For potential students, the idea of visiting a new college campus can seem scary. At Western Washington University, there is a group of student tour guides who will try their best to convince you otherwise.
Many incoming students experience Western's campus for the first time on a tour. It is the guides’ job to represent the school.
Working as a tour guide is a labor of love for second-year Western student Josh Darroch. He said giving students their first glimpse of what may be the next four years of their lives is exciting.
“I loved when I toured Western,” Darroch said. “I want to see if I can replicate that experience and try and get more people to come here.”
Darroch said he uses the pressure of representing Western to students and their families to be better at his job.
“I love public speaking,” he said. “Having that pressure and being able to perform in those circumstances has been really good practice.”
This isn’t to say that becoming a tour guide is easy. It takes almost an entire quarter of classes and shadowing before guides can lead their own tour. The class, which takes place once a week, is led by experienced tour guides. Every class focuses on a different stop on the tour, including destinations like Red Square and the Wade King Student Recreation Center.
“You'll also have a weekly tour,” Darroch said. “You'll be paired up with one or two [trainees] and then two mentor tour guides. The trainees do the stops that they've covered.”
Seattle Pacific University, a private Christian university, also employs its students to educate visitors about their school’s campus.
“A majority of our student tour guides actually have been with us for two to three years,” said Laura Brown, visits and events coordinator at Seattle Pacific. “They are engaging the guests, providing information and being honest about their student experience.”
Western student guides also participate in admissions events throughout the academic year and connect with prospective students as Student Admission Representatives.
“You're not just the tour guide, you're working for the Student Admissions Office,” said Darroch. “For example, on prospective student days, you'll just stand somewhere and be like an information kiosk. It's not just touring.”
Despite working for the school, StARs aren’t expected to sell the Western experience. The university wants them to accurately represent the good and the bad, said Diana Feinson, assistant director of admissions at Western.
“StARs all have a love for Western that they want to share with prospective students, but there is also an expectation for StARs to share their authentic experiences,” Feinson said. “This might mean sharing stories about working through and overcoming challenges, or simply acknowledging ways in which Western still needs to improve.”
A new cohort of StARs is hired each year. For students who think they have what it takes to join the team, the application opened on Nov. 13 and closes on Jan. 28.
Aidan Hadley (he/him) is a campus life reporter for The Front this quarter. He is a second-year student at WWU studying news/editorial journalism. Outside of reporting, Aidan enjoys baking, eating good food and finding a new TV show to watch. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.