulty scheduling tests during the pandemic, Washington and Lee recently became test-optional. This means applicants can choose whether to submit SAT or ACT test scores with their application, which may have contributed to the increase in applications, Stone Richmond said.

The application will remain test-optional for class of 2026 applicants as well, but Stone Richmond said she doesn’t know if it will stay this way forever.

There was also a lot of interest in virtual interviews. The university conducted 1,909 virtual interviews total, which is 29% of the applicant pool.

“Of the 6,613 first-year applicants for admissions, 643 attended a virtual interview,” either with an admissions officer or admissions fellow, said Stone Richmond. “Another 1,266 participated in a virtual Alumni Admission Program interview.”

The admissions office is delivering decisions to the almost 6,000 remaining regular decision candidates on March 31.

“Our goal is to enroll a class of 475,” Stone Richmond said. “And we have 280 students already committed through ED1, ED2, QuestBridge, and the students who chose to take a gap year. We’re well on our way.”