Penn Previews to get a facelift

Seth Zweifler

February 22, 2011

Regular decision applicant Maggie Axelrod knows at least one thing for sure — her college future is still up in the air.

Axelrod — a senior at Absegami High School in Galloway, N.J. — is applying to a list of uppertier schools that also includes Harvard and Princeton universities. Axelrod does not have a clear number one, so participating in preview programs at schools where she is accepted “will definitely be a huge deciding factor,” she said.

This year, admitted students attending Penn Preview Days can expect to see “a more exciting, vibrant and informative program than ever before,” Dean of Admissions Eric Furda said.

“We want to create a ‘Locust Walk experience’ where the entire campus is aware of what’s going on and where Penn students are reaching out as much as possible,” he said.

As in past years, Penn Preview Days for the Class of 2015 will not include overnight visits. However, Furda said he hopes to pilot an overnight hosting program for the Class of 2016. The Admissions Office will then “go from there” to decide whether overnights will become a permanent element, he added.

Peer schools like Columbia, Harvard and Princeton universities all offer overnight options with their respective preview programs.

For Wharton freshman and 2014 Class Board President Spencer Penn, adding an overnight to Preview Days would “definitely” be a good idea. While Penn never formally attended Preview Days, he said he was sold on the University after visiting campus during last year’s Spring Fling weekend.

For now, though, Preview Days are still “Penn’s number-one tool to get admitted students to attend [the University],” Furda said.

College junior Jayson Weingarten, the campus tours student coordinator for the Kite and Key Society, agreed. While Preview Days call for “a lot more manpower on the part of tour guides,” Weingarten said that it pays off.

“It allows us to showcase what students here do on a day-to-day basis,” he said. But for some, preview programs are not a make or break deal.

“I’m already pretty familiar with Penn … so I don’t think a preview program could change my mind,” Loren Jablon, a senior at George W. Hewlett High School in Hewlett, N.Y., said. Jablon was deferred from Penn early decision. Though she is waiting on decisions from schools like Brown and Cornell universities, she said she would “very likely” attend Penn if accepted regular decision.

When College junior Victor Galli was deciding between Penn and Rice University as a high school senior, Penn Preview Days “definitely didn’t help the school’s case,” he said.

“At Rice, the whole campus was aware and vibrant … during my preview experience,” Galli said. “That wasn’t the case at Penn.”

Furda said he hopes to see more direct involvement on the part of the “average Penn undergraduate” to make sure that stories like Galli’s are a rarity this year.

Furda added that some of the program’s limitations in the past — particularly its lack of an overnight option — may be contributing to Penn’s static yield numbers. Over the past three years, Penn’s yield rate has remained about 63 percent.

Penn’s yield rate has remained about 63 percent.

Bev Taylor, founder of college admissions consulting firm Ivy Coach, agreed. For Taylor, the measure of a good preview program is whether it is “fun and exciting” for the student.

“A student should be able to get a sense of community from their visit — they should be able to see themselves at that particular college,” she said.