Should You Be A Campus Tour Guide?

By Madison White on May 29, 2019

Think back to the days of being a prospective freshman. Did you visit lots of universities? You may remember your very first time stepping onto the campus you now go to today. You may not directly remember the person who gave you that first campus tour (or maybe you do) but they definitely made an impact that then convinced you to attend that university. College tour guides and freshman orientation leaders play crucial roles in the university system. They are often the first people that prospective students come in contact with, so it is up to them to leave a lasting impression.

As a current student, becoming a campus guide or orientation leader could be a great way to make some money while sharing with others how much you love your school. These jobs are often somewhat flexible and can work around your class schedules. They also often happen in summer, so it can be a great way to earn some extra cash over the summer holiday. Here are some questions you should ask yourself when you’re considering becoming a tour guide.

1. Do you like talking to people?

Being an outspoken person certainly isn’t a requirement for becoming a campus tour guide, but it definitely helps! Tour guides are expected to give out lots of information and answer questions while maintaining enthusiasm throughout the tour. If talking comes naturally to you, then you shouldn’t have too many issues with giving tours, unless you tend to clam up when speaking to multiple people. Remember that most campus guide and orientation situations are fairly friendly and casual so it won’t be the same as doing a formal presentation. You can think of it like you are just telling your friends about how great your university is!

If you aren’t a naturally talkative person, that doesn’t mean you can’t be a great tour guide. For example, I’m not someone that loves talking to new people, but I do love talking about things that I am passionate about. If you care a lot about your university, you could still be a really great tour guide!

However, if you absolutely dread talking to new people, especially groups of people, then this may not be the job for you.

2. Are you familiar with your campus?

The obvious criteria for being a campus tour guide is knowing your campus. If you spend all of your time on campus, do student activities, go to events, or even work on campus, you are probably well prepared to give tours. You shouldn’t feel like you have to know absolutely everything about your school in order to give a great tour; most universities will train you or let you shadow other tour guides before starting out on your own.

If you’re someone who might not be so familiar with your college campus, that doesn’t mean you still can’t be a great tour guide someday. You may just have to spend more time learning the ropes before you can really get started. If you memorize things quickly and love talking about your school, then you could still be an amazing guide.

3. Are you enthusiastic about your school?

One of the key qualities that makes a great tour guide or orientation leader is enthusiasm about the university. A great leader will be passionate and knowledgeable about all the things the school has to offer. Most often, guides and leaders are actively involved in university activities, committees, clubs, and more. They’ve experienced firsthand how wonderful being a college student can be, despite the stress and hardships that it can sometimes bring.

If you’re someone that really only comes to campus for classes and then leaves, you may not have the personal experience that they may be looking for in a guide. Of course, this doesn’t mean that you couldn’t make a fabulous leader in the future, but you would have to dedicate a lot of time to learning and experiencing your university thoroughly.

4. Do you like walking?

Something that may seem obvious, but might catch people off guard, is the reality of walking a lot. Campus tours often require a lot of walking because campuses are very big themselves. If you are a regular guide, you may be giving tours on a regular basis or even multiple tours in a single day.

Often, campus tours happen in all sorts of weather as well. Come rain, cold, or blistering heat, you may still be out there giving tours. If this sounds like something you’d rather avoid, then perhaps you should reconsider being a guide.

5. Can you respond to questions gracefully?

One of the biggest responsibilities of a tour guide or orientation leader is being able to field questions from prospective students and parents. If you already know your university and its processes very well, then answering most of these questions will probably be a breeze. Just be careful if you don’t have a great memory. If you have difficulty remembering answers on the spot, then it may be something you need to work on before becoming a guide.

Luckily, after you get your start with guiding, you will probably begin to anticipate common questions. After hearing them multiple times, you’ll begin to find a groove and ease with answering them with confidence.

However, you can never truly predict just what someone might ask. A parent or student may come to you with a very specific concern that has never crossed your mind before. In this case, you need to be able to think on your feet. Of course, you should never make up something in response to a genuine question, but you can use prior knowledge to suggest an answer. If you truly have no clue how to answer, you should feel comfortable enough saying that you aren’t quite sure, but that you can direct them towards someone who might have a better answer.

6. Do you feel comfortable leading?

By this, I don’t mean physically leading a line or group around. You need to consider how comfortable you are with controlling groups of people, especially with high school and early college-aged students.

When you are guiding a tour with students and parents, it is unlikely that you will have to do much to keep them in line. Most students will act respectfully when their parents are around. You may have to do a bit of directing when it comes to making sure they are in the right place at the right time, as well as controlling the number of questions if it begins to get out of hand. You should always be prepared to take control of your group if need be.

If you choose to be a freshman orientation leader, you will definitely need some leadership skills. While some of the activities will be fun, students may have to sit through some rather boring seminars and lectures. Be prepared to deal with some rather pessimistic attitudes when it comes to these things. Whatever your group’s attitude may be, you must be able to remain calm and optimistic despite what is going on around you. These things are key for being successful in this role.

Infographic by Madison White

7. Can you be flexible?

While you may have to do a bit of deadline-enforced leading, you should still be able to change up your plans at a moment’s notice. Regardless of how many facts you’ve prepared and what route you’ve outlined, keep in mind that this tour isn’t just for you to show off how much you know. The tour is for your group to really get to know your university.

This may mean that you need to take a detour to a different building that they are interested in seeing. It may mean that you end up talking a lot about societies and clubs over financial aid packages. Whatever it is, you should always be prepared for your tour, but keep in mind that the exact path of it will probably change very quickly based on your group that day.

If you are someone that likes to prepare something in advance and stick with it, then you may want to think about how you would respond to taking the tour in another direction. You should also keep in mind that things out of your control—like weather or school events—may also force you to change up your script and route.

8. Are you prepared to get personal?

Spilling the contents of your soul is by no means a requirement for this job, but don’t be surprised if people ask you some very personal questions. Remember that people come on these tours to get a better sense of the university’s vibe and how they might fit in it. They’ve likely already done some research at home, so they don’t need you to simply say the same facts back to them (although you may have to do this as well).

Many times, families may ask you directly about your college experience and your own opinions. They might inquire about what your major is, where you lived, what clubs you joined, where you like to eat, and many more things. This isn’t just people trying to be nosy; usually, they are trying to get a sense of what their life could be like going to your school.

It is more than fine to share your own experiences, especially if they are positive ones. Remember that everything you say is a reflection of the university, so if they ask you about a sub-par experience, you might want to change the subject or come up with a good reason it happened that way. Even though college students are notorious for things like drinking and partying, you should never tell your wild partying stories to your tour group.

While certainly not necessary, being a great storyteller can make you an above and beyond tour guide. It will naturally keep your group more engaged and help them remember you and your campus way after they leave.

9. Are you ready to make a big impact?

While some people often forget about this job, it is arguably one of the most vital roles when it comes to encouraging students to come to your university. Not only are you very important in terms of giving out information and guiding them around campus, but you are also likely to be a big part of their decision process. A student may decide to come just because you pointed out the very cool gym facilities or because you mentioned a club they were interested in. Your story may have made them feel like they could really picture themselves there.

You should always remember that these roles have a huge impact on the students coming in and that can make a world of difference. Not only are you the face of the university, but you can also become someone that students come to later on when they need help or advice.

 

Being a campus guide or orientation leader requires multiple skills and talents. From knowing a lot about your university to being able to walk long distances, there are surprisingly many things to consider when becoming a campus guide. Guides and leaders can experience everything from shocking questions to horrible weather. They must be able to think on their feet and always keep things fun and exciting. Whether or not you choose to be a campus guide or orientation leader, hopefully, you’ve gained some understanding and appreciation of the role.

If you’ve read through these questions and feel like you’d be a great fit as a guide or leader, then you should look into contacting someone from your university to get started. I’m sure they would love to have you!

Madison graduated with her Master's degree in Creative Writing from the University of Manchester (UK), and holds Bachelor's degrees in English and Creative Writing from Wichita State University. She currently teaches English at Wichita State University and works as a freelance writer and blogger on her website Madison White Writes and elsewhere.

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