Tour guide applications increase

Lauren Mogannam

From singing the Northwestern fight song for high school students to encountering alumni who have had the same professors, NU tour guides make it a point to show their love for their university to prospective students and their families. Because touring groups and showing off landmarks like the Rock may seem like fun to many, it is one of the most competitive jobs to get on campus.

“It has been said that it’s harder to become a tour guide than get into Northwestern itself,” said Max Shaul, one of four tour guide coordinators for Spring Quarter.

This year’s large applicant pool is a testament to the job’s popularity on campus, said Taylor Dearr, also a tour guide coordinator.

“Last year we had about 210 applicants,” the Weinberg senior said. “This year we had 340 applicants.”

The application process for the new tour guides began in the middle of April with an application that included some basic questions, said Shaul, a Weinberg junior. Reasons for becoming a tour guide, involvement in student activities and favorite aspects of NU are all addressed in the application, he said.

Currently, group interviews simulating a tour experience are being conducted, Dearr said. However, due to the unprecedented number of applicants, interviews were given on a first-come, first-served basis. A wait list of about 60 students was started because of the large number of applicants, he said.

“We expected the number to increase, but not that much,” he said. “We even opened an extra day of interviews, but there are still about 15 people left on the list.”

The increase of applicants this year is due to a combination of year-to-year growth and earlier recruitment, Dearr said.

“We wanted to get a greater representation of the campus,” he said. “There are always lots of Medill and theater kids, but we wanted to make sure we had more diverse applicants.”

In order to achieve a more diverse applicant pool, academic departments that were not well represented were told to encourage students to apply, he said. Minority students were also recruited as prospective tour guides.

Even though there is a “huge” increase in applicants, the tour guide program is looking to expand, Dearr said. Along with about 40 tour guides graduating, tours will include about 20 visitors instead of 30, so more guides will be needed, he said.

“There are no minimums or maximums to hire,” he said. “We will hire about 50 to 75 based on how many good applicants we get.”

Although advertising was more widespread this year in order to attract an array of students, a position offer does not depend on an applicant’s major or background, Dearr said.

“A person’s major is not the main parameter at all,” he said. “That would not override a combination of good communication skills and appropriateness as a representative of the school. We do need some indication that they will be able to conduct a tour.”

The students chosen from NU’s six schools don’t show their NU pride for free – the job, which is not part of the work-study program, pays $15 an hour.

“It pays good money for something you enjoy doing,” said Communication sophomore Josh Brower, a tour guide since last spring.

Additionally, schedules are flexible so students can work around other commitments, Shaul said.

“A lot of people are pleased with the flexibility,” he said. “You can work as much or as little as you want.”

In the end, it all comes down to a person’s love for NU, Dearr said.

“My tour guide is the reason I’m at Northwestern today, ” he said. “I saw what an impact he had on me and I wanted to make an impact and give back.”

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