Campus Sherpa is a network that matches current college students with prospective ones for independent tours.
In today’s sharing economy, a few taps on a smart phone can connect you with someone able to handle just about any task, from valet service to picking up dry cleaning.
Now prospective college students can set up campus tours the same way, through an online service that allows them to hire a current student to show them around.
Started last fall by two 19-year-old students at Georgetown University, Campus Sherpa is like an airBNB for college tours. Alex Mitchell said he and co-founder David Patou came up with the idea after realizing that campus tours don’t always give students all the information they need. And at a time when high school students apply to a dozen colleges or more, Mitchell and Patou wanted to help them make the most of campus visits by offering a more personalized experience.
How it works: Prospective students request a tour at one of the 60 schools where Campus Sherpa operates, including the University of Washington. (The list is growing all the time.) The request form includes fields for students to list their academic and extra-curricular interests and they are matched with one of the company’s 1,000 guides, who are vetted ahead of time and earn $15 an hour.
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The cost for the service ranges from $60 for a short, 45-minute walking tour to $275 for a full “day-in-the-life” experience.
Campus Sherpa’s founders say they think they were the first to offer this kind of a service, though they now have at least one competitor. Most colleges and universities also offer their own campus tours for free, but Mitchell and Patou say the value of an independent guide is his or her ability to take general information about the school — available majors, financial aid details, graduation rates — and apply it to an individual student’s background and interests.
Students who go on Campus Sherpa tours are also invited to follow up with their guides after the tour to ask additional questions.
Do the guides offer a more candid version of the traditional campus tour? Maybe, but as Mitchell and Patou point out, most students who sign up to give campus tours — whether through the university or for Campus Sherpa — tend to like their schools. Campus Sherpa doesn’t tell its guides what to say, but the guides are required to submit an itinerary to the prospective client ahead of time, which is approved before any money is exchanged.
At UW, where Campus Sherpa is recruiting guides for the fall, more than 37,000 people go on official campus tours each year. Joyce Palmer, assistant director of admissions, said the university does some personalized outreach to prospective students through social media but individualized tours aren’t on its agenda anytime soon.
“We don’t have that capacity right now,” she said. “Services like Campus Sherpa are meeting a need.”
What do you think is the most important information that can be gleaned from a campus tour? Would you pay for a more personalized experience? Join the conversation on our Facebook group for parents of college students.