I've been lucky enough to be a tour guide at Champlain College since my first semester freshman year of college. As part of my job working for the admissions office, I would show prospective students and their families around campus. Obviously every college is different, and every family who comes to visit has different criteria about what they want out of their tours. I've given hundreds of tours in the last four years. I've had some wonderful families, and some not-so-wonderful families, and from a tour guide's perspective, there are a lot of things you can do to help us make your visit worthwhile.
DO tell us about the clubs and activities you're interested in.
If you started a knitting club at your high school, let us know! If you want to pursue improv once you start college, tell us! If it's important to you that we have a rock climbing club, then make sure to ask if we have one. Getting involved in clubs can be a huge help when adjusting to college life, and if you have a specific one in mind, let your tour guide know. We can tell you right then and there whether that club already exists on our campus.
DON'T be on your cell phone during the tour.
Yes, we know that maybe we aren't your first choice school and someone dragged you to our campus. However, it is extremely frustrating to try and talk about the student-to-professor ratio when members of the tour are browsing their Facebook feeds. It's an automatic indication that you have zero interest, which means that we become a little less enthusiastic as well. And please, if you do decide to leave your phone on, turn them on vibrate. It's incredibly distracting to be in the middle of talking about the dining hall only to be interrupted by ringtones.
DO ask questions!
We exist as tour guides to give you information. If that means you need to bombard us with questions about the local music scene, so be it. If you want to know more about the partnerships between students and faculty, ask away. If I don't feel obligated to say "Does anyone have any questions?" because you're vocalizing the specifics about what you want to know, it tells me you came prepared and are invested in finding out whether or not our school is the right fit for you.
DON'T walk in front of me.
I've had prospective students and their families kick it into warp speed and stroll five or ten feet in front of me. I'm attempting to lead you around campus and show you all the highlights, and if you walk in front of me; well you're not going to know where we're going next, are you?
DO let your tour guide know if you are seeing other colleges that day.
Sometimes families will schedule three or four tours in one afternoon, especially if the colleges are located close together. That's fine, and we understand that you're taking advantage of being in the area. We're glad you're looking around! Just give us a fair warning ahead of time so we can either shorten our tour and keep you on schedule, or you can politely peel off from the tour group when you need to. It's a lot easier for us to know before heading out on tour if you're on a time crunch than getting halfway through the tour and you telling us you have to leave.
DON'T keep quiet about any sort of physical needs, especially if they're not visible.
I go to school in Vermont so I get a lot of students who have recently suffered from snowboarding or skiing accidents and are on crutches for my tour. Sometimes though, people have hip replacements or bad knees or rolled their ankle recently, and if that's the case for you, the best thing is to let us know. We can rearrange our route and make sure we utilize elevators and ramps instead of potentially injuring you further by taking the stairs.
DO feel allowed to ask us about our personal experiences.
Do you want to know why we chose the school, how far away from home we are, did we study abroad, or what internships have we've had? Questions like that are fair game, and we'd be happy to answer them for you. It helps you collect an idea about what the student demographic at the college is like.
DON'T be worried if we're not the right school for you.
It's okay! If you go on the tour and you don't like the residence halls, or we don't have something key to you enjoying your college experience (like your major) and you know it's not a good fit, that's alright. We will not take it personally. Of course, as tour guides, we love our school and want to share that, but we know that it's not the right choice for every person who visits.
DO tell us if there is something specific you want to see.
If you are on your high school dance team and you want to see our dance studio, let us know. Or maybe it's really important to you that you see the laundry rooms, or you want to check out our computer labs. All of these are valid requests, and as your tour guide, we want to make sure you're seeing the things that will be most important to you.
Going on tours can be daunting, especially if you've been visiting multiple colleges. Remember that your tour guides are there to make learning about the school easier, and by following these dos and don'ts, your tour can be a very positive experience that alleviates some pressure about your college decision.
Lauren Stevens is a Senior in the Professional Writing program at Champlain College in Burlington, Vermont. Originally from Portland, Oregon, she attended Champlain without ever visiting campus, and in an ironic turn of events, has spent her entire college career working as a tour guide.