The tour guide program at Vermont Academy is an integral and critical part of our admissions process. Currently, 40 of VA’s 216 students are tour guides. Their backgrounds and interests vary, but all share one thing in common: their love for VA.
Students who are interested in showing off their school can choose to become a tour guide, among the many activities they can participate in at VA. Faculty members can also nominate students to be a tour guide. When nominated, Admissions team members will contact the student to see if this is something they want to pursue. One might think that to become a tour guide, an outgoing, extroverted personality is a prerequisite. On the contrary, some of our shy and quiet students transform into confident and proud guides when showing prospective students and families around campus.
When Honora Walsh ’26 toured campus as a prospective student, it was then that she decided to become a tour guide herself. “I remember who my tour guides were and how enthusiastic and genuine they were about every aspect of VA. I wanted to be that for people, I wanted to be the face they remember when they think about their first time seeing the school.”
The process of becoming a tour guide starts with a student expressing their interest in the opportunity to either Senior Associate Director of Admissions Caitlin Wilkins or Assistant Director of Admissions Madison Paydos ’18. They are then matched with a current tour guide who is an Orange Key Society member who helps them through the training process.
The Orange Key Society (OKS), is the leadership group of our tour guides who have expanded responsibilities. It is made up of a select group of tour guides who in addition to their touring responsibilities also represent Vermont Academy in welcoming all campus visitors— prospective families, hosting our alumni, and welcoming honored guests. Outstanding citizenship, academic achievements, ability to consistently communicate professionally, and a willingness to lead and serve in extracurricular areas are the criteria for selection. Each spring, students can apply for this role. One prerequisite to be considered a member of OKS is proven service to the school as a tour guide. OKS currently consists of seven students, all of whom are highly trained tour guides and are responsible for training incoming tour guides.
Mathison Hole ’24 shares his experience in becoming a tour guide. “I expressed my interest, participated in tour guide training, and started shadowing tours. Then, I toured a prospective student with Ms. Paydos and was named an official tour guide after doing well on that tour.”
Tour guide training consists of informational panels in which Orange Key members and Ms. Paydos focus on the different elements that make up the VA experience. There are walkthroughs of campus and small group discussions on how to maintain conversations and be comfortable when moments of thoughtful silence occur. Upon completion of these sessions, they shadow a tour with an official tour guide. When they feel that they can lead tours themselves, they will set up a time with an Orange Key Member to do a “mock” tour with them to then get approved.
From an admissions perspective, having these tour guides is an asset to the entire process. “It is extremely beneficial to our team to have student tour guides because the best way to get to know Vermont Academy is through the eyes of our students,” says Madison. “Prospective students want to know what it means to be a Wildcat and the community they would be joining. Our current students can fully give that feeling of how special VA truly is.”
Students also value the experience of being a tour guide for many reasons. Chief among them for John Velto ’25 is the ability to meet new people; new potential members of the VA community. “I always love meeting and talking to new people and being a tour guide was a great way to do that. This is especially true at VA because I tour people from all over the world,” he shares. “I also get to make new friends. Currently, two of my closest friends at VA are people I gave tours to.”
As spokespeople for VA, our tour guides wouldn’t be in the role if not for their passion for their school. “I love VA because of the endless opportunities I can take advantage of. Anything I want to do, I can, and I can explore new areas of interest with the help of faculty and staff,” says Sydney Palmiotto ’24.
Interested in booking a tour with one of our many student tour guides? To schedule your campus tour and interview, please call the Admissions Office at 802.869.6229 or email at email@example.com
. Visit vermontacademy.org/admissions/visiting-va
for more information.