ISU preview guides screenshot

During the summer before the start of the new academic year, incoming Illinois State University students normally make the trip to Normal to spend two days on-campus to get first-hand experience of what campus life is going to be like.

But unlike previous years, summer Preview for incoming fall students was held over Zoom. Preview was still over a two-day period but in an unusual way during these unprecedented times.

When it comes to welcoming new students to campus, in-person Preview has always served as a way to become accustomed to campus life since everything is right there for students to see and experience. Students are able to meet their Preview guide and new peers face to face in a small group and then take a walk around campus to be shown where everything is located.

It’s ISU’s way of welcoming the newcomers to the nest and to meet some familiar faces they will more than likely see at one point when stepping foot on campus.

“I was glad there was a Preview. While I wish it was in person, it was still great to welcome incoming students to the ISU community,” Preview Guide Justin Mabrey said.

While Preview over Zoom isn’t what students had planned on, many found Preview, along with their Preview guides, to still be welcoming and helpful.

“I had a great experience. My guide made it super welcoming and made sure we were as comfortable as possible,” incoming freshman Bailee Fortney said. “I was so excited to be on campus but the Zoom was okay. It was strange but at least we got to kind of have one.”

“Both my academic adviser and Preview guide were very welcoming and tried hard to make it a good experience,” incoming freshman Whitnie Garriott said. “What I didn’t like about it was how difficult it was to actually make friends and good relationships with people; it just isn’t the same as in real life.”

While Preview can be awkward as it is, having it online can make it even more so.

“I think my experience was OK. Orientations are always awkward and then having it online made it more awkward. I ended making a friend through Preview though,” incoming freshman Kate Karvelis said. “All the leaders and speakers were super nice and helpful.”

“Our Preview guides were more than willing to answer any questions we had while also sharing their own knowledge and experiences regarding classes in college overall,” incoming freshman Anna Roseland said.

Preview guides do as much as they can to get students talking and comfortable with each other. Ice breakers are, as always, the first part of making a connection with everyone followed by answering questions. Guides will help refer the incoming students to certain departments and urge them to do the virtually explore campus and the different entities found throughout campus.

Unlike the incoming students spending a full day with their Preview guide and vice versa, the Zoom session with the Preview guide is only two hours long. Students are then directed to links for other Zoom department meetings such as the College of Education, Student Health Services, School of Communication, etc.

The biggest challenge was not having enough time to get the full experience of what campus life is going to be like come the fall semester.

“My concern for virtual Preview was that I would not know where to access the Zoom links for each meeting. We were given our links through email for the most part, but if we did not receive them our Preview guides or advisors shared the links we needed for the next meeting,” Roseland said.

“My biggest worries and concerns were being able to stay focused after all day online. I wouldn’t have had that concern if we were in person because we’d be moving around,” Karvelis said.

When it boils down to the Preview experience, not having enough time and being on campus was a disadvantage.

“I wish I had more time. I love connecting with students. It was a challenge I was eager to accept, but I just wish I had more time,” Mabrey said.

Even with a less than ideal situation, Preview guides still made the experience what it always sets out to be each summer — a welcoming to the campus community.

“As a team, we adapted and overcame. Preview is one of the most welcoming experiences you’ll ever be a part of. The unique situation makes it all the more special,” Mabrey said.

GRACE KINNICUTT is News Editor for The Vidette. She can be contacted at Follow her on Twitter at @GKinnicutt 

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