Record Number to Attend Visitas
A record 1,350 admitted students are expected to descend upon Cambridge this weekend for Visitas, Harvard College’s visiting program for prospective freshmen.
The program, which includes a variety of different events designed to expose visitors to all facets of the College, officially begins on Saturday and lasts until Monday afternoon.
“I think people have really different experiences once they are students here. Prefrosh weekend is the beginning of that,” said Visiting Program Director Valerie A. Beilenson ’07. “The goal of the weekend is to expose students to all that Harvard has to offer.”
Students had until April 6—just one week after they received admissions decisions—to notify the College that they would be attending the program.
Because Visitas is being held a week earlier than in years past, Beilenson said she had been concerned that fewer students would be able to attend.
While that concern was mollified by the record number of sign-ups, she said that many parents and families that wanted to attend have had difficulties finding accommodations because of the Boston Marathon and Harvard Alumni Association events this weekend.
Visitas will also for the first time coincide with Yardfest, the spring concert for students at the College put on by the College Events Board.
While Beilenson said that the scheduling of Visitas was separate from that of the concert, she believes that Yardfest will have a positive impact on the experience of visiting students by allowing them to see the whole student body in one place.
“It does present a different perspective, but the goal is to show them lots of different Harvards,” said Beilenson, responding to the criticism that Yardfest does not accurately represent typical life at Harvard.
In addition to officially bearing the name Visitas for the first time, this year’s program has changed substantially from the program last year.
The faculty panels designed to introduce students to the various departments have been retooled in the vein of the popular Harvard Thinks Big lectures. Beilenson said that this would make these panels more dynamic than in years past.
For students comparing Harvard to other highly selective universities, Visitas falls in the middle of the fray.
Princeton’s first visiting program begins relatively early on April 7, while Stanford’s program does not begin until April 28.
Admitted students have until May 1 to inform Harvard of whether they plan to attend. Still, Beilenson said she believes the purpose of the weekend is not simply to sell students on Harvard but rather to share what the school has to offer.
“Some of those kids will decide to come, others won’t,” she said. “It’s really supposed to be a slice of life.”
—Staff writer Justin C. Worland can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.