Members of Class of '03 Are Virtual Students in More Ways Than One at WPI

Contact: WPI Media & Community Relations

WPI Orientation - Marina Corboni, a sophomore biomedical engineering major, and Greg Snoddy, director of Student Activities at the technological university, prepare for Student Orientation, which began August 21. Incoming new students will be divided into 26 groups and will create a Virtual Student's Web page as part of their introduction to the campus, the Internet, and the Web.
WORCESTER, Mass. - We'll call him Virtual Doug. Packing his bags to take the red eye out of Chicago to Worcester Polytechnic Institute this week, Doug is virtually a resident of these hallowed halls.

Although he has yet to set foot on campus, Doug has been connected to one of the nation's "most wired" universities for nearly a year. It all began when Doug filled out an online application as easily as sending an e-mail. He earned bonus points by saving himself (and his parents) the $60 paper application fee, not to mention the first-class stamp.

While new to WPI, Virtual Doug already feels right at home. After all, he's been online with the university since hitting "send" at the end of his application.

This spring, Doug celebrated amid virtual confetti, learning online of his WPI acceptance. He attended an open house, monitored his financial aid and even contacted alumni in the Chicago area, all online. Doug has frequented the online WPI Admissions Cafe, talking with fellow students, asking questions of administrators, pondering extracurricular options and finding discount coupons for Worcester businesses and restaurants. He even downloaded a free WPI desktop for his personal computer.

Virtual Doug is representative of the 70 percent of newly admitted students who applied online - and often stayed online - at WPI, according to Director of Admissions Monica Inzer.

"We are really a leader in the way we use the Web," Inzer noted. "That 70 percent figure is up from 56 percent who applied online last year. I don't know of another college that has as high a figure."

About 20,000 prospective students contact WPI each year; half include an e-mail address. Catering to that electronic student body has paid off for WPI.

"This is our third straight year that we've broken our previous record for applications," Inzer said.

For the class of 2003, WPI tallied 3,244 applications, compared to 3,167 for the class of '02.

When 673 freshmen arrive Aug. 21, the virtual campus and the physical campus combine. As part of orientation, Director of Student Activities Gregory Snoddy divides the class into 26 groups and each must create its own Virtual Student.

"The Virtual Student's Web page must include a complete four-year academic schedule, links to some of the individual's favorite places, a link to the home page of each of the orientation team members, a résumé and other information that will help identify the virtual individual," Snoddy said.

The goal is for students to become familiar with academic options and requirements; to be able to navigate the World Wide Web and the WPI computer network; to learn how to write a résumé; to create a sense of teamwork; to explore leadership skills; and, last but not least, to develop an understanding of the fun stuff available via the Social Web (at http://www.socialweb.net).

The Social Web is the next step in Virtual Student's acclimatization to WPI. Expanding this fall to include other colleges in the area, the Social Web provides not only a comprehensive list of events and activities, but also opportunities to do community service, meet like-minded folks, and much more.

What about returning students? Well, WPI has online advantages for them, too. Virtual enrollment and virtual registration have eliminated hours of standing in line. This year for the first time, all WPI students can enroll and register online 24 hours a day, seven days a week, without ever leaving the comfort of cyberspace. Best of all, the results are "live," so students are instantly confirmed for classes and schedules.

A few statistics about WPI's class of 2003: There are 15 valedictorians and 15 salutatorians in the class. Ten students had a perfect verbal SAT, 17 had a perfect math SAT, and two scored a perfect 1600 on the SAT exam. Forty-four percent are from Massachusetts, and 75 percent from New England, while 38 states and 24 countries are represented. About 25 percent, or 168 members, are women, up from 22 percent last year. The top five majors are computer science, mechanical engineering, electrical and computer engineering, biology and biotechnology and biomedical engineering. For more information on WPI's virtual orientation, look on the Web at http://www.wpi.edu/+NSO.