Online chats connect potential students with answers

imageOn a recent Monday evening, several SUNY Oswego administrators and students sat in Culkin Hall, talking in online chat rooms. But it was work, not play, the latest in a series of Internet chats the Office of Admissions holds with prospective students.

These chats utilize a medium teen-agers use with increasing frequency, said Dan Griffin, organizer of the chats and associate director of admissions at SUNY Oswego. He attended a presentation on online chats at a conference last summer and has heard positive reviews from colleagues at other colleges.

“It might provide a chance for prospective students to chat with us they may otherwise not have had,” he said.

A chat for admitted students in late March drew around 70 cybervisitors. Some stayed the whole two hours. Others asked a question or two and left. Since 80 percent of those participating were more than 90 minutes from Oswego, the session unfolded as a convenient way of visiting Oswego, albeit online.

A main chatroom featured SUNY Oswego admissions staffers Griffin, Jerry Oberst, Katie Maxwell and John Kruger, plus student intern Sarah Watroba, fielding questions. Participants also had the option of entering a chatroom where intern Dennis Hahn and tour guide Erica Squillace answered questions about campus life from a current student perspective.

“I think they had a chance to get a point of view that they didn’t think was biased,” Hahn, a junior adolescence education and English major from Utica, said of the chatroom featuring current students. “I think it was a good supplement for people who have a hard time visiting campus or who just have a specific question they want answered.”

The prospective students asked questions ranging from specific programs to when they will learn who their roommate will be to what clubs are available.

“Do you find that the professors take time to help you?” one student asked.

“I definitely feel as though the professors have a lot of time for students,” Watroba, a senior broadcasting and mass communications major from North Tonawanda, typed in response. “From personal experience, I have found that professors are very efficient with e-mail and have office hours available for students to come in and talk.”

Watroba appreciated the opportunity to pass along knowledge from her four years of experience and enjoyed the interaction. “I was surprised that students not only talked to us but also to each other. They kind of made connections,” she said.

This one-on-one attention is one thing that makes the chats so beneficial, Griffin explained. “I can definitely see over the past three chats, the questions becoming more focused,” he said. “This time of year, they are fine-tuning their search.”

For more information on admissions programs at SUNY Oswego, visit

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PHOTO CAPTION: Creating connections—SUNY Oswego’s Office of Admissions recently held the latest in a series of online chats for prospective students. About 70 people visited the session for admitted students via cyberspace. Tour guide Erica Squillace and intern Dennis Hahn staffed one chatroom where they could offer perspectives as current students.

(Posted: Apr 20, 2005)