During one tour Sarah Morgenstern ’05 led, the Pundits appeared — naked — and starting rolling around on the Women’s Table while she was talking about it. On another, senior citizens on her tour asked her about the students smoking a hookah on Old Campus.
This weekend, current Yale tour guides will choose 15 underclassmen who can cope with the unexpected and sell Yale with their enthusiasm. From a total pool of 100 applicants, 30 were given the chance to conduct audition tours, said Justin Cohen ’04, who was head tour guide this year with Stephen Haskell ’04. Last year, about 140 people applied for 10 spots.
Once the 15 are selected, they will get a weekly tour and sign up for about six office hours a week at either the Visitor’s Center or the undergraduate admissions office. Tour guides also volunteer for special tours, which run approximately 10 to 50 times a month for larger groups who call in advance.
Sharon Goott ’06, whose audition tour is today, said friends from other schools were surprised to hear how many applicants Yale has for the positions. She said she has found the process to be fun, despite the competition.
“I’ve enjoyed meeting with the people who interviewed me [and] meeting the other freshmen,” she said. “I really want to have the chance to tell people specific things about Yale that they might not find out from reading a brochure.”
Haley Edwards ’05, who will be the head tour guide for the admissions office next year, said the guides look for applicants who are enthusiastic, personable and committed.
“One of the criteria is, ‘Would your grandmother like them? Would a hockey recruit want to come to Yale after meeting them?'” she said.
Tour guides make an effort to be as objective as possible in their choices, Cohen said. They are not permitted to interview candidates they know, multiple people observe the audition tour, and only those who interviewed or observed the applicants are allowed to speak during the deliberation process. In the past, the process was “much more nepotistic,” he said.
The enthusiasm does not stop after students get the job. “Love” was the most common verb tour guides used to describe their job. Evan LePatner ’03 praised tour guiding for the camaraderie, while Taimur Hassan ’04 said he enjoys being approached by freshman at fraternity parties who went on one of his tours as high school students.
Morgenstern said she finds the variety of people — and the stories they tell — fascinating. She recently gave tours to a group of management leaders from Brazil and a student group from Beijing that was visiting the School of Music.
Sehar Tariq ’05, next year’s head tour guide for the Visitor’s Center, said the job is so fun that she would do it even if she were not paid.
“You get paid for it, which is crazy — a lot of [applicants] don’t know what they’re supposed to get paid for being a tour guide,” she said.
Tour guides said they especially enjoy telling stories about Yale.
“All of us love Yale above all else, and all you have to do is talk to groups of people about that, tell people stories about buildings, half of which are made up or folklore,” Edwards said.
Morgenstern said Visitor’s Center tour guides are now working on a special tour that will go beyond anecdotes and delve more into Yale’s architecture.
The most difficult part of tour guiding is scheduling, Cohen said.
“Sometimes there’s not a guide until 10 minutes before the tour,” he said. “Somehow there’s divine intervention and every tour goes out.”