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Without Visitas, Harvard Bands Together To Welcome Prefrosh

By Laya Anasu, Madeline R. Conway, and Nikita Kansra, Crimson Staff Writers

Hundreds of prospective Harvard freshmen, many eager to see the College for the first time, had their plans interrupted by the lockdown in the Boston area Friday which forced Harvard officials to cancel the annual spring weekend for admitted students.

For several dozen admitted high school seniors that meant they got their first taste of Harvard in Terminal E of Boston Logan International Airport.

There, a flock of Harvard officials met with over 100 students and parents, greeted by Harvard officials including Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid William R. Fitzsimmons ’67.

“We’ve all just kind of bonded over this mutual event, so to speak,” West Bloomfield High School senior Hamna M. Nazir of Michigan told The Crimson from the airport on Friday. “I feel like when we go back to campus in the fall and see each other, it will be a lot nicer because we’ve had this experience to go through together.”

Harvard officials canceled the annual Visitas weekend as Boston faced a lockdown and police officers conducted a manhunt for the second suspect in Monday’s Boston Marathon bombings.

Harvard paid the hotel and meal fees for families who needed to stay the night in Boston and will also cover the costs families pay to change their flights, according Fitzsimmons.

“We wanted to make sure that in this very difficult circumstance that Harvard was reaching out,” Fitzsimmons said.

Disappointed that they would not host admitted students, zealous undergraduates decided to turn to the internet to offer advice to prospective freshman.

On Twitter, undergraduates, alumni, and some faculty offered guidance to admitted students using the handle #virtualvisitas.

“We wanted the students to feel supported,” said Jayshlyn D. Acevedo ’14, who is a co-coordinator for Visitas weekend.

One Tweet from a prospective student asked whether Harvard professors put their graduate students ahead of undergraduates. In response, a 2012 graduate of the College tweeted about an art history class that she took with just one other student.

For the admitted students who did make it to campus, some current undergraduates offered up their rooms and showed admitted students around campus.

Dozens of prospective freshmen and their families showed up for unofficial tours that they learned about from a Harvard Class of 2017 Facebook group.

Although Theodore A. Peng ’13 is not a usual weekend tour guide, he transformed into a Harvard spokesman for the weekend, guiding more than 20 students around the Yard Saturday and meeting with others over lunch.

“As a senior, you look back and remember being in that position and having a great time at Visitas,” Peng said. “Visitas was one of my greatest factors choosing Harvard.”

Peng said he thinks that is why Harvard students stepped up to fill the void left by the cancellation of Visitas.

“We were able to do our part and have genuine conversations,” he said. “They deserve their chance to get Visitas.”

—Staff writer Laya Anasu can be reached at layaanasu@college.harvard.edu. Follow her on Twitter @layaanasu.

—Staff writer Madeline R. Conway can be reached at mconway@college.harvard.edu. Follow her on Twitter @MadelineRConway.

—Staff writer Nikita Kansra can be reached at nikitakansra@college.harvard.edu. Follow her on Twitter @NikitaKansra.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

CORRECTION: April 23, 2013

An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated the name of the high school that visiting prospective freshman Hamna M. Nazir attends in Michigan. In fact, she is a senior at West Bloomfield High School, not West Bloomingfield High School.

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