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Student tour guides help mold University’s first impression

By : Meghan Lynch

First impressions do count and nobody knows that better than the Office of Undergraduate Admissions at Binghamton University, which annually hosts more than 18,000 visitors.

Among the first to make those impressions are the student tour guides. That means that even if they wake up on the wrong side of the bed, they have to put on their best face.

“Tour guides know lots of facts about BU, but what they’re remembered for is their friendliness and openness,” according to Jeff Gates, the admissions visit coordinator.

“We want to make the people feel comfortable and welcome. We want to wow them.”

Because the campus visit is the single most important factor in a student’s decision to enroll in a school, the Office of Undergraduate Admissions is undertaking a number of steps to enhance the visit program.

“We know that, ultimately, every office on campus has a stake in making a good impression,” Gates said. “We need everyone’s help in doing that.”

But the impact that a tour guide has on a prospective student can’t be underestimated, Gates said.

“For some visitors, the tour guide represents the entire student body. They may be the only student the visitor has contact with that day,” he said.

“Our guides don’t just know their way around campus, they take pride in their job and know the impact they have on enrollment.”

The office employs 55 tour guides, many of whom have worked for several years. This year, more than 200 students applied to be tour guides.

“Students see it as a desired and respected job,” Gates said.

Once on board, tour guides must attend an all-day training session and team with more experienced guides before being sent out solo.

The tours, which generally last about an hour, encompass a walk around campus, including stops in a residential community. Interspersed between the stops at buildings, the guides provide information on a variety of topics like campus activities, the community and safety.

Prior to the tour, visitors attend information sessions conducted by admissions counselors who answer many of the official questions like enrollment requirements and academic programs.

“It’s really on the tour that visitors get a chance to hear the students’ perspectives,” Gates said. “We strongly encourage our guides to share their personal experiences and observations.”

In addition to the regularly scheduled tour program, the guides also assist with the open house and special visit programs. Binghamton hosted more than 1,500 prospective high school students and their parents on Monday, October 11. Two additional open houses are scheduled on Friday, October 22, and Saturday, October 30.

Similar programs are scheduled in the spring for admitted students.
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Last Updated: 10/14/08