Walking Backwards: Chapman’s Tours in Retrospect

A campus tour that took place on Admitted Students Day 2022. Photo courtesy of Chapman’s strategic marketing and communication team.

Josh Taylor toured Chapman’s campus not once, not twice, but three times before committing. After hearing about the Chapman Experience from three different tour guides, Taylor has become a tour guide himself in 2021. 

But the vision of Chapman that he sells on his tours are not exactly the same as the vision of Chapman he saw on the flip side of the tour, as a high schooler.

“That third time, I really wanted to get a feel for the campus, which was really important. And I kind of felt that sense of community that Chapman advocates and promotes, that whole notion of the Chapman family,” Taylor said. 

Josh Taylor gives a tour to prospective students on Thursday, April 28, 2022. Photo by Pearson.

Tour guides at Chapman have been programmed to sell a shiny, picturesque version of campus – made easy by the tidy package of gleaming brick buildings they can show prospective students. 

But when those high schoolers officially arrive on campus as Panthers, do they encounter a different version of the school than the one they imagined after their tour? 

“I can’t say that the tours are able to fit all that Chapman has to offer, what Chapman’s all about, in just 90 minutes,” Taylor said. “I think what we give students on tours and parents and families is what they want to hear and what they need to hear about our school.” 

Here’s a rundown of the campus strolls that convince many to press “apply.”

Every tour begins with an excited group of optimistic high schoolers congregating in the Visitor Center of Argyros Forum as they eagerly await a campus tour guide to make their appearance. 

Queue Ashley Parke: an upbeat junior repping her pink Pi Phi shirt who welcomes the tour group to Chapman and announces that the campus tour is about to begin.

The Pankey Visitor Center in Argyros Forum is where all of the campus tours start and end. Photo by Pearson.

The tour covers some of the more general information regarding campus life, including eateries on campus, average class size, annual events, dorm life, clubs and organizations, and what makes Chapman stand out from other schools. The tour stops by only a few select buildings on campus, and actually enters even fewer.

Making an hour and half tour engaging and factual, but still entertaining is the struggle that all tour guides attempt to master.

“I love making my tour joke heavy and turning it into like a mini stand up routine,” Taylor said. 

The tours do their best to hype up aspects of Chapman’s campus, often giving personal anecdotes when they can deviate from their required talking points.

“We have Qdoba, it’s basically like Chipotle, but there is free guac, so it’s better,” Parke said.

Taylor shared one of his favorite punch lines, “What we say is we take an eHarmony style questionnaire that pairs you with your freshman year roommate to ask you questions like, how do you like to stay up at night? And what kind of music do you like listening to? And how often do you shower or do you shower? And that is exactly when I pause and they have a little chuckle.”

But underneath the jokes, ever so often a fact about Chapman is misreported. 

While the tour guides do their best to share the most accurate information during their tours, thanks to a training program involving mandatory tests and quizzes that Meagan Specht, Tour and Event Manager, called “rigorous,” small slip ups here and there are inevitable. 

 “On the top floor we used to have our student lead newspaper, they actually just moved. But they are nationally ranked, it’s called The Panther,”  Parke said, while passing by Roosevelt Hall on her April 12 tour. 

Josh Taylor provides a prospective student with Chapman Tour handouts after his tour. Photo by Pearson.

The Panther newspaper meets in the Sandhu Conference Center – not Roosevelt. 

Moreover, tour guides often have a difficult time tackling diversity, trying to be honest about Chapman’s demographics while conveying their own personal experience on campus.

“Sometimes I’ll go into that and I’ll be like, look, some people don’t think the school is that diverse,” Taylor said. “But when I came here, it was like, this is the most diverse place I’ve been to. Because I grew up in even a smaller bubble than what Orange County is.”

Specht said tour guides are trained to simply be honest.

“We honestly, at the end of the day, encourage our students to speak from their own experiences when it comes to those things, especially when there’s questions around the diversity at Chapman, or sometimes bigger public issues that come up about Chapman,” Specht said. 

While the tours do their best to give an accurate representation of the school to all the diverse students who end up calling Chapman home, one tour isn’t going to prepare everyone the same.

“I don’t think a brief tour can encapsulate anything more than the physical landmarks of a school. You aren’t going to get the full impression of either campus life, or college life from one tour,” Sam Batt said. 

Batt, a junior, went on a campus tour his senior year of high school. 

“I wouldn’t say they are massively beneficial other than to promote some of the school’s interests,” he said. 

Students who are unable to attend in-person tours due to a lack of availability have the opportunity to participate in self guided tours. Photo by Pearson.

Batt has noticed some major differences between the vision he had of Chapman as a prospective student and his current experiences. Batt believes that after being admitted to school here, he found that the tours only gave a depiction of the physical campus and not the true student environment.

“I do not think that they (the tours) are an accurate representation of campus life, nor do I think they are intended to be,” Batt said.

Josh Taylor was also surprised in a sense when he got to Chapman after his three visits prior to committing, but felt that the tours still prepared him for college life. 

While the Chapman campus tour service does their best to paint the picture of what life at Chapman could be for a prospective student, some variables that make student life different for each individual are unpredictable and can’t always be accounted for. But the tour guides do their best to encapsulate their experiences and promote Chapman’s mission with accuracy.

“There’s really not a foolproof way that we’ve figured out, like, knowing all the information about everything Chapman all the time,” Specht said. “If someone figures that out, I would love to know the secret.”

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Daniel Pearson is a junior at Chapman University studying Communications and Visual Journalism. He hopes to one day become a photo journalist. In his spare time you can find Daniel reading, hiking, or harassing his friends.