A Return to Grounds: In-Person Admission Tours Are Back at UVA

A Return to Grounds: In-Person Admission Tours Are Back at UVA

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The Virginia summer heat and humidity slowly grew more intense Monday under a haze of early morning sunshine as a tangle of high school students and their parents gathered for the first in-person college tours at the University of Virginia in 15 months.

There was a sense of excitement and anticipation in the air as small groups of visitors departed the grassy expanse outside Peabody Hall, which houses the Office of Admission, with their tour guides to walk the Grounds and learn about academic and student life at UVA.

As more and more people got vaccinated against COVID-19 this spring and the state lifted restrictions on gatherings, the Office of Admission began planning a new tour model.

“We’re really excited to invite our prospective families back to Grounds,” said Macy Lenox, an associate dean of admission who steered the resumption of tours. “For us, it’s an essential part of our mission and is something we truly enjoy doing.”

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Trombetta leads his tour group down the walkway of the East Lawn.

Beginning Monday, UVA began offering two rounds of tours daily, in the morning and afternoon, in groups of 10, with pairs of interested students and one parent each. For now, officials are limiting the size of the tours, which historically included up to 30 people at a time. “This is in consultation with UVA leadership, who have been in consultation with health experts,” Lenox said. The summer tours, led by student interns in the Office of Admission], take place weekdays at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Interested families may register for their time preference.

For rising high school senior Togen Floch of Sterling, his tour of UVA was his very first college tour. He said he was drawn to UVA because of the programming in the School of Nursing. He and his mother, Pietra Gephardt, arrived in Charlottesville Sunday evening and spent some time getting the lay of the land on the Corner, a popular commercial district filled with coffee shops and restaurants just across the street from UVA’s Grounds.

Floch said he was overjoyed to be out in public with other people and mask-free. “I love it. I’ve spent half of high school online, so this is great,” he said, grinning widely. “I love the feeling of seeing people and being able to probably meet new friends that I could have if I come here next year.”

Students Lead the Tours

In a typical year, admissions tours begin with an information session with a dean of admission in the auditorium in Newcomb Hall Theater, followed by a tour of Grounds by upper-class students. This summer, information sessions will be held online, but 13 students will lead in-person tours, which Lenox said is the most popular part of the entire enterprise. (The 15-minute information session video will be emailed to registered visitors.)

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UVA student Benjamin Trombetta led one of the very first tours Monday morning. He started by explaining to his group that UVA founder Thomas Jefferson “had the idea that learning doesn’t stop after you graduate.”

“So instead of freshman, sophomore and so on, you are a first-year, a second-year, a third-year,” he said. Or, like him, a rising fourth-year student.

The tour guides made stops on the Lawn; Newcomb Hall, which houses many student activity offices; and various other academic buildings and dorms.

At the outset, Trombetta asked students in his group where they were from. Two had traveled California; high school senior Delilah Dehan and her father Ben were rounding up a visit to schools in the mid-Atlantic, having already been to Davidson College and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Trombetta likes to share with groups his favorite student experiences, which include Lighting of the Lawn and singing “The Good Old Song” at sporting events.

“It looks really pretty, and I’ve also looked at pictures and it has more hills than more of the schools around here,” Delilah said, making her way to the Lawn on crutches. A running injury had laid her up, but Dehan said she’s looking forward to getting back into the swing of things – and running hills is what she wants.

Trombetta said the tour guides are often asked about their favorite traditions at UVA. For him, the answers include Lighting of Lawn, a hugely popular student-led tradition founded after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks to encourage unity. Trick-or-Treating on the Lawn, a massive Halloween event that draws thousands of community families, also makes that list. “Or even something as simple as singing ‘The Good Old Song’ when we score at a football game or sporting event” makes the cut, he said.

While at the outset, a total of 100 people will be invited to register for the daily admissions tours, Lenox said her team will continue to assess things. “Our hope is that as summer moves forward, as restrictions [possibly] lessen, that we’ll be able to increase the size of the tours,” she said. “But at this point, they are going to fill up fast, is what we’re expecting.”

UVA also offers a self-guided walking tour and an audio tour that touches on several things, from UVA traditions and the Rotunda to Greek life and academics.

This is Charlottesville

Media Contact

Jane Kelly

University News Associate Office of University Communications