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Prospective Student Tours over Spring Break Credit: Anjali Tsui

When Alexa Cecil — a high-school junior at the Collegiate School in Richmond, Va. — made plans to visit Penn, she was expecting to see a lively, vibrant campus.

But when she arrived at the University on Friday, she was disappointed to find one thing missing — the students.

While most Penn undergraduates spent the past week at home or on vacation, some members of the Kite and Key Society stayed behind to make sure that campus tours ran smoothly.

Dean of Admissions Eric Furda said Penn’s spring break marks the first week of a six-week period in which the University “must be prepared to meet a huge influx of visitors.”

Valerie Welsh, director of on-campus programs for the Admissions Office, said the University welcomed 526 visitors over this past spring break. This number marks an increase from 486 during spring break last year, and an increase from 352 during spring break in 2009.

The increase also falls in line with campus tour trends over the past few years. In 2010, Penn saw about 62,000 visitors come to campus — up from around 59,000 the year before and around 42,000 five years ago.

Though Welsh said these numbers mark “a remarkable and continual growth,” she added that it can sometimes be difficult to provide the same quality tour when the majority of the student body is away from campus.

“You’re definitely missing out on that Locust Walk experience when school isn’t in session,” she said.

College junior and Kite and Key member Ariel Rosenbaum — who returned to campus to give tours Thursday and Friday — agreed.

“You have to be a little more convincing when there aren’t students all around,” Rosenbaum said. “As long as you’re up front about why campus is so quiet, it shouldn’t cause any problems.”

College junior Jayson Weingarten — Kite and Key’s student coordinator for campus tours — said it is often difficult to convince tour guides to stay on campus over breaks.

To provide an added incentive, the Admissions Office pays student guides who remain behind while school is not in session. During the regular academic year, Kite and Key positions are all on a volunteer basis. Additionally, the Admissions Office will sometimes recruit students from other on-campus groups to deal with the influx of visitors.

College senior Arvind Raman — a member of New Student Orientation’s Peers Helping Incoming New Students group — decided to help out as a tour guide over break. Raman, who learned of the need for extra guides through the PHINS listerv, gave four tours last week.

For student visitors, touring Penn’s campus over spring break prompted mixed reactions.

“I definitely wish I would have known about Penn’s spring break before arriving,” Cecil said. “If you’re trying to get a realistic view of the school, this might not be the best time to do it.”

However, Varun Khattar — a high-school junior at Kingswood-Oxford School in Hartford County, Ct. — felt that there were some positive aspects of seeing Penn while students were away.

“There wasn’t too much hustle and bustle and … it was easier to hear the guide because of how quiet things were,” Khattar, who toured campus on Friday, said.

Regardless of the time of year, one thing remains clear to Kite and Key guides.

“A tour can make or break your college visit experience,” Rosenbaum said. “We’re just trying to give the best tour we can, no matter when it’s happening.”

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