BOWIE — Eleanor Roosevelt High School student Audrey Valantine was not expecting anything special when someone knocked on her door on Sunday afternoon. She had planned to go to a concert with her friends but her parents convinced to stay a little bit longer not letting on what was really about to happen.
With the big surprise running a little late, her mother, Diane, was starting to get worried. But when Audrey opened the door at 1:45, she was shocked to find the University of Maryland College Park marching band, Testudo and members of the school with pom poms on her front lawn. If that weren’t enough, she was handed her acceptance letter into the school.
“I was trying to take it all in. I first noticed the band but I was like Testudo is also here and then there’s these posters and just like, wow. It was a lot,” Audrey said.
Audrey was one of three students who were visited by the school on Sunday, Jan. 20. UMD also surprised Noah Davis from Bowie High School and Rocio Mayorga who also goes to Eleanor Roosevelt High School, in addition to a number of students they will surprise over the coming weeks.
“We wanted people to know how exciting it is to be accepted into the university and we wanted them to know how excited we are to welcome them into the Maryland family,” said Admissions Director Shannon Gundy. “And unfortunately we can’t do this for everybody but we are hoping that the message rand everyone knows how glad we are to welcome them to Maryland.”
This is the third year UMD has done these admissions surprises. Out of the 4,300 students who will enter into the freshman class, the school hand picks a select few to surprise at their houses based off of the excitement they show for going to the school on their application as well as what they can contribute to the university community.
Additionally, they look at where the student lives and how easy it would be to fit the big bus bringing in the band, UMD students and mascot into their street. Although during some years the weather makes it a harder to schedule the visit, the day was bright and sunny, but very cold, for Audrey’s surprise.
“It’s amazing. It’s an exciting time for the students and for their families but it’s also an exciting time for our staff because we read thousands of applications for admission try to get to know the students for the application but it’s rare that we get a chance to see them in person and talk to them in person at the point they’re admitting into the university,” Gundy said.
Audrey’s parents, Diane and Aaron, received a call from the school beforehand to coordinate the event. Diane said it wasn’t hard to keep the secret from their daughter until she made plans to go to the concert that day and they had to convince her to stay home longer.
Despite knowing about the surprise, the Valantine’s did not know the surprise would be this big of a deal. Even some of the neighbors came out of their houses to celebrate with them.
“I literally thought there would be a couple of band members and Testudo, I didn’t know it would be such a big deal,” Diane said.
When Audrey goes to UMD in the fall she plans to major in engineering although she is undecided beyond that. However, she does have a special interest in environmental engineering. She may also do soccer or dance on the side.
More than anything, she said she is relieved to have been accepted into the school and is excited to be surrounded by other people who are passionate about the same things she is.
“It feels really relieving because there’s always that little doubt that what if I don’t get into any schools but now I can just relax and I can just focus more on my senior year now and just focus on college.”