While COVID-19 has disrupted the college search process for many high school seniors, the University of Arizona is inviting prospective students to explore campus on a different platform: Minecraft.
Minecraft is a video game that allows players to build 3D worlds and interact with others in virtual environments. The game was released in 2011, purchased by Microsoft in 2014 and has over 112 million players each month.
At 3 p.m. on May 1 – National College Decision Day – students who have been admitted to the University of Arizona will have the exclusive opportunity to explore the UArizona Minecraft community, ask questions in a chat moderated by campus tour guides and more.
Students can share their Minecraft experience using the hashtag #WildcatReady. They will also be able to sign a massive block 'A' with their name, major and graduating class.
Non-participating students and parents are invited to watch a livestream of the Minecraft event on the university's YouTube channel.
"We know that campus visits are a major reason why students fall in love with the University of Arizona, so we've been exploring new ways to give prospective students a similar experience from afar," said Kasey Urquídez, vice president of enrollment management and dean of undergraduate admissions. "Since they can't visit our physical campus at this time, we're excited to let them explore Arizona virtually using Minecraft."
The UArizona Minecraft project will allow people to explore Old Main, the university's oldest and most iconic building, and surrounding areas on central campus. The virtual version of campus is built close to scale, with one block equal to one square-foot.
Student members of the Arizona Esports club led the Minecraft project with additional help from student volunteers who signed up via social media. Liam Koenneker, the club's president, said the project began as a way for the club members to connect amid physical distancing.
"It's really cool to see the people who were coming out and putting effort into this," Koenneker said. "We got what we could get done in the short amount of time that we had, and it was really nice to see everyone come out and get involved."
He was excited, he added, to see university administration embrace the project.
"There are so many passionate people working this project," said Evi Loveres-Hubley, creative director for enrollment marketing and communication. "Many students are volunteering their time to help see this through, simply because they love their school so much. There's a lot that goes into something like this, and we're really excited for everyone to experience what we've been working on."
In addition to the Minecraft experience, the university will also host a series of other events to support high school seniors making their commitment to UArizona. Those include virtual information sessions for prospective or admitted students and their families and "Ask a Wildcat" question-and-answer sessions with current students on the Office of Undergraduate Admissions Instagram.
More information about virtual visits is available on the UArizona website.
Due to the ongoing impact of COVID-19, the university has extended its first-year application and enrollment deadline to June 1 in order to support students and families who require additional time.