Most people look back on their college tour experience with a grain of salt. They remember cafeteria’s, the nice-looking people, the quads and dorm rooms. They also remember the early mornings, the miserable heat or cold, and the shall we say ‘socially awkward’ tour guides. When looking for something to say to the talkative freshman next to you on an Ag Hill bus, with a dead phone and broken earbuds, bring up college tours. You’ll soon be swapping horror stories at a rapid pace before finally settling on gratitude that you were able to find your way around UGA after a grossly incompetent college tour.

It’s always important to remember that a university is a business. There is no benevolent place where people are searching out higher learning simply for the sheer fun of it. Most of you understand this when taking into account the massive debts weighing on you and your parent’s backs. Student loans are a way of life for the average American undergrad, and without HOPE many of us would be buried under the ever-mounting costs of living and learning.

Whenever I return home I am struck by the desperation and uncertainty in my sister’s face as she applies to colleges. It is odd that in this strange economic imbalance, my sister is begging a college to take her when in turn the college is trying to attract people to spend their hard earned money. It is as if every time you visited McDonald’s you had to woo the cashier in order to get your chicken nuggets. Odd and rare from an economic standpoint, but then again a college is generally judged on the intelligence of its students, and so they wish to garner as many applicants as possible in order to pick from the top. Thus, when you visit a college on a tour, you should expect well-trained, intelligent men and women working as your tour guide with matching polos and vibrant smiles.

Wrong. Very wrong. For those of us who visited the schools we were considering attending for the next four years and investing our beach house down payment in, you would expect the very best representation of that university. Maybe it was that I experienced the C team at every university I visited, or perhaps it was that every tour guide was having a very off-putting day; but you would think that at these schools of higher learning,  advertising a plethora of majors practically bursting from the seam, they could research what would or would not come off as selling points.

At some colleges I learned about their math and science programs, their creative new majors and the innovative research opportunities that abounded. And at others bat houses, owleries, the biggest magnet on the East Coast and a tree planted by Civil War heroes. These were just a few of the selling points that were supposed to draw in their best freshman class yet. Colleges boasting a circus program or being the champion of the College Quiddich Cup were incredibly odd, but it was the delivery truly threw me off.

These were rehearsed facts, delivered with pride and assurance by each school-color clad senior. These were things the colleges wanted me to know. They decided to take time that could have been spent enticing me to try study-abroad programs or investigate classrooms, and instead told me about their daring new virtual reality chamber or lemur enclosure. Yes, these facts were interesting, but they weren’t going to sway me to devote four years and monstrous amounts of money all for a strange landmark or famous alumni. This was a decision for myself and my education.

The experience that struck me most however, was at one North Carolina college in the stunning city of Chapel Hill. It was to my utter shock and discomfort when the tour guide led us into a room to watch a Youtube video that had little to do with the college itself, who sneered at Greek life, stopped the tour to talk with his friends and spent the rest of the tour making myself and other girls uncomfortable with their aggressive flirting. By the time the 20 minute tour wrapped up, he became bored, dropped us in front of a statue, instructed us to read the plaque and left.

Are colleges so out of touch that they do not know how to sell themselves? If they are going to charge me like this is a business, then I expect it to be run like one. I for one am extremely proud to be a bulldog and am happy I ended up here, but stories like mine are repeated with almost everyone with whom I discuss college tours. It begs the question of how careful our own college is in selecting and training its tour guides. Do they give them a list of oddities to spew at uncomfortable times, train them to respond to questions with an uncomfortable laugh or slander their own college--an experience I had at another North Carolina university.

I can only hope that our school is utilizing its bright minds to try and build our college an excellent future, instead of allowing our college to be represented by the socially inept or downright rude.

Shelby Masters is a sophomore from Johns Creek majoring in pre-journalism

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