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Encourage all prospects to visit

Observer Staff Editorial | Friday, March 26, 2004

Ranked eighth on the U.S. News & World Report’s list of “dream schools,” Notre Dame clearly attracts its share of national attention from prospective students. But unlike other schools, Notre Dame does not market specific days for prospect visits during the spring semester. However, there are two notable exceptions where prospects are invited to participate in a programmed visit.

One of these exceptions, Spring Visitation, is this weekend – signaling the arrival of nearly 160 prospects – and the Notre Dame community and administration should use this well-planned event as an example of what it could offer for other prospects.

Spring Visitation stands out for its organization. The University provides a structured itinerary that ensures invited students can attend classes, eat in the dining halls, live in the dorms with a host, talk with current students and ask the administration questions or concerns they may have. A special visit planned for prospective engineering majors, held each February, shows a similar effort in extending a well-organized and specifically geared welcome.

After Spring Visitation is over, however, the number of student visitors dwindles back to the usual trickle. Prospects who wish to stay on campus must be very proactive, as the scheduling burden falls on families instead of the University – a practice that discourages many from taking this initiative. And for those who do, the visits they experience are very individualized. One night with an assigned student host is not the equivalent of a carefully planned weekend offering a family aspect to many prospects at once.

Clearly, the University cannot afford to facilitate a weekend as elaborate as Spring Visitation for every admitted student. However, a simple and financially feasible solution does exist. The attraction of Spring Visitation is in its community emphasis, and by selecting several weekends during the spring semester to market heavily to all admitted students, the University can count on higher attendance that will merit better organization and therefore better-informed admitted students.

Signature Notre Dame events such as Bengal Bouts, Bookstore Basketball and the Fisher Regatta provide ideal opportunities for such weekends to be held. These events represent the unique community that Notre Dame has to offer – and by designating them as target weekends for prospects, the University’s collective welcome will not have to stop at Spring Visitation. By following its own example, this organized welcome could be extended to all admitted students. The University would not be required to invest as much time or funding in these weekends as it does for Spring Visitation. However, these weekends would show prospects, as they decide whether to attend the University, not only what classes and social life are like but also what the Notre Dame family is all about.