Prospective college students can now personalize one-on-one campus tours with Campus Sherpa, a for-profit tour guide company founded and run by Alex Mitchell (COL ’18) and David Patou (COL ’18). The company, which has tour guides at 60 colleges around the country, aims to attract students by allowing them to pick a tour guide based on mutual interests.
Mitchell and Patou founded the company as freshmen in fall 2014. The pair, who had recently toured multiple schools in their college searches, found that individual, personalized tours from friends were often more helpful than large, group-based tours. They first opened shop at Georgetown, hiring student tour guides to meet with prospective students for one to five hours.
Today, the still-expanding company has approximately 400 Sherpas at more than 60 universities across the country, including Harvard University, Yale University, Stanford University and Northwestern University. Mitchell and Patou describe it as “an ever-growing database” because tour guides are paid on a per-tour basis, which means that the company can hire as many students as it desires. Tours cost $60 for a 45-minute tour, $115 for a two-hour tour and $275 for a five-hour tour.
“The idea is that the more people we have in our Sherpa database, the closer the match with the high school student and the better the tour experience,” Mitchell said.
Students who want to work as tour guides for Campus Sherpa must submit a general application. In the application, each student is prompted to describe their academic and extracurricular interests that may help them match with tour-goers.
“Not all college students are qualified to stand in front of a group of thirty people and talk about the history of the school, but a lot more people are qualified to talk about what they are passionate about,” Patou said.
If the application is accepted, candidates schedule a one-on-one interview with a member of the Campus Sherpa team, which ensures that the applicant is passionate, enthusiastic and personable. Patou identified this stage of the application as the most important.
“In truth, our whole company is based on quality,” Patou said. “It’s really important that we maintain the highest level of quality because we don’t have a business without it.”
Once Sherpas give their first tours, they are entered into the company’s rating system and any tour guide who gets below four out of five stars is automatically removed as a guide.
Mitchell and Patou said that Sherpa tours are designed to supplement, not replace, official university tours. For that reason, Sherpas do not receive any official training, instead going through a rigorous vetting process during applications, according to Mitchell.
“We’re not looking to step on anyone’s toes,” Mitchell said. “If someone goes on a Sherpa tour expecting to get the kind of information that they would get in a Blue & Gray tour, they will be very disappointed and very confused.”
Blue & Gray Tour Guide Society, which is run through the Admissions Office, is Georgetown’s official tour guide organization. Student volunteers lead tours of around 20 people and are extensively trained by the Admissions Office, veteran mentors, Training Coordinator Gregory Jarvis (NHS ’17) and NewGuides Coordinator Séamus Guerin (COL ’16).
Blue & Gray President Jack Moore (SFS ’16) said the organization seeks to engage the entire spectrum of diversity represented by prospective students.
“Our role on campus is two-fold: to provide quality volunteer tours to prospective students of all backgrounds, and to engage the Georgetown community in order to best represent all aspects of Georgetown,” Moore wrote in an email to The Hoya.
Campus Sherpa is not affiliated with Georgetown’s Admissions Office, and Moore said Blue & Gray volunteers are prohibited from working at any for-profit tour companies.
“In accordance with Blue & Gray’s volunteer status, we respectfully ask that our guides refrain from using their training and expertise for profit,” Moore wrote.
However, Patou said that, in the end, both organizations share a common desire to educate students about Georgetown.
“Blue & Gray will tell you what Georgetown is like,” Patou said. “Campus Sherpa will show you what it feels like.”
The latest project in the works for Campus Sherpa is the Sherpa Scholarship Program, which will give subsidized or free tours to students from low-income families.
“We know that the cost of tours can be prohibitive for some people” Patou said.
Mitchell also said that the company remains focused on expanding its presence and improving its offerings.
“We want to continue to grow Campus Sherpa,” Mitchell said. “Because the best information about the college process comes from those who already went through it.”
Have a reaction to this article? Write a letter to the editor.