As Odyssey Days rolls around each semester, we can become a little whiny and a little mercenary as a student body. Comments about how annoying or awkward one’s prospie is or that you only get one Cap Bar coupon for being a host are common topics of conversation over brunch in the cafeteria.
To some extent, this reaction is reasonable – it certainly can be awkward trying to entertain someone you just met. Moreover, one Cap Bar coupon really doesn’t make up for the time and energy required to be a good host. Though understandable, this approach to hosting a prospective student ignores two important aspects of this task which make it worth the trouble and minimal compensation.
First, hosting a prospective student really is an honor. As a host, you become the tangible face of the University of Dallas for that student. True, the administration does not seem to treat this role as an honor, since they allow nearly any student to fill it. But the honor entailed in this job is not dependent upon the importance given it by the school. It is instead based on the merits of our great institution itself which you have been allowed to represent to your particular student for a few days.
As well as an honor, serving as a host is a real opportunity to shape the student body of UD for the next four years.
Just like any time someone is trying something out, the quality of a visiting student’s experience at UD will likely play a significant role in his decision of whether to attend our institution or not.
Though depending partly on the admissions staff, this quality hinges primarily on the efforts of the visitor’s host. If the host ignores his prospective student and never takes the time to chat with him, show him around, or introduce him to his other friends, then chances are that student will walk away from UD with a sour taste in his mouth, looking up the names of the other colleges he applied to.
But reverse the host’s behavior and the quality of a prospective student’s experience of our school will flip as well.
In addition to quality of experience, how well UD is presented also greatly affects most students’ decisions. As most of us would admit, UD is a peculiar place. Like a fine wine, UD’s particular flavor is a synthesis of multiple elements – the Western tradition, Catholicism, love for a deep conversation as well as a rocking party. Prospective students are not likely to pick up on these various elements and their unity without the help of someone already versed in them.
Certainly the admissions staff plays a significant role in communicating our school’s identity. But if prospective students do not see this identity lived out in the lives of actual students, even the most eloquent explanations of the admissions staff will sound like empty slogans.
That’s where the host comes in. Having the opportunity to spend the better part of two days with his prospective student, the host can show him first hand how these elements are lived out and united in the life of the UD student. Discussions on the “Aeneid,” Mass at the Church of the Incarnation, a lecture on the “Ethics,” a little head-bobbing with Tonic and Lime, and intellectual conversations interspersed throughout – a walk through this sort of day led by the host turns the ideas presented by the admissions office into a visible reality. With such a tangible manifestation, UD’s character shifts from a vague idea to a personal experience.
To the extent that a host makes this effort, rather than leaving his prospective student to wander the Mall and Haggar by himself, is the extent to which that student will grasp UD’s character – and have a good time. These factors largely determine a prospective student’s decision – and they rest squarely in the hands of each host, who has the honor to represent our institution and the opportunity to shape its student body for the years to come.