Inside Dickinson’s Self-Guided Mermaid Tours

Lauren David '24, Staff Writer

Amid the uncertainty of the pandemic, Dickinson began offering self-guided “Mermaid Tours” for prospective students and their families this semester. 

These tours offer a new opportunity for families to explore Dickinson’s campus safely without an in-person tour. The Dickinsonian spoke with Molly Boegel, assistant vice president for Enrollment and Director of Admissions Programs & Services, about these tours and the impact they have had on admissions, as well as on prospective students and their families.

“Mermaid Tours are self-guided tour experiences that share the campus tour through photo and video content accessible by QR code,” Boegel stated. “There are map stations located across campus with campus maps that show visitors where to find QR code information on signs around campus. We worked closely with Marketing & Communications and with our Liberty Cap tour guide program to create this content.”

When scanning a QR Code, prospective students and their families can access a variety of multimedia content curated by the college for each location, including videos, photo galleries, and additional information about the building or space they wish to know more about. 

Visitors can also see the various campus spaces and how they are used by the Dickinson community. Boegel said “[Having] a sense of place is such an important part of the college search and selection process. When access to campus became restricted or limited, we knew we had to try to facilitate the same experience without the benefit of an in-person guide.”

There are currently 22 spaces on campus with QR codes that visitors can access, with stops from Denny to the Treehouse and everywhere in between.

Dickinson’s Admissions Office can also track the activity of each QR code tour stop on campus. According to Boegel, the college has seen between 600-700 self-guided tour participants each month on campus since they implemented them. The most popular stops have been the Holland Union Building (HUB), Kline Athletic Center, D-Walk, Old West, and the Admissions Office. Boegel noted that while not every participant will be admissions visitors as the tour is open to everyone, she believes that the opportunity to do a self-guided Mermaid Tour of campus has positively impacted admissions for the 2021-2022 academic year.

“We are confident that the Mermaid Tour helped to support the competitive, well-informed applicant pool that Dickinson saw this year,” Boegel stated. “While CDC guidelines limited the number of visitors we could welcome to campus for an official campus tour, the self-guided QR code tour allowed prospective students and their families to get a sense for campus and learn more about Dickinson on their own schedule.”

For the spring 2021 semester, the college has also begun to offer in-person tours for prospective students and their families again following health and safety guidelines. All visitors that participate in an in-person tour are required to wear masks at all times, follow the college’s social distancing and COVID-19 protocols, and complete a health screening questionnaire for each member of their party. The number of prospective families permitted in each tour is limited, with each tour permitted to make brief stops in the Rector Science Complex, the Waidner-Spahr Library, the Kline Fitness Center and the HUB.

There are also a variety of online resources available for prospective students if they are unable to visit campus this semester. Admissions currently offers a variety of virtual open houses, virtual sessions presented by faculty, staff and students, and both self-guided and tour guide-led virtual tours.

While uncertainty still exists for when Dickinson College can return to normal again, Dickinson will continue to offer self-guided Mermaid Tours in the future.

“The pandemic presented many challenges to our work, but one of the silver lining moments has been the innovation that can come from having to think about your work differently” Boegel said. “The college has always had some volume of ‘stealth’ or self-guided tours and the Mermaid Tour allows us to help every visitor feel welcomed, regardless of whether or not their visit takes place through admissions or athletics.”

Additional information about Dickinson’s Mermaid Tours can be found at through the following link, or by visiting https://www.dickinson.edu/homepage/278/visit.