I woke up late last Saturday and had to rush to clean my room. The Georgetown Admissions Ambassador Program students were coming in 30 minutes, and I needed to get my life together before they arrived. I remembered the rooms I toured last year — decked out in brightly colored rugs and posters, with a smiling Georgetown student ready to welcome me.
Of course, my room couldn’t compare. I needed to vacuum, make my bed and my roommate’s bed, clean up a broken light bulb in the corner and make sure the place smelled nice. But after a few frantic minutes, I found myself sitting on my artificially well-made bed, as classy jazz music played in the background, waiting for the GAAPers to arrive.
As they filed in, I was treated to a rush of weird flashbacks from my own weekend on the Hilltop. I remembered the incredibly awkward “conversations” with my worldly future classmates. I remembered meeting my friend Zainab. And in those moments, all I wanted in those simple, senioritis-plagued days of high school was to be a proud student volunteer at GAAP.
And there I was last weekend in my baby blue shirt, watching apprehensively as an odd group of nervous kids and their helicopter parents walked into my room, looking around suspiciously as if they thought I had a dead body hidden in my tiny Village C West bathroom. After the group, or mainly the helicopter parents, asked a few standard college dorm questions, they turned to leave.
Just as the last of them stepped out of the confines of my dorm, one of the girls on the tour turned back to me with a nervous smile, pointed at the poster behind my head and asked, “Is that ‘The Princess Bride’?” Stunned at first, I quickly recovered and responded that yes it was, of course, “The Princess Bride” and that it was, and still is, my favorite movie. She tapped her mother on the shoulder and said, “Georgetown students have great taste in movies, Mom!” With one last look back at me and a final nod of approval for my poster taste, they were gone.
I got much more out of GAAP weekend than I expected, especially given my small part as a dorm host. Beyond a free T-shirt and a few brief conversations, I got a compliment for the poster that my RA spends so much time making fun of me for. Affirmation is sweet, let me tell you.
There is more to GAAP weekend than just the dorm tours, and unfortunately not all of it runs so smoothly. At the pump-up meeting before the first weekend for our incoming students, the GAAP board emphasized the huge difference that the weekend experience makes on prospective student attendance yield. Something like 70 percent of GAAPers become Hoyas, which is much higher than the figure for admits who don’t visit.
Yet there are deeper questions we should be asking. Who are these 70 percent? And at what kind of student is GAAP weekend aimed? We hear a lot about the lack of diversity on campus, and perhaps this can be linked to every part of the admissions process, including GAAP. I don’t claim to have any inside knowledge of the organization, but it is a simple fact that our community chooses not to highlight the diversity of Living Learning Communities or cultural clubs, for example. Dorm tours are all well and good, but it’s not enough to have a CAB fair with only a few tables. Georgetown is known for its clubs and the social life that is based around them — we should make sure that we are presenting this truly impressive part of our community in the best way. We ask why we don’t have a more artistic or diverse student body, but it shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise when we don’t take that extra step to reach out and make sure that prospective students know that there is a place for them at Georgetown.
At convocation, this lack of cultural awareness is even more pronounced. Last year, I saw one speaker who told an admittedly inspiring story about coming from Spain and hoping that her younger brother can follow in her footsteps; the other, however, was a speech from a white man about his experience with the Hoya community spirit and the McDonough School of Business. These are valid experiences, no doubt, but presenting this man’s story at GAAP in lieu of another’s perpetuates the idea of Georgetown as an elitist institution. Certainly, much of our community has nothing like an “elite” upbringing, but it is important that we showcase the stories of students that our admits may find more relatable.
Georgetown has no problem attracting its traditional demographic, but GAAP weekend on its own isn’t enough for everyone. Let’s make sure that we make space for the underrepresented and unseen stories that our students have. If we do so, maybe, just maybe, we may finally reach a broader group that can create a better and more diverse Georgetown.
Nick Shedd is a freshman in the School of Foreign Service.