Widgets Magazine

Virtually admitted

International ProFros get a taste of Stanford through Virtual Admit Weekend

Back in her room after a long day of classes, a Stanford student turns on her laptop and double-clicks on a Skype username that connects her from Stanford all the way to Malaysia. A few seconds later, the unfamiliar but eager face of a prospective freshman (ProFro) pops up on her computer screen. And just like that, Virtual Admit Weekend (VAW) begins from over 8,000 miles away.

(SERENITY NGUYEN/The Stanford Daily)

After hearing that current international students wished they had been able to come to Stanford for Admit Weekend but could not because of the distance, the Cross-Cultural Rhetoric Project (CCR) teamed up with Daniel Brennan, assistant director of admission for marketing and communication, to start VAW in 2010.

During VAW, international ProFros have the opportunity to schedule a one-on-one Skype session with a current Stanford undergraduate to ask questions, find out more about Stanford and get a glimpse of student life.

Shortly after international students receive their acceptance letters to Stanford, they receive an email from the Office of Admission that invites them to participate in VAW. They can browse through the hosts’ profiles online and schedule a Skype session based on academic and extracurricular interests, according to Christine Alfano, VAW organizer and CCR co-director.

Last year, 18 ProFros from approximately 14 countries participated in the three days of VAW. This year’s event, which was held from April 16 to April 20, included video conferences with 30 international ProFros, or over 10 percent of the international students admitted to the Class of 2015.

Fifteen undergraduates, all former CCR students, Program in Writing and Rhetoric Undergraduate Advisory Board (PWR UAB) members or former VAW ProFros, volunteered to be hosts. After a training session about intercultural communication, best practices for video conferencing and frequently asked questions, the hosts conducted 30-minute Skype sessions from their dorm rooms.

“What’s fun about having that informal setting is that it mirrors the Admit Weekend experience in that it brings the ProFros, at least virtually, into the dorm where they can get a ‘tour’ of a typical dorm room, meet their host’s roommate and even occasionally get to peek at some of the activities that go on within the residences,” Alfano wrote in an email to The Daily.

Current international students who participated in VAW in the past found it helpful to get a personal response to questions that were not answered on Stanford’s website.

“Being able to actually talk to a student who cared about you and genuinely loves Stanford was great, since you actually got to hear firsthand what they had to say about the school,” said Makiko Fujimoto ’14, who participated in VAW last year.

“Obviously it cannot replicate some of the important parts of Admit Weekend–activities, actually staying in the dorm, etc. But it was great to have the other resource,” she added.

Gavin Bird ’14, a VAW host, said his experience coming to Stanford from Japan made him eager to help fellow international students gain some familiarity with the Farm before taking their first trip down Palm Drive.

“As an international student, I had never visited any American universities and did not really know what to expect when I got here,” Bird said. “The cold winters and the size of the campus were a bit of a shock.”

Virtual Admit Weekend not only helps international ProFros with questions about Stanford, but also shows how much Stanford students take genuine interest in helping potential students make the best decision about choosing the right college.

“I hope to show the ProFros how wonderful Stanford is, answer any specific questions about the school and make them feel happy and secure in their decision to attend Stanford,” said Stephanie Nicholson ’13, who has served as a VAW host for two years.

“This way, ProFros have a way to discuss any concerns they have before making a life-changing decision,” she added.

For now, VAW is only open to international prospective freshmen in order to keep the focus on the international community. Next year, at the request of undergraduate hosts, it may pursue a more individualized approach by connecting prospective freshmen with student hosts from the same home countries.

While the nature and scope of the 30-minute Skype sessions of VAW is vastly different from what ProFros who attend Admit Weekend experience, the result seems similar.

“The best thing was being able to talk to someone firsthand about their experiences at Stanford and getting a sense of what the school life will be like,” Fujimoto said. “It just made me more excited about attending Stanford.”