Clarification (10/28/19): In addition to campus tours, specific interests sessions are offered by different colleges and programs on campus, many of which feature building tours.
Think back to your first time on the UT campus. You were probably a junior or senior in high school, eagerly looking forward to your independent future in a brand new place. Many students visiting UT for the first time take campus tours, whether it be during orientation or beforehand. However, these tours only provide an introduction to campus, leaving out buildings essential to a variety of majors.
UT should make tours even more useful for incoming students by organizing tour groups according to major or academic interests.
Orientation advisors give tours for admitted students during orientation, and tours geared towards prospective students are led by the Guides of Texas through the Office of Admissions. Both prospective and admitted students would benefit from a customized tour experience. However, with the current structure for tour guides, factors such as time and scheduling keep them from personalizing their tours.
“Our students have to stick to the points they’re supposed to hit on their tour. Everything on our schedule is timed, with an hour to hit seven or eight stations,” said Desiree Alva, associate director for New Student Services. “Each tour guide leaves and starts at a different station so they don’t run into each other. So, the OA’s can’t make up anything too elaborate.”
The tours these students take, whether at orientation or beforehand, are generally their first experience learning about the UT campus. If students had the opportunity to familiarize themselves with major-specific buildings, they would feel more comfortable when starting classes.
“In my (tour) group, like four were prospective communications majors, and two or three were engineering majors. I thought it was weird because we didn’t go to any of the communications or engineering buildings, even though those are huge programs here,” said Sydney White, a political communications and history sophomore.
It’s important that incoming students are able to see the buildings where they will have many of their classes to help them feel more confident once they arrive at UT.
“I would have felt a little bit more comfortable at orientation because you’re on your own a little bit. I was not comfortable at all finding Belo. I had Google Maps out the whole time,” White said.
Student comfort is not the only factor — specialized tours could help students who are unsure about their major gain insight about the atmosphere surrounding their field of study.
White experienced this feeling after her tour as a prospective student.
“Our guide was able to tell us a lot about communications because she was either a (communication) major or one of her close friends was,” White. “She told us a lot as we went from place to place, and that’s great, but it would have been nice to see it because I was still unsure about whether or not I wanted to do communications.”
In order to maximize the utility of tours, the University should consider arranging groups based on major and assigning them to a specialized tour based on their interests. Additionally, they could reduce the number of required stops to allow student guides more freedom to show students other buildings on campus.
“Absolutely it could be helpful to have common interests on tours, but at the same time, we want to make sure they’re seeing this shared Longhorn experience,” said Alex Mitchell, deputy to the executive director of the Office of Admissions.
The Longhorn experience would still be maintained if tour guides were permitted to give students more specialized tours. Tours can still visit prominent locations, such as the Tower and the Perry-Castañeda Library, without sacrificing the interests of individual students.
It’s scary being a new student, and while UT offers great resources to ease the transition, we should constantly be adapting to improve the new-student experience. As a first impression of UT, tours should serve students the same way education does — as individuals.
Lazaroski is an international relations and global studies sophomore from Dallas.