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Virtual visits

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Virtual visits

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November 16, 2009

Melinda DeMaria, associate director of undergraduate admissions, had a busy October, visiting with high school students in Pennsylvania and Atlanta. But she did not have to worry about flight delays or traffic congestion.

With a Web cam and high-speed broadband connection, DeMaria was able to coordinate several of UGA's first "virtual high school visits" with prospective students.

"Students are quite savvy and comfortable with technology. They aren't nearly as timid about utilizing it as their guidance counselors might be," she said. "The students' willingness and excitement to learn more about UGA via this medium has encouraged their school counselors to ask UGA to visit their school when we might not have been able to otherwise."

Although the virtual visits are a new recruitment tool for UGA, the Office of Undergraduate Admissions has been using the technology for years. Since some counselors work off-site and would only be able to travel to Athens a few times a year, virtual staff meetings have been conducted so that everyone could "attend" no matter where their offices were physically located.

DeMaria said that since the virtual visit has been a successful internal communication tool, it made sense to explore the potential of its use in reaching a wider audience in every-day recruitment efforts.

With that goal in mind, DeMaria announced this new communication opportunity to high school counselors at workshops held in Atlanta this fall, along with sending out e-mails to prospective students and their counselors in her recruiting regions, including Pennsylvania.

The Paideia School in Atlanta was the first school to participate, and six students attended the visit DeMaria organized in early October.

"Melinda did a great job engaging the students and the students responded well," said Lenore Carroll, a counselor at Paideia. "It really felt like the ‘real' visits we've had from her through the years."

Kevin Fitzpatrick, a senior at Lansdale Catholic High School in Pennsylvania, volunteered to try out this feature to get more specific real-time answers to his questions, since he had already visited UGA in the spring.

"We could hear and see Melinda clearly, and we felt comfortable asking questions," said Mary Lou Graham, Fitzpatrick's counselor.

Patrick Winter, senior associate director of undergraduate admissions, also has coordinated these visits, having led one of the largest information sessions so far with 24 students from Mount Vernon Presbyterian High School in Atlanta.

Nancy McDuff, associate vice president for admissions and enrollment management, who ordinarily would not get a chance to participate in high school visits, was able to stop by to greet the students.

"Virtual visits have tremendous potential in recruiting students, and I am thrilled with the response we have received from the high schools," Winter said.

"Budget, timing and geography are factors we have to consider every year in planning our recruitment travel," he added. "This gives us the ability to expand our reach and visibility in schools that we otherwise might not have had the opportunity to visit every year."