Lisk: Confessions of a former tour guide


We all remember the first day we walked onto Simpson’s campus.

If Admissions did their job right, it was probably in the fall, when all of the leaves were changing into the lovely bronze color Simpson uses in all of its brochures, or in the spring, when flower beds surrounded the campus. If it wasn’t, your student ambassador probably pointed out the dreary weather and made sure to address how beautiful Simpson is during other seasons.

Regardless, many of us will always share several memories from our first Simpson tour. Most students will never forget their initial reaction to the fishpond in Dunn Library. Generally, there are two responses. One, you loved it and it swayed you into coming to Simpson College. Or two, you reacted like I did and thought, “What the hell is this retro-70s-looking fish pond doing in the middle of the library and, more importantly, why does Simpson feed their fish Cheerios?”

Most students are equally floored with the freshman dorms, or as Admissions calls them, “The First Year residence halls.” Naturally, we all toured through the new wing of Barker and then heard our student ambassador say that all the rooms “are about the same size with the same furniture regardless of where your dorm room is.” Many of us would move into a dorm room six or eight months later that looked little to nothing like those glorious, spacious rooms we once hoped we’d live in.

At this point on the tour, many parents and prospective students ask what there is to do on the weekends and whether or not students stick around. The ambassador will most likely give their “CAB pitch,” explaining $3 movies, Creative U and so on.

Ideally, those listening forget about the “how many students go home on the weekends?” question. As any “out-of-stater” would know, the honest answer would be that first semester freshman year is a little lonely for those of us who stuck it out at SimpCo. The Admissions answer would fast forward a few semesters.

Next, there’s the initial walk past Pfeiffer Dining Hall. As soon as parents hear you say “dining hall,” they start firing questions. “How’s the food? What are the options? Will my kid really gain fifteen pounds?” At this point, the ambassador has two choices. They could be completely honest about the stomach ache and gas you still have from breakfast, or, the second, which many of us go with: “There are a lot of choices.”A subject change is needed as soon as possible.

Then comes the party question. This one is tricky because if you have both prospective students and parents on the same tour, they are often hoping for opposite answers. Most ambassadors casually say, “Well, just like any college, there will be drinking and parties. However, avoiding it is easy with the abundance of activities we offer.” This pleases both parties and offers a fairly accurate answer.

And the well-planned, strategic answers continue.

However, it’s only fair to point out that underneath these exaggerations and sugar-coated responses does lie some integrity. I worked in Admissions for three years because I enjoyed meeting students who were interested in Simpson and enjoyed showing them around campus. And regardless of any false statements we all heard from our ambassador one autumn day, we’re still here.

Let the Simpson tradition continue.