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Penn's Kite and Key Society, responsible for giving tours to visitors on campus, are changing the format of their tours to include more personal anecdotes and stories from their tour guides.

Credit: Michael Warren

Students vying for admission to Penn will be able to participate in a rebranded tour, that began this semester, which focuses on student experiences rather than traditional facts and figures.

The new admissions tour, created by the Admissions Office and the student group Kite and Key, shifts away from the traditional formula that has been instituted for several years. Student tour guides will now focus on personal anecdotes and stories, Kite and Key president and College sophomore Julia Klayman said.

Tour guides, for example, explain to prospective students that while Penn is split up into four undergraduate schools, students can still take classes and interact with students from other schools. With the new tour format, Klayman, a former beat reporter for The Daily Pennsylvanian, said guides now have more flexibility in choosing how to explain this to prospective students.

“I also think visitors seem more engaged because they have questions about your stories," Klayman said. "They don’t really have anything to ask if you tell them the student to faculty ratio is 6 to 1.” 

Former president of Kite and Key and Engineering senior Julia DiSalvio said the student group had considerable autonomy while forming the new tour, which they started planning in August 2018. The group designed an interactive training workbook for guides to fill in with personal anecdotes about different elements of life at Penn.

The tour will also include a longer path, which now includes 10 stops instead of six, based on recommendations about what visitors wanted. The path now includes stops at Shoemaker Green and Perry World House. 

Klayman said the new tour format is more enjoyable for Kite and Key tour guides because of its personalized nature. 

“I would tell stories about how my roommate, who was an engineer, who would show me her projects from her engineering class of her coding her computer to be a piano, and then I’d show her my art projects and how we’d kind of like critique each other’s work," Klayman said.

Credit: Michael Warren

One of the new changes to the tours includes a longer path with eleven stops instead of six.

Lindsay Dussing, director of On Campus Programs, and Joshua Chilcote, associate director of admissions for student volunteers, worked directly with student tour guides on the updated tour format.

"Though parents and students sometimes ask about high-level statistics — such as the student to faculty ratio — we realized what they’re really asking is what this means for students: in this case, if a student will feel challenged and supported in a classroom," Chilcote wrote in an email to the DP. 

"A current student’s anecdote is a much more vivid way to explain that than telling our guides to remember statistics that most Penn students don’t think about in their daily life," he added.

In addition to its 2018 website redesign, Penn Admissions recently adjusted the information session for visitors. These adjustments include a new presentation that details the path of several recent Penn graduates and tips for filling out the Common Application. Before this update, the information session was straightforward and informational.

"Realistically, if you were super interested in Penn and you just looked it up online, you could find all the information," Klayman said about the old information sessions.

DiSalvio said the presentations also used to be "inconsistent from [Admissions] officer to officer." 

"After our office’s brand revitalization updated the admissions website experience and our information session format, the tour was the next logical step," Chilcote wrote.

Credit: Michael Warren

The information session for visitors will include a new presentation that details the path of several recent Penn graduates and tips for filling out the Common Application. 

DiSalvio added that the club worked closely with Penn Admissions to determine what information from the old tour they would keep in their new tour.

"Obviously there’s baseline factual information you can’t just not talk about," DiSalvio said.

DiSalvio said this information includes the Second Year Experience Program — a University initiative that expands programming for sophomores and requires second-year students to stay in a two-year College House system. The tour also highlights academic requirements across the four undergraduate schools and the physical presence of Penn's police force.

“When visitors are coming, they’re really investing a lot of time and effort to get here and to hear what we have to say, so to just be telling them things that they could read about online is not really a valuable use of their time," she added.

Chilcote said the revamped tour is likely to remain for several years.

"Many shared Google Docs and lots of creativity from our student volunteers later, they’ve created something that we believe will carry on for years to come," he said. 

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