Prospective students are offered the option of a Zoom tour or a private tour on campus to maintain COVID guidelines.
Sarah Pinkerton | Photographer

By Clara Lincicome | Reporter

Campus tours at Baylor attract many prospective students. However, because of COVID-19 restrictions, some of the aspects of the traditional tours have changed.

Typically, when students first arrive at the Wiethorn Undergraduate Admissions Center (WUAC) for their tour, they are treated to a bag of green and gold popcorn from Off the Cobb, a chilled glass bottle of Dr. Pepper and a cookie from Lula Jane’s. They are then greeted by an eager tour guide, who escorts the prospective students and their families to a shuttle for both a driving and walking tour of Baylor’s campus. The tour concludes with a picture opportunity on the field of McLane Stadium and a free Baylor University T-shirt.

But amid COVID-19, the admissions center has been pushed to get creative in following through on their motto “Bring ‘Em Home.”

Since the beginning of the pandemic, one of the new resources at the WUAC for prospective students is a Zoom tour, which gives students a personal tour from the comfort of their own home.

Cedar Park senior Maddy Woodford is a tour guide at the WUAC and said that the virtual options have allowed them to reach a broader audience.

“[There are] people out of state that even in a normal year wouldn’t have gotten the opportunity to travel all the way to Texas,” Woodford said. “But now they just have to open their laptop, and they can connect whenever and wherever.”

While Zoom tours are a new development thanks to COVID-19, they may become a permanent part of operations at the WUAC.

Meredith Roberts, coordinator of visit experiences at the WUAC, said that they are planning to continue Zoom tours in some capacity as they look to the future.

“It is a great way to still connect with students and tell them about Baylor,” Roberts said in an email. “Even when they may be across the nation or even the world.”

Through the lens of an iPhone, students are able to interact in a live tour with a tour guide on a similar route around campus as an in-person tour.

Austin sophomore tour guide Kyra Spiegel said she loves that students get the same face-to-face interaction, even if over a screen.

“It’s not just a video recording,” Spiegel said when emphasizing how valuable it is that prospective students still get to ask questions, all while getting candid, honest responses from their tour guide.

As well as transitioning to virtual options, the WUAC was able to get back to on-campus tours at a very limited number this summer, with larger-scale operations starting back in the early fall.

“The biggest change has been a shift from large group tours holding between 50-60 people four times a day to offering a private tour to each family that visits,” Roberts said. “We are still able to offer the same tour to families, but at a smaller scale because they have an individual tour with their tour guides.”

A tour shuttle that once seated three to four families, now seats one prospective student and their family, and masks are also required for the duration of the tour.

“COVID-19 makes it hard to connect with people,” Woodford said. “But I honestly feel like we connect more [with prospective students] now than when we were giving tours to three or four families at a time.”

Houston freshman Sofia Castaneda did not get the chance to tour Baylor before the May 1 decision day deadline because her tour was canceled due to COVID-19 last spring.

Castaneda said that despite not getting to be on campus to tour, she could still grasp the Christian community, rigorous academics and school spirit. Castaneda said that when she got to campus in the fall she felt like “this place is home.”

While at the moment, a Baylor tour no longer includes Baylor-inspired popcorn or cookies, prospective students can expect a Baylor-branded mask and tour guides consistent with the “Bring ‘Em Home” slogan.