Traveling from school to school around the country in the early months of 2020, first-year Simeon Michelson did not know where the various scholarship weekends and campus tours would lead him. After attending a two-day Augustinian Scholarship weekend in January 2020, Michelson decided, through prayer and contemplation, to attend Westmont College. This year, as an Augustinian Scholar, Michelson found himself leading prospective students in the same situation as he was, but this time in a totally virtual environment.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Augustinian Scholarship weekends, usually hosted on-campus, were held online. Current scholars volunteered to help professors welcome prospective students virtually and answer questions about the program and student life.
“For the scholarship weekends, I helped Dr. Hoeckley lead two-hour zoom sessions. The first session was learning about each other and the second was learning about each other through learning,” Michelson said. “We asked a bunch of ‘get to know you’ questions [and] I was able to share my answers as well, and just provide enthusiasm and stories about what they would see if they came to campus. [The candidates] did a really good job of being open and vulnerable, even on Zoom, about their experiences.”
While the Augustinian weekends were done virtually, in-person tours are still offered throughout the semester. Fellow first-year Augustinian Lydia Cuomo said she spent a lot of time reflecting as a tour guide for prospective students. “This year, I’m working as a tour guide for the Augustinian program. Watching the way they used to do the tour, and the things they emphasized, it struck me how much the tour this year was stripped bare. It wasn’t anecdotal as much as it was just pointing out buildings and explaining what’s happening in each … you kind of sense you’re missing a lot about the school and what it’s supposed to be.”
When asked how he would advise incoming students on what to expect if they choose to attend Westmont, Michelson emphasized that they should look forward to engaging discussions during class time. “I tried to give them that insight and ask good, hard questions, just like we would in any ASP [Augustinian Scholar Program] class. Getting to engage deeply in class about topics that matter with people that matter is really the best part of the program … We really care about each other and have formed a community around each other.”
Though Michelson and Cuomo agreed that the restricted year has been tough, they also agreed that focusing on the positives during these weekends is integral for their success.