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College Admissions Expert Interviews Campus Tour Guide

Mark Montgomery, professional educational consultant and college admissions adviser, talks to Nathan at Occidental College in Los Angeles, California about his experience as a tour guide. (Note to parents: if your kid’s with you, can the embarrassing questions!)

TRANSCRIPT:

Dr. Mark Montgomery:
So, Nathan, how do we know each other?

Nathan:
From all the work you did getting me here.

Mark:
No, I didn’t do the work, you did the work.

Nathan:
It was teamwork.

Mark:
It was teamwork. Okay. And so where are we? Explain where we are.

Nathan:
We are in the Quad of Occidental College in Eagle Rock, Los Angeles, California.

Mark:
And you’re a senior.

Nathan:
Senior, yep, going into my final semester.

Mark:
Political science, swim team…

Nathan:
Political science, Spanish minor, swim team, spent some time in Spain, some time in Ohio.

Mark:
And you’re a tour guide.

Nathan:
And I’m a tour guide.

Mark:
Alright, so I want to know what it’s like to be a tour guide and what are the tips you have and what are the good stories that you have. So take it from your point of view, what makes a good tour guide?

Nathan:
I think, for me the key to being a good tour guide is just having personality and putting your own touch on it.

Mark:
You have a personality?

Nathan:
I try. But — because it’s really easy for anyone to just give a tour. I could give you a list of 50 facts about Occidental and you could tell it to anyone, but that doesn’t really matter, and especially for kids who are looking at a bunch of different schools, the facts are kind of going to start to blend together. So it’s really important to kind of add your own personality and why it’s important to you. In my case, why does Occidental matter for me? What have I done here that’s different from anyone else? So there’s a big difference between giving a tour and showing someone the school, is what I’ve found.

Mark:
So what tips do you have for students who are kind of, you know, you remember back to when you were taking tours, what tips do you have for students?

Nathan:
Ask questions. Maybe not as many as your parents would like. It might not always come naturally, and you shouldn’t ever force anything but if you have a question, ask. As a tour guide, I’ve only been doing it for now a couple years, but already I’ve gotten pretty much every question you could ask for. And there’s really nothing you can say to throw us off or make us feel uncomfortable. We know what we’re talking about, we know the school pretty well, so if you have a question, ask for it. And just kind of also picture yourself here. Something that I remember my parents talking about, and something you talked to too, is you’re spending four years here and this is your home as much as it is your school, so kind of picture yourself doing normal things: hanging out on the weekends, going to lunch, what are you going to do in between classes? See the school as a lot more than just a place where you’re going to study and go to bed. It really is, it’s your home for at least four years.

Mark:
What tips do you have for parents?

Nathan:
What tips do I have for parents? I’d say don’t walk with your child.

Mark:
Don’t walk with your child. Why not?

Nathan:
Because it’s two different tour experiences, I think. What parents are looking for and what kids are looking for are two very different things.

Mark:
So if there are two tour guides leaving from the same time, maybe even split up?

Nathan:
Yea, definitely. I’d definitely suggest that, just because it’s interesting to then also meet at the end and say, “Well, what did you see? What do you think was interesting?” And then also, for risk of embarrassment, if you’re the type of parents that, despite your best efforts, you just have 500 embarrassing questions about what your child’s going to do, maybe it’s better that you go on a different tour than your kid. But again, if you have questions, ask them.

Mark:
Are there any stories that you’ve got, embarrassing parent stories?

Nathan:
Embarrassing parent stories.

Mark:
On tours where you’ve gone, “Oh my gosh…”

Nathan:
Yes, so, this was actually before I was a tour guide. My first year, I was walking up from athletics from swim practice, and was walking with a couple friends of mine, and a parent stops me with this kid and he goes, “Excuse me, we’re visiting campus, you mind if we ask you a question?” We said, “Sure, yea, no problem.” And he goes, “What’s the party scene like?” And we said, “Well, I don’t know, what do you mean?” He says, “You know, what do you do? You go in frats? You drink?” And his kid’s right there just feeling horrible about his father, and we said, “Well, you know, it’s a small school so it’s not like a huge fraternity life or something you’d find at the bigger schools, but it’s fun, you bounce around to dorm rooms and different houses and it is what you make it.” But it’s funny, and that’s another thing, too, is as much as the tour guides know everything, so does every single student. You could stop anyone walking on the Quad and ask them pretty much any question and they’d give you a good answer, they’d tell you what they think, what they know.

Mark:
Cool. Thanks.

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