Brandeis admissions offer prospective students glimpse of life at Brandeis

April 20, 2018

Walking by Chapel’s Field on a Brandeis admissions tour on Wednesday morning, a prospective student and her mother discussed the aspects of college life different schools choose to emphasize on their tours. “Here, it really seems to be community, diversity and inclusion,” the mother said.

As high school seniors are making their final admissions decisions within the next few weeks, the almost 50 student tour guides for Brandeis admissions have been hard at work showing students around campus. From discussing the 24-hour musical in the Shapiro Campus Center to walking through the swarm of students studying in the library, the tours give families a glimpse into the lives of Brandeis students.

“I looked up to the tour guides when I was looking here because I thought that they were really poised and eloquent, so I wanted to be that for someone else,” said Alanna Levy ’19, who has worked as a tour guide since her sophomore year. “I also really like being a tour guide because I remember how stressed out I was, and I wanted to look to somebody to answer my questions and someone I could relate to.”

The admissions department received over 100 applications this year for student positions including campus tour guides, admissions chatters who talk with families in the admissions lobby and lunch hosts who take students and family to a meal to discuss the university. Students are put through two rounds of interviews, the first a group interview and the second a final round ambassador interview. Some students will start as chatters and become tour guides when they grow in their public speaking skills.

“We look for students who are very honest and candid. I really want our tour guides to represent the school in the way it is, but also know a bit about everything,” said Stephanie Squire, Assistant Director of Undergraduate Admissions. “Oftentimes they’re very extroverted, not to say that they all have to be, but they have a quality about them that is very relatable, so that when guests come to our campus they feel like they can ask the tour guide hard questions and can get to know them as they walk around.”

New tour guides are paired with a mentor from the training committee, which falls under the student ambassador division of admissions. After about two months of training where the new ambassadors shadow information sessions and tours, practice speaking at various stops around campus and give tandem tours with other tour guides, the new guides give an evaluation tour, when they give Squire a one-on-one tour of the campus.

“It’s ripping off that bandaid to make sure that they are comfortable sharing that material,” Squire said. “We don’t have a script here. We have bullet points of things we would like them to talk about and ways we would like them to frame it to make it more organized, but students share their experiences.”

Squire said that while Brandeis is unique among other colleges for not giving the guides scripts, the guides learn material so they are able to answer any questions that prospective students may have. New tour guides are also prepared for common difficult questions that students and families may ask.

“I was a tour guide for four years in college, so I just took every difficult question I got and tried to train students ahead of time on how to answer them honestly, but to have a positive spin because we always want to leave the school in a good light so students feel comfortable here. But be honest. Greek life? Yes we have it, but is it going to dominate your social life? Not if you don’t let it. It’s not the thing that dominates student culture here,” Squire said.

While Levy chooses to talk about activities she does on campus instead of her participation in Greek life, she said that she will tell the families about it if they ask.

“It’s not your whole thing, it’s just this club that you do. I try to offer what I do on-campus and just say that there are other things to do. It really just depends on the person,” Levy said.

One of the more difficult questions students have asked Levy concerns social life on campus.

“I think a lot of my difficult questions are about the social life and what people do on the weekends. With partying, I like to frame it as, ‘it’s there if you want, but you don’t have to,’” Levy said.

A student at the end of Levy’s tour came up to ask her what she found was the biggest challenge of Brandeis. Levy responded that her least favorite thing about the school is the early closing time of dining halls, but emphasized that the student government is trying to fix the issue.

“That is my honest answer. I think in admissions I try to frame it more positively, and I don’t think that’s a lie at all, I think it is true that student government is trying to fight that. I do want to be honest and I think that’s the honest answer,” Levy said. “I think [the fact that] that’s my biggest complaint is good.”

Squire added that the problems Brandeis faces are problems that other universities face as well, and added that students can usually find one aspect of the school they don’t like.

“The end goal of our tours is not to convince students to come here, but to help students see if we are the best fit or aren’t, to help students through the process instead of selling them on something,” Squire said.

In regards to Brandeis’ firing of the head basketball coach for racist remarks, Squire said that tour guides are not given a script for what to say if parents ask about the investigation.

“The number one goal is for students to talk from experience, to share the information that they know,” Squire said. “We only know as much as is being reported, and it’s clear to us that it is being taken very seriously by the administration. I can only hope that the experience of the gentlemen on the team is not the experience of all of our students here, but I love our students so much in that they stand up and speak out and are not afraid to speak their minds. If any place is going to have significant change, it will be Brandeis.”

Squire came to Brandeis after working in the admissions of University of Massachusetts Amherst, her alma mater. When she was looking for a job in the Boston area, she was drawn to the values and history of Brandeis.

“I can’t represent a school if I don’t love it. I hate when my words feel hollow and they don’t mean anything. When I came to Brandeis and I was looking into the school and their history, I felt like I really connected here,” Squire said. “There’s just such a genuine nature to the students and an authenticity… I love being a part of that community.”

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