Odds are, when students return to Boston College for the spring semester they will be greeted by a plethora of minor campus improvements: new sod rolled out on the quad and in O’Neill Plaza, new stairs behind Fulton Hall, maybe a re-tiling or fresh coat of paint in their residence hall, etc. These minor improvements are occurring in the wake of major campus restructuring outlined in the University’s Institutional Master Plan, which, following recent renovations of Middle Campus, aims to make major alterations to Lower Campus and expand the efficient use of university space on the school’s Brighton Campus and along Commonwealth Ave.
Those who arrive on campus for the first time “ooh” and “ahh” at “how beautiful” the campus is, likely not realizing how many alterations were necessary to create this aesthetic. Though such improvements may not be essential to the operation of the university, they do play a large role in initial attraction of prospective students to BC.
When high school seniors, juniors or sophomores arrive to BC—or any school for that matter—their impression of the school is shaped primarily by the campus itself. The campus is the first thing these students see, hear and maybe even smell, which sets it apart from other schools they have visited. It also generally leaves the most prominent lasting impact after their visit is over. This is especially true when considering that many students visit colleges during off-hours or holiday breaks when admissions offices are closed, leaving their impression of the school to be shaped exclusively by campus appearance.
In this vein, I do not mean to discount the importance of formal admissions visits. Students should obviously gather as much information as possible before making such a major decision, taking into account academic, extracurricular and social life, as well as the school’s mission and values in the college search. However, when a student is visiting upward of 20 schools over the length of this search, several information sessions and tour guide spiels tend to blend together, while a distinctive campus stands out.
A recent New York Times article highlights the paradox of college admissions today: modern technology enables students to send applications to a greater number of schools than ever before, admission rates at top schools decline as a greater number of students compete for the same limited number of spaces, high school students feel the need to apply to more schools given low admission rates, admission rates artificially decline further, and a vicious cycle is perpetuated.
BC is certainly not lacking in academic quality. Yet, frantic high school seniors who are pressured to make a decision before April 1st tend not to discriminate when judging the academic quality of several similarly ranked, top-tier institutions. Instead, they draw from their own experience visiting each school, maybe returning for a second or third time, trying to picture the next four years of their lives spent on one campus.
Creating a pleasant campus visit experience will attract more students to Boston College. Though the school cannot accept everyone, and there is no guarantee that those accepted will choose BC, attracting a greater pool of applicants will better the school in the long run. A larger pool of highly qualified students will continue to facilitate an intelligent, talented, diverse student body, which will parallel the impressive improvements made on campus.