Welcome To BC
A Guide To Student Tours And SAP Resources
Published: Sunday, September 8, 2013
Updated: Monday, September 9, 2013 01:09
There are countless aspects of Boston College that inherently draw students to apply year after year.
Its academic reputation entices highly intelligent high school upperclassmen, and word of mouth is a vital part of BC’s popularity. But arguably the most important recruitment tactic is a candid tour that offers a real look into what it means to be a BC student. Without having the ability to officially attend BC before putting a deposit down, a student’s brief experience on campus carries a lot of weight in their decision. The Student Admissions Program works to present BC in an individualized way, and to provide a glimpse into what life as a BC student is like.
Associate Director of Undergraduate Admissions and Student Admissions Program (SAP) Supervisor Chris O’Brien stressed the importance of making campus tours as all encompassing and authentic as possible.
“Our vision has always been if it’s just a factual and statistical tour, I could do it. If it’s just a student telling random stories as they walk around, it’s a friend giving a tour,” he said. “It is a delicate balance. Our hope is that tour guides develop the art of balancing facts and anecdotes and spirit. A great tour guide will seamlessly transition from what kind of granite Gasson is made of to what it’s like to wake up on the morning of a football game.”
Tours start Sept. 16 and continue through the Friday before Thanksgiving. The tour guide staff consists of 140 this fall, including a mix of returners, summer tour guides, and newly trained guides. Twenty tours are given a week, as well as a handful of Saturday tours. In a given year, 40-50,000 visitors come to campus—with the spring typically busier than the fall, but never with a period of quiet.
The tour guide application process is conducted at the end of each semester, in which guides are selected for the upcoming semester. A student can be eligible if they have had experience with other SAP programs, such as with the day visit program, greeting in the administration office, office management, and general outreach. These prerequisites prove passion for BC and student involvement enthusiasm, and then the interview process helps to narrow down the most competent and driven tour guides.
Guide training is an organic process at BC. Bridgette McDermott, head coordinator of tours and A&S ’15, noted that new guide training consists of becoming familiar with a handbook that contains a broad base of knowledge about the campus. She expressed the importance of guides being able to talk about their own experiences at BC and about things they are involved in.
“We offer a handbook, but the essence of a BC tour is your personal experience. We try to help everyone make an informed college decision—we want to show everyone how unique BC is and what it means to be an Eagle,” she said.
The most unique quality of SAP is the amount of responsibility given to students and volunteers. As head coordinator Lexi Schneider, A&S ’14, noted, by the end of a visit, a family will have had contact with at least six current students. Students are given the reins. With no script, and no precise tour route, each tour guide is given the autonomy to mold the tour in a personalized way. As a council of student volunteers, SAP members have the freedom to formulate programs on their own—overseen by Associate Director of Undergraduate Admissions Danielle Wells and O’Brien.
In order to ease new tour guides into the program, last year they initiated a three-week mentoring program. The program matches each tour guide with a returning one and allows new guides to shadow a returning guide’s tour on the first week. On the second week, they are able to give a tour in conjunction with the returning guide, which helps them transition into the third week, in which they give a tour on their own with a returner shadowing them. “This enables them to get experience, to develop the way they talk about BC and the way they talk about campus,” McDermott said. “The best way to learn is from peers.”
Because SAP is student-focused, its recruitment of students can be attributed to how genuinely enthusiastic the guides are. O’Brien noted that at many other universities tour guides tend to work for public relations or other facets of the university and treat their jobs as tour guides more as a professional duty. In comparison to BC’s student-run program, “those programs might lack the spirit, genuineness, and authenticity that comes from students being able to express the things they care about,” he said. “I’ve always liked our mission of allowing students to organically come up with the things they feel are very important for describing BC—this conveys more of what we are about than having clones from a media office.”
Additionally, at most institutions, information sessions are run by admissions employees. In 1996, BC transferred to a format in which students participate in the info sessions. After a brief introduction by an administration counselor, a diverse student panel introduces themselves to prospective students and their parents and fields questions in a Q&A platform.
While the majority of questions asked are pertinent and BC related, sometimes students will be asked extremely difficult or inappropriate questions. Thus, it’s vital that students are trained and prepared for what they could encounter. It is, however, inevitable that nothing can fully prepare someone for what they may be asked. “When our students can answer those tough questions professionally and respectfully, other people in the audience are much more impressed by their poise and nature in fielding those questions,” Schneider said, stressing that honesty is usually the best way to combat trying questions.