Students applying to college really need to see a campus in person to decide if they should enroll. Pandemic restrictions have thrown a monkey wrench into the admissions process, but that didn’t stop Siena’s enrollment management team from coming up with an awesome idea to really pique the interest of prospective freshmen.  

The All-Access Admitted Student Visit was introduced this month, where students and their families come to Siena for a one-on-one, personalized campus tour experience, all from the comfort and warmth of their cars.

December 11-13 were the kick-off dates for the new visit program, and more than 180 people came – an incredible 95 percent show rate. The all-access program will also run weekends in January and early February. 

Families pull into campus, and like they’re at a drive-in theater, watch a three-minute video about the College on a big screen, and listen to a welcome message through their car radios. Then, out come their laptops and Chromebooks so the admits can visit via Zoom with a Siena student tour guide and content strategist while they drive around campus. The program lasts about 30-45 minutes, and many families stayed longer to chat with their guides.

“The tour guide gives info about Siena and its programs – kind of like play-by-play – while the content strategist provides color commentary based on the visiting students’ interests, which we’ve researched in advance,” said Katie Szalda ’01, director of admissions. “The response to this personalized approach was just amazing.”

At the end of the tour, they get a Siena hoodie and some treats from the dining hall, plus a bumper sticker and a note from President Chris Gibson ’86 Ph.D. 

Lindsay King, associate director of international recruitment, was part of an admissions team tasked with innovative ways to let prospective students learn about the Siena campus while regular tours and admissions events are not an option. The details were in the works for several weeks.  

“We were the ‘crazy idea’ people,” said King. “Initially, the ideas we came up with were a little too comfortable, like virtual visits with breakout rooms. Then we decided to really brainstorm and embrace the crazy.”

Inspired by the vintage look drive-in visit signs created by Art Director Sergio Sericolo that have been up around campus, King thought – why not make the visit like a drive-in theater experience? 

“We all have a lot of time these days - why not give people somewhere to go where they can visit safely? Families were really impressed with their customized Siena experience.”

Families came from throughout New York, New England and New Jersey for the event. Allison Turcio ’06, director of digital strategy, said the combination of an in-person visit with a virtual element was key to the success.

“We were able to make each family feel special, and show them the campus while keeping them safe,” she said. 

Ned Jones, vice president for enrollment management, said the program was “a real bell-ringing moment” for the College.

“It wasn’t just a tour, it was an experience,” he said. “This is what we talk about when we talk about innovation.”