Whether they are memorizing statistics, leading a group of prospective students and their families across campus, (rain or shine), or opening up about their own experiences as BC students, the Student Admission Program’s tour guides are an essential part of Boston College. To many prospective students, they provide a glimpse of what life is like on the Heights, but their dedication goes beyond the one hour tours they give each week. The Gavel spoke to three of these tour guides to find out more about their experiences as SAP volunteers.
What is it that made you decide you wanted to be a tour guide?
Kristin Morisseau, MCAS '17: I was actually a Tour Guide for my high school so I knew that it was something I wanted to pursue in college. This was ultimately confirmed for me when I started the college search process. I saw how much tour guides colored my view of the schools I was visiting, and I realized what an important role it is.
Aiden Clarke, MCAS '19: I didn’t take a typical route to becoming a tour guide at BC. On a whim, I applied to work as a member of the admission staff during the summer after my freshman year. Gratefully, I was offered the position and became part of a seventeen-member student group that ran campus tours and facilitated information sessions for over 34,000 prospective students and families throughout the summer.
Elizabeth Wollan, MCAS '19: My desire to be a tour guide stemmed from a passion for Boston College. I was lucky enough to have my first year at BC be filled with people who challenged me to think in new ways, supported me in times of struggles and homesickness, and transformed BC into home for me. It’s only fitting that I would want others to join the community that I love so much.
Has anything embarrassing ever happened to you while giving a tour?
Clarke: Actually, on my first tour ever a visitor asked a question about our residence hall guest policy. My answer may have delved a little too deep into our cohabitation policy…
Morisseau: Nothing super embarrassing has really happened to me while giving a tour, but obviously I've been a victim of the "Happy Birthday" from passersby. Just an FYI, I’d much rather my friends come be a special guest on my tour!
Wollan: I’m a baby tour guide, so, as of yet, I haven’t embarrassed myself any more than usual. I will say that I have the absolutely horrible habit of becoming super distracted by (1) adorable elderly couples in BC Apparel, (2) cute small children, and (3) any kind of dog, so if I see any of these on a tour, I’m done for. Also, members of the Common Tones keep threatening to sing me “Happy Birthday” during a tour, so I have to avoid that at all costs.
What question do you hear most often among prospective students and their parents?
Wollan: Generally, students and parents want to know about our community here at BC. At the end of the day, they want to know if BC fits them. They want to know how students interact with professors, what clubs and teams they can join, what resources are available to help them become involved in the community and succeed academically, and how their time would be spent as an Eagle. And then, of course, you’ll get the inevitable “What do you do on the weekends?” and “What is this Newton campus of which you speak?”
Morisseau: Probably something about housing or about our Jesuit mission! Sometimes the questions are super standard but every once in a while a student or a parent will ask a question that we need to think about—that's the best kind of question!
Clarke: Visitors tend to ask basic questions that can easily be answered with a memorized statistic or a quick glance through the guidebook, but we urge prospective families to ask questions about our personal experiences. I can tell you that the median class size is 27 students, but I really want to describe the personal connection I had with my advisor in my Freshman Topics Seminar or how my Resident Minister in Hardey convinced ten freshman boys to discuss love while eating chicken wings. These are the types of stories that are memorable and make us stand out compared to other schools.
When people ask you your favorite thing about BC, what is your go-to answer?
Morisseau: I always say that I was looking for a school that people were proud to be associated with, and I definitely found that here at BC. The pride that alumni, current students, and faculty have for Boston College is infectious. There are certain times in the year when you can feel that in the air, like at a football game or the student involvement fair, and it reminds me why I love BC.
Clarke: This is my favorite question to answer, and it is always a sure bet on a tour! First, I usually crack a joke about green grass, but then I fall into a discussion about the people here on campus and how greatly they have impacted me. Authentic experiences are always more relatable and memorable than numbers, so I try to weave anecdotes of my time here into my tour as much as possible.
Wollan: The people. Hands down. I am blown away day after day by the people at BC. I love that every person I encounter on campus brings such a new dynamic to my life. I love that BC students are genuinely charged with life; we have passions and dreams and visions for the future of the world around us. We support one another, through Showdown or a cappella concerts, sports games or spoken word events, in the late nights in O’Neill or football tailgates. We’re proud to be Eagles, and we’re proud of the Eagles around us, which I believe is a huge testament to our community and to the values we establish as a student body.
What have you found most challenging about being a tour guide?
Clarke: Besides the obvious challenges of walking backwards and awkward silences, it can be hard to give tour after tour each week with the same energy as the first. Visitors probably expect that we have a set route to follow and a strict script to memorize. At BC, the complete opposite is true. We are given a guidebook at the beginning of the semester with detailed information and statistics about BC, but after that we are free to create tours that we are excited to lead. Over time, tour guides develop a type of “personality” that makes their tours distinctive. Personally, I always aim to squeeze in as many dad jokes as I can.
Morisseau: As the Tours Program Coordinator for this year I am definitely behind the scenes of the tours! My role contains a lot of scheduling and a lot, a lot, a lot of emailing. As far as being a tour guide, I think one of the biggest challenges is not letting your own personal stresses come through. One thing that differentiates BC’s Student Admissions from other schools’ is that our tour guides are volunteers. This means our tour guides participate because of an authentic desire to share their story, but it is nice to be acknowledged for the hard work they put in!
Wollan: I think one of the biggest challenges of being a tour guide is not being able to capture the entire Boston College experience in just one hour. I always worry about representing the school in its most authentic and fullest form, so that’s really difficult, because you can only give the group your personal Boston College experience.
What is your favorite part of being a tour guide?
Wollan: I am the oldest child in my family, and I really stressed out over the entire college process, so I think my desire to make that transition and decision easier for prospective students is a grounding factor in my tours. I love being able to help prospective students determine if Boston College fits them, not if they fit Boston College.
Morisseau: I love being forced to be positive. Even if I'm having a monster of a week, I'll never let that show through on a tour. You know how people say that just smiling when you’re sad will make you feel better? That's how I feel about tours! Nine times out of ten I finish a tour in a better mood than I started in. It's also fun to be able to gush about things that I really do love so much about BC and not be met by eye rolls from my friends. I’m corny in real life and prospective families respond well to that.
Clarke: There are several perks of the job. (1) We all get pretty snazzy gold name tags and (2) I carried my 4Boston group to victory in BC trivia last weekend. Gasson was built in 1913 and O’Neill has just over two million volumes. Honestly though, my favorite part of being a tour guide has definitely been the awesome people I have met through the Student Admission Program.