Byerly Hall Wants YOU!

Unlocking the Campus

Most applicants and families who visit Byerly Hall for the admissions info session stay on for a tour afterwards led by another student-run organization--the Crimson Key.

"We give a lot of tours for prospective students--in fact all of them for the admissions office," says Virginia Grace James '00, president of the Crimson Key Society. "Our job is to provide information."

According to James, tour-takers are often more interested in the personal comments and anecdotes of their guides than the campus geography.

"The admissions office runs an info session before they come on our tour where they talk about basic things," James says. "Our tour is so that they can meet a student and really get a student's perspective on anything they want to."

The Key maintains a constitution-mandated membership of 75 students who staff more than 20 admissions office tours each week--in addition to other responsibilities. Vacancies are filled through an advertised competitive application process in March and April.


James emphasizes that everyone who turns in an application gets an interview, but with 200-250 applicants every year, some are bound to come away disappointed. For James, the Key's appeal is obvious.

"I chose to do Crimson Key because I really enjoyed Harvard a lot my first year," James says. "I've always wanted to do tours and I really like talking to people. It's a lot of fun--we don't get paid, people just do it because they want to."

Diversifying the Pool

The mission of the Undergraduate Minority Recruitment Program (UMRP) is to maintain and develop diversity in the undergraduate applicant pool--and thus in the accepted class as well. According to Banks, who directs the UMRP in addition to his responsibilities as a senior admissions officer, the organization is essential to these efforts.

"Our students can make a difference for diversity in the applicant pool and ultimately in who chooses to come here," Banks says.

The UMRP programs include mailing and phone outreach campaigns, one-on-one correspondence and hosting--all similar to those offered by UAC. But Banks explains that the programs complement each other well.

"We run on the same tracks, but with somewhat different foci. What minority students want to know when all is said and done is what it's like to be a minority student at a majority institution," Banks says. "Lots of students and their families have a full appreciation for the institution and the quality it represents, but they want to know whether, on a daily basis, this is a worthwhile experience for minority students."

The UMRP's most ambitious program sends undergraduates out to spend a week sharing their experiences at Harvard with middle and high school students across the nation.

"Essentially they have to practice the art of recruitment as an admissions officer would," Banks explains. "Usually it means five days a week, at least three schools a day, and obviously a major part of the entire week is having a presentation to offer people . It's a very challenging, very exciting, very demanding, experience."

According to Banks, travelling with the UMRP is one of the deepest and most meaningful commitments to recruiting undergraduates can make.

"It's a huge sacrifice to students, and we're very grateful to the people who choose to make this kind of commitment--it's not easy," Banks says.

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