Tour Guides Interpret Marketing

The prospect of four years of sunshine encouraged Gillian Burke, a high school junior from Greenwich, Conn., to tour Pomona College.

“Being in California is awesome, for starters,” Burke said.

Megan Kristof, a prospective student from Darien, Conn., agreed. 

“The California atmosphere drove me out to coming,”she said, citing the weather as a particularly compelling lure.

Prospective students touring the 5Cs often say they are considering the schools because they mix top-notch academics with an unbeatable location in sunny Southern California, along with the unique consortium experience. A tour of any of the Claremont Colleges will reveal several of the same key points of the 5Cs, including small class sizes, the 2,500 courses offered each year across the colleges, availability of professors, the seven dining halls, Honnold/Mudd Library’s endless resources, and more.

Despite this wealth of opportunities presented on tours, some of the schools are considering rebranding their images, specifically Pomona and Harvey Mudd College, in order to change perceptions of the schools. Pomona recently hired Neustadt Creative Marketing to review the image the college presents to prospective students. One of the group’s recommendations was to focus on the school’s academic rigor rather than its California location and laid-back attitude.

Current tour guides at Pomona, however, believe that they already emphasize the academics and research opportunities at Pomona. The standard tour mentions undergraduate research opportunities, the Writing Center, the Quantitative Skills Center, and close interaction between faculty and students, while the standard information session emphasizes the value of a liberal arts education and the noncompetitive atmosphere.

Ben Hackenberger PO ’15, currently a tour guide, said that he did not change his tour in reaction to Neustadt’s findings. Hackenberger said he felt he already highlighted the academics and did not mention Pomona’s strictly for fun amenities, like Ski-Beach Day.

Other tour guides were more upset. Anita Chiang PO ’15 said that she was displeased with the rebranding effort. She said that she now focuses more on academics and talks less about the luxuries.

“I just think that many people choose Pomona because we are portrayed as a laid-back school and different from other schools,” Chiang said.

Scripps College is also implementing changes in their tour guide program in order to alter their image. The school plans to start a new tour guide program for the upcoming year in order to provide a more cohesive image to prospective students. In the past, Scripps tour guides have been volunteers for the Admission Ambassador Team (AAT) who are allowed to lead their own tours after shadowing tours for a semester once a week. This year there were about 75 student volunteers working with AAT. Under the new program, there will be 15 paid Scripps tour guides who undergo a rigorous application and training process.

Tour guide Jenny Smith SC ’16 said she focuses on building a strong community of empowered women while giving campus tours.

“[On tours] I emphasize the wide variety of women that study at Scripps. The diverse aspirations and the diverse backgrounds of individuals in one cohesive student body is what makes Scripps unique,” Smith said. 

Claremont McKenna College tour guide Annika Jessen CM ’14 seeks the opposite approach to Pomona’s suggested rebranding, emphasizing the school’s prime California location as one of the main selling points of the school. During her tour, she mentioned several times that CMC aims to “embrace” its location, citing the Kravis Center’s new open-air design as an example. However, she also spoke several times about the school’s dedication to fostering a job-oriented atmosphere, whether it be networking with alumni at Pirate Party or sitting down for dinner with that night’s presenter at the Athenaeum, emphasizing real-world opportunity within the California college environment.

At HMC, tour guide Risa Egerter HM ’15 seeks a balanced approach to displaying the school, highlighting the balance of social life and academics.

“I can have fun and do homework at the same time!” Egerter said on the tour.

In training, she was told to make sure to mention HMC’s honor code and open door policy and to avoid giving prospective students false hope about getting in. At HMC, the prospective students seemed mainly motivated by the academics and the research opportunities.

Alex Avery, a junior from Oregon, came out to California to visit HMC and the California Institute of Technology. HMC interested him for academic reasons.

“I heard it was a really good engineering school,” he said.

On tours of Pitzer College, Sophie Beiers PZ ’13 emphasizes the quirkiness of the passionate student body as uniquely Pitzer.

“One of the greatest things about Pitzer is our student engagement. Students here are very passionate about something, whatever it is,” Beiers said.

Though each school focuses on qualities that differentiate it from the other 5Cs, most 5C tour guides are actively discouraged from delving much into stereotypes about the Claremont Colleges.

“We are told not to play up any 5C stereotypes. If they ask, I generally give them an idea of when each college was founded and why the stereotypes exist, rather than what they are,” Beiers said.

Jared Kalow contributed reporting.

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