A record 500 students applied to become Northwestern tour guides this year. Fifty-five will be chosen, making it a more selective process than applying to NU..
Because 55 senior tour guides are graduating, the office can only fill that number of spots, said Caitlin Smith, assistant director of undergraduate admission. Smith said tour guiding is a desirable job because it allows students who “bleed purple” to play an influential role in the lives of prospective students.
Current tour guide Sofia Porter-Castro, a Weinberg sophomore, said she thinks tour guiding is popular among students because they are proud to be part of the NU community.
“For many of us, when we were applying to go to a particular college, visiting the campus played a big role in determining where to go,” Porter-Castro said. “We have a strange ownership over our school and desire to be the one to influence people to come here.”
Tour guide applications were due last Friday. However, this year the office also set a priority deadline on April 6, a change in the application process. Those who applied by the priority deadline received the opportunity to attend a meet-and-greet with current tour guides, Smith said.
“We started this (priority deadline for applications) in order to give applicants an extra opportunity to distinguish themselves and show their personality, which can be tough to do in an interview setting with five other interviewees,” Smith said. “This helps add some context to our hiring decisions.”
Medill freshman Olga Tymouch submitted her application by the regular deadline. She said she wanted to spend more time on the essays because she has always wanted to be a tour guide.
“I was on a tour last year and had it in the back of my mind that I wanted to be (a tour guide),” Tymouch said. “It just seemed natural that now that I’m at Northwestern, I wanted to do that.”
Between 250 and 300 applicants will be offered interviews this year, Smith said. The interviews will take place during the first two weeks of May. The final decisions will be released shortly after.
Smith said tour guides are part of a group that has been working hard to establish a sense of community among its members.
“We’re doing a lot to organize social events and a network amongst the guides for supporting each other’s activities,” Smith said. “This also gives guides a chance to learn about far more than just what they themselves are immediately involved in.”
Weinberg sophomore Hyun Jun Kim said he likes being a part of the tour guide community because “tour guides are the coolest and most involved people on campus.” This is his first year leading tours. Kim said he gives about three tours a week in the spring, when more prospective students visit campus.
Kim said working as a tour guide is not only a fun job but also a great learning experience. He said he enjoys meeting new people from all across the country.
“People really love Northwestern and love talking about this school, and being a tour guide lets you show this passion to students,” Kim said. “You get to tell corny jokes and meet new people. You have a level of informality which you don’t find in any other jobs.”
Porter-Castro said being a tour guide has humbled her and made her realize how great her experience at NU has been.
“I think it reminds me of how fortunate I am to be at Northwestern,” said Porter-Castro. “There are so many kids who can’t wait to come in, and every year gets more competitive, so I always have a moment where I think, ‘Wow, I’m really glad to be here.'”