The college experience is one of the most defining and unforgettable stages in a person’s life. Choosing the best college to attend is, therefore, never easy. So, an in-person campus visit is an age-old tested method to get a real-life glimpse into a potential campus experience and student life in general. And even while many college campuses offer virtual tours, in-person visits prior to enrollment remain the best way to get a real taste of what kind of campus life awaits you. Guided campus tours, however, vary as there are many different campuses and tour guides. So if you’re looking to up the level of the in-person tour of your beautiful campus, or if you’re prepping your very first one — we’ve got 10 tips to help you make it all the more memorable.
Tip 1: Know Your Stuff
Whether student-led, self-guided or even virtual — college tours are, in essence, an information session. How does the application process work? What about financial aid? What does the admissions process entail? Where is the admissions office? What is the history of the school and the campus? What’s the best karaoke bar in town? Be prepared to answer all of these questions and then some.
In short, do your homework — class sizes, dining hall hours, extracurricular activities and everything in between. Student guides, campus staff, faculty and students — and, of course, the internet — can all be a great help here. Also see what other campus tours are doing can help determine how your campus can stand out. Then devise your own unique campus visit checklist, and take it from there.
Tip 2: Stay In The Know
Make sure you stay up to date on all the above. Do so by keeping an open line of communication with staff, current students, admission counselors, faculty members, and anyone else that can help you stay in the know and perfect your tour. And, of course, do your own research as often as possible too. College life changes fast, so make sure your tour keeps up with the times.
Tip 3: Have The Right Equipment
Campus life can get both hectic and noisy, especially when class is not in session. Incorporating a tour guide system into your guided tours is one way to make your visitors’ experience more memorable, fun, and generally more smooth. But also think about how smartphones, cameras, and other modern gadgets can enhance that experience. Be creative. For example, having a first aid kit would be essential for any good tour guide no matter where they are.
Tip 4: Make Your Tour Interactive, Inclusive, and Fresh
Since you’re probably looking to nudge your visitors in the direction of enrolling (or at least applying), it’s important that your tour reflects a campus experience as closely as possible. Incorporate the latest apps, digital tools, and social media associated with your particular school. Share current blogs and campus-related websites. And cover the physical grounds simultaneously. Give your visitors a glimpse of the dorms, the residence halls, the classrooms, the dining hall, and so on. Ask questions, and make sure that everyone involved can ask questions too — both in-person and online. This will not only enhance their experience but also help you perfect your tour from day to day.
Tip 5: Know Your Audience
Most of your visitors will likely be high school students. However keep in mind that not everyone there is necessarily fresh out of high school. While campus tours are mostly designed to help educate prospective students, they should also be open to the general public — i.e., parents, family members, other college students, academics, tourists, and so on. So be flexible both with your material and your approach. Think of your tour as a chance for people from all walks of life to experience something new and unique — with an academic backdrop.
Tip 6: Keep It Simple
College itself is complicated enough as it is. No need to further complicate things. In other words, keep it academic — but also keep it light. Your visitors will likely already have a number of questions for you — both on a social and academic level — so consult Tip 1 to make sure you have the right answers. But don’t overdo it in terms of information. Most campuses will have plenty of online resources that the public can access to answer most of their questions — and you can help your group by providing the needed reference points. During the tour itself, however, keep it brief, listen, improvise when necessary, and keep things moving along at a leisurely pace. It also helps to have your groups be relatively small (maybe set a limit on the number of participants). Have a simple plan and try to stick to it.
Tip 7: Have a Plan B
Speaking of plans, college life also tends to be unpredictable at times. For example, the dining hall may be off-limits because it’s hosting an event. Students and faculty may be organizing a rally. The biggest football game of the year might be happening. The dorms might be having some maintenance issues. Or — God forbid — the wifi may be down. Furthermore, policies change. The application, enrollment, and admissions processes are updated. Classes open, close, and reopen. And so on. Campuses are basically like small cities — there’s a lot going on at any given second. So, you always want to be ready to adapt and improvise if something doesn’t go according to plan — both online and off.
Tip 8: Bring Water (and Maybe Snacks) For Everyone
If your campus is big (and chances are it is), your walking tour might be time-consuming and multi-level. It might even involve a shuttle or bus ride or two. And long tours in general can get a bit strenuous, especially during the summer. Make sure that your visitors are always comfortable. Extra water and maybe a bite to eat will ensure that your speaking voice and energy and enthusiasm levels — as well as those of your group — are in top form. And it might also be a good idea to stop and take a break from time to time. This gives you an opportunity to recharge, and your group a chance to rest and take in your beautiful campus in all its glory.
Tip 9: Practice Makes Perfect
One of the most important tips we can give on how to give the perfect tour is to practice. There will always be off-the-cuff questions and surprises — both good and bad. So don’t stress if things don’t always go your way. It’s ok to have a little cheat sheet when starting out. Take notes on what went well and what could be better and continue updating your plan. And also stay curious — continue getting to know your campus, its students and faculty, and your university in general. The more tours you do, the more it will feel like second nature. And, thus, the more memorable the experience will be for your future groups.
Tip 10: Have Fun
College life is not always easy. In fact, it can get downright frustrating at times. But the campus experience is also one of the most magical and unforgettable in millions of people’s lives the world over. As a campus tour guide, you are often the first point of contact for this magic. So breathe, relax, and have fun with your campus tour. After all, it’s not an exam.