While Sunday's weather cooperated with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln's plan to host hundreds of prospective students on campus for its inaugural Admitted Student Day, the coronavirus pandemic did not.
Like so many things in our quarantined lives, the event aimed at generating excitement for future Huskers, exposing them to campus life and providing them a road map for the next steps in their educational journey went forward digitally.
"Of course, we would have loved to have been able to host you in person for this event," Chancellor Ronnie Green said in a welcome video to the students, "but we're thrilled you can join us for what is, under the circumstances, the safest and best way possible."
More than 13,000 admitted students were invited to Sunday's event and received a link and password to access to dozens of concurrent sessions through Zoom, the teleconferencing software that has become ubiquitous in the time of COVID-19.
When the link went live at 10 minutes to noon, hundreds flooded in to a variety of sessions, including a virtual campus tour, a livestreamed peek into an Abel Hall dorm room, and guidance from admissions counselors on what to expect next.
As the number of attendees to the first campus tour of the day shot past 100, Roger Allen, UNL's campus host coordinator, could hardly contain his excitement.
"I love technology, this is the biggest thing to me," Allen said.
Along with two student hosts, the 30-minute tour included an overview of some of UNL's most frequented buildings — the Nebraska Union, Jackie Gaughan Multicultural Center, Love Library and campus recreation centers — with helpful tips from current students who live there.
Using Zoom's chat feature, current high school seniors considering landing in Lincoln this fall were able to ask the important questions about college.
"How long does it take to walk across campus?" one asked.
"I'd say it takes about four songs, or about 15 minutes," answered Jillian Baker, one of the student hosts who led the virtual campus tour.
In another meeting, students were able to visualize the inside of a dorm room with the help of Kenyon Gaar, a resident adviser until UNL called off in-person classes in March, as he pivoted his phone around the space, letting students see how high they could loft their beds and how much closet space they could expect to have.
Downstairs in the lobby of Abel Hall, Justin Hullman filled students in on how campus meal plans worked, particularly the available eating options in their dorm room.
Hullman's highlight: The cereal bar just down the elevator from most dorm rooms.
"It's got like 15 different cereals," the senior RA from Omaha said. "It's incredible."
More than 260 people crammed into the 1:30 p.m. talk "Nebraska Next Steps" led by Radell Nared Jr., an associate director for access, inclusion and diversity, and Julia DeLaRosa, UNL's orientation coordinator.
"This is truly amazing to see all of you guys on here," Nared said as he discussed various resources students could utilize to tailor their college experience to their interest and help make them more successful in the classroom.
While UNL's newest admissions event was designed to give prospective students a preview of what campus life could look like in Lincoln, Admitted Student Day also carried a practical purpose.
Students who put down an early enrollment deposit were encouraged to sign up for New Student Enrollment — which is also going virtual this year — as well as get information on when to sign up for housing and other precursors to starting as first-year college students.
Registration for the summer orientation event is scheduled to open up on April 14.