Georgetown delegates to students the key job of organizing welcome events for admissions

A junior at Georgetown University, Justin Chapman leads a student group entrusted with a major task for the school in Northwest Washington: welcoming admitted students.

The university provides money and guidance. The Georgetown Admissions Ambassador Program, a student organization with more than 600 volunteers, does the rest.

“They give a lot of responsibility to the students,” Chapman, the group’s president, said Monday at the final event of the crucial admissions month of April. “It’s a privilege. They really trust us to create the program each year.”

Chapman, from Acton, Mass., and Katie Hughes, a sophomore from Highland Park, Ill., who is also active in the group, said the ambassadors blitz admitted students with phone calls after letters are sent out.

“We call every single admitted student,” Chapman said. “If we have to leave a voicemail, we call them back the next day.”

On Sunday and Monday, the group ran an open house for 400 admitted students, complete with “icebreakers” for students, meetings with faculty and deans, and various lectures and performing arts events. The Washington Post was offered access to the open house this week for a story on how colleges woo undecided students.

In all, the group hosts 1,200 admitted students in April — a significant share of more than 3,200 offered spots in the entering class.

“We’ll be totally honest with students if they ask us any questions,” Hughes said.

Many wonder about the balance between social life and school work. The ambassadors tell them that the campus likes to have fun but that no one looks askance at a student who has to hole up for a weekend to get work done. Some ask about alcohol. Hughes tells them the university does not support underage drinking, but “that being said, it is a college campus.” Alcohol, on occasion, is part of the social scene.

Taylor Harding, an admitted student from Portland, Ore., who attended the event with her parents, said she got a call at home from a student ambassador in mid-December about 15 minutes after she opened the letter that told her she was offered early admission. She didn’t get that kind of call from the University of California at Berkeley, which was her other top school. This week, Harding chose Georgetown. “The student body really was so enthusiastic, so involved,” she said in a telephone interview Wednesday.

Kaela Jackson, an admitted student from Wilson, N.C., said at the event Monday that she was weighing Georgetown against the home-state University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. “Georgetown is a lot pricier,” she said, acknowledging that she was “going back and forth.”

UNC was wooing her hard. “They’ve been pushing me to come visit,” Jackson said. “They filled up my entire inbox.” Georgetown was courting her, too, of course.

On Wednesday after 11 p.m., a day before the deadline to decide, Jackson sent The Post an e-mail. “I have finally made the big decision, and Georgetown it is! I am very excited and looking forward to being in DC.”

A former Post education editor, Nick writes about college from the perspective of a father of three who will soon be buried in tuition bills.
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