A new company has infiltrated the college tourism scene. Campus Sherpas boasts offering customized tours from “real college students” (as opposed to other schools, who hire actors), so that prospective high schoolers can experience what a campus would “really” be like for someone like them. While I am hesitant to write an editorial about this company, which may or may not be present at UR, I find it hard not to speak up, being one of those non-Sherpa, fake tour guides myself.

Campus Sherpas is a student-run tour guide service, started by two Georgetown University students in 2014. I think the goal of Campus Sherpas is a good one. Offering the chance to shadow students who have similar interests and who can point out specific places is a great idea.

And it’s exactly what UR, and I’m sure other schools, do, too. For free.

Campus Sherpas charge $60 for a 45-minute tour, and a whopping $275 for a five-hour long shadowing experience. Not exactly your “typical” student experience, if you ask me. I don’t know of any of my peers dropping $275 to follow someone around, not even for a full day, with whom they happen to have a few things in common.

So my question, then, is what exactly is the point? I can’t speak for other universities’ admissions, but UR organizes overnight stays for high schoolers, which obviously last more than five hours, and serve the same function.

An article from USA Today, coincidentally also written by a Georgetown student, begins, “When you took those generic college tours across countless campuses, did you ever wonder: What are these places really like?”

This suggests right off the bat that something about each campus has an edge, an unattractive underbelly that “generic” tours don’t reveal. Which every school most certainly does—but isn’t the point of any tour to make students want to go there, or if there are setbacks to the campus, give a realistic but positive representation of those setbacks?

Does this mean that my Sherpa at UR would take me to Gale and say, “Yeah, there was actually terrible flooding here. Housing wouldn’t even reimburse people,” or walk by admissions and complain about financial aid? If that’s the case, I would hope every tour I went on would point out as many stains, because they most definitely exist.

Lastly, no one can ever give a tour that shows what it would be like to really go somewhere. I could get matched with a Sherpa exactly like me—English and Anthropology double major, involved in the school paper, doesn’t like going to parties—and that person could have an entirely different experience than the one I’ve had at UR. Campus Sherpas has not found a solution to the simple fact that everyone perceives everything differently—that’s just existence.  

The point of any college tour is to match yourself with someone who can gear a tour towards what clubs you maybe want to join and what you maybe want to major in. Then you can go on overnight visits and spend a “day in the life,” if need be. And, if the person doesn’t have exactly everything in common with you, or if they present the school in a way you can’t relate to, maybe that’s for the best—such painstaking specificity is certainly not what college is “really” like. And you certainly shouldn’t have to pay 275 bucks to figure that out.

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