The most common question I received as a tour guide was, “Why did you decide to attend college here?” Although it’s a simple question, I wasn’t always sure how to respond.
At first glance, a college tour is all about facts: the number of majors and minors, types of clubs, student population, and retention rate. Before every tour, I quickly reviewed the facts from my tour guide manual, nervous about forgetting the varsity sport offerings and the times for the dining halls. These details were, of course, important. Yet, was something else more important?
After a Welcome to College workshop, it hit me. Actually, it hit every tour guide in the room: facts are limited and forgettable. Most prospective students do not remember every fact about the campus. While traveling back to their hometowns, students may not ponder every varsity sport offering or the times for the dining halls, but they’ll reflect on their engagement with the campus. I can still remember all of the tours I went on as a high school student and how relational interactions stuck with me more than informational sessions.
Humans connect through storytelling. As theologian Robert McKee says, "Storytelling is the most powerful way to put ideas into the world today." As a tour guide, telling a story brings the college experience to life. Prospective students imagine their future through the lens of storytelling. Help them picture their college experience at your college or university by looking through the lens of your personal story.
To prepare yourself as a storyteller, try taking inventory of your unique college experience by asking yourself questions and noting your answers:
Which stories shaped my college experience?
- My professor talking to me about my family for an hour after class. As a homesick freshman, this conversation helped change my view of campus life.
- Walking around campus with a good friend who later became my roommate.
- Taking the class that I was most intimidated by, which altered my worldview and molded me into a better version of myself.
Embrace your campus memories and bring them to life for prospective students. Sharing your story is a powerful act of kindness that can change someone’s life.
In my experience, the answer to the most commonly asked question can’t be found in the tour guide manual. It has very little to do with numbers, lists, or places. The answer is your own story. It is how you’ve grown academically, professionally, and relationally. Once you can convey your story, then you have your answer to this common tour question.
Your great tour awaits!