It never seems to occur to prospies how much students pay attention to them. Surprise! We are a lot more curious and fascinated by you than we like to let on. My automatic response to being asked to write about my relationship with prospective students was to dig around my various fetid stacks of random information and give you a nice, steaming pile of overly factual/historical anecdotes. Statistics can be boring, but it’s just my natural Grinnellian desire to impress prospies with whatever I have to offer. Oddly enough, though, my job as a tour guide has often been a nice antidote to my affinity for facts and figures.
After hearing myself talk all day in lists and factual accounts (although I admit I still remain impressed with each item), I always relish the opportunity to be casual and personal. There’s usually one “leader” in each tour group, whether it’s a parent or the prospective student, and occasionally there will be a friend or younger sibling who gets excited about Dag, the foam sword fighting group, or the Grinnell Carnivore Society.
Most often the parent takes on the leadership role, leaving their child, the prospective student, mortally embarrassed. These are the sort of parents who get intensely excited about the giant “jungle gym” carpeted playhouse-style study rooms in the library (like my mom did when I prospied), or by the wide range of quality or bizarre extracurricular activities.
I spend an hour and a half with each family (occasionally longer if I get a theatre person and spend too long trying to get him or her into backstage areas). I’ve managed to enjoy each of these outings thus far, though I must admit that the enthusa-moms or enthusa-dads stand out. I tend to be an enthusiastic person, particularly when it comes to my college, and if you’ve had a tour with me you probably know how I can get even more bubbly at parental units who are equally entertained by the various anecdotes that seep out during those 90 minutes.
One of my other favorite things about being a tour guide—besides the captivated parents, the opportunity to learn more about our incoming classes, the cool people I work with, and feeling like hot stuff for getting lots of special keys for opening locked rooms—is the constant reminder of my own prospie days and how it puts my current student status into perspective.
I remember my first visit to Grinnell when my dad and I went to a free dance performance that made me realize that interpretive dance is not for the weak of heart (I had had a negative perception of it until I was completely blown away by this performance).
I remember being let up to the suspension grid in Bucksbaum and bouncing on wire mesh 30 feet above the black box theatre floor and daydreaming about all the clubs, sports, and activities I could participate in if I ended up at this place.
I also remember thinking my tour guide was one of the most amazing individuals I’d ever encountered. After all, my guide was in a place where he could not only join student government, religious groups, or sports teams, but also start a crochet/knitting club or whatever else struck his fancy.
Now I’m here. I teach tango (and have even gotten funding from the school to do so). I weld and took up harp. I’m involved in multicultural groups, student publications, and several (mostly theatrical) productions per semester. I have strong connections and friendships with several faculty and staff members, I hold various campus jobs, I’ve built houses in New Orleans with classmates, and I’ve joined in on the midnight Nerf wars in the science building.
I realize that I may have just made myself sound like the most pretentious liberal arts student out there, but the best part is that here, this sort of campus involvement is not considered impressive, but the norm. That’s the one big thing I try to show to my prospies on each tour: the diversity of opportunity.
Whatever level of participation you desire—from only being on the e-mail list, to filling an initiator or leadership role—Grinnell has it. And no matter your interest, whether it is athletic or academic, culinary or cultural—I’ve found that it’s possible to achieve it here. And at the risk of sounding cheesier (yep, it’s possible—sorry), the best part about the wealth of participation opportunities Grinnell offers is the strong community it creates. But regardless of my cheesiness, if you’ve had a tour with me or if you will later on, I hope I succeed(ed) in showing you our tight-knit community, at least on some level. Best of luck with the college decision!
Cait Scherr '09 is a Sociology major from Portland, Oregon.