Some high school students don’t know what they’re getting themselves into when they decide, commit and start their first day of college. For some, it feels like the complete unknown, but this isn’t the case for prospective students who partake in Gonzaga’s Student Host program.
Student hosts at GU house high school juniors and seniors overnight, from 5 p.m. to 9 a.m. Hosts show prospective students what it means to be a Zag and provide an authentic, immersive GU experience.
Hosts receive free housing for the year, get to meet motivated prospective students and share their passion for GU.
A sophomore hosting pair, Katrina Taylor and Reilly Bettis, are passionate about being student hosts. They said it has made their college experience more fulfilling. They have mastered the process of shaping the visits to match each student’s needs.
“This is a fun opportunity because I can engage with prospective students, learn what they like and tailor the visit to their interests,” Bettis said. “It helps me love this place more. Gonzaga is 100% my home and I am so happy I get to talk to people about that.”
Bettis is a sociology and criminology double major with a minor in visual arts. She is also an ambassador. Her roommate, Taylor, is a chemistry and psychology double major on a pre-med track. Taylor is involved in Ski and Snowboard Club and spends a lot of time in the outdoors. She heard about the unique opportunity when she was in high school and looking at colleges to attend.
“I wanted to get involved with the student host program because I, as a senior in high school, stayed with a pair of student hosts,” Taylor said. “It was part of the reason I came to Gonzaga. I told Reilly about it, we applied and we just love it now.”
The process starts with hosts receiving information about the prospective student’s itinerary, high school experiences and their college interests, such as majors and clubs.
The hosts then go pick up the high school student from College Hall at 5 p.m., take them to dinner at the COG, give a quick tour of things that align with the student’s interests and then the prospective student spends the night on the floor of the pair’s room. In the morning, the hosts drop off their student at College Hall at 9 a.m.
Taylor and Bettis said if one of the students is interested in a major or club they aren’t part of, they will invite one of their friends to dinner with them to share their experiences in that specific involvement.
“We know a lot about Gonzaga, but we don’t know everything,” Bettis said. “That’s where our friends from different majors and clubs come in.”
Student hosts will house prospective students no more than twice a week, usually on week nights. Prospective students sleep on an air mattress provided by the Visit Office.
Each year, four female-identifying pairs and four male-identifying pairs are chosen to host for two semesters.
Even though they spend fewer than 24 hours together, the experience is impactful, Taylor and Bettis said. The pair create lasting bonds with each of their guests and even develop inside jokes during their time together.
“All I do, pretty much, is talk about how much I love Gonzaga. It’s so much fun to talk about the things I love to do at this place to a person who is interested, wants to know more and asks questions,” Bettis said. “It’s so good for them to see what’s behind the scenes. It’s helping them, but it’s also helping me love Gonzaga more and more every day.”
“If you really like making an impact, mentoring and sharing your love for Gonzaga, I would recommend applying,” said Lindsey Spencer, Visit Office program assistant. “It’s a special thing to be a part of people’s ‘first’ memories, like their ‘first’ night at a university. They will remember it forever.”
Spencer has been working closely with host programs, Visit Office faculty and prospective student weekend projects since she started working at GU. She said she fully supports GU’s student hosting program. It is one of the most unique and mutually beneficial — for both hosts and prospective students — overnight stay programs she has seen, she said.
“The roommate pairing system works out really well for our Gonzaga students. It takes off the burden of the workload,” Spencer said. “It’s not a ridiculous commitment. You’re making a true impact and getting free housing.”
The biggest priorities Spencer highlights for student hosts and the experiences they provide to new students are safety, student engagement and being welcoming. She said that it is important to maintain healthy physical and mental environments, and to make sure prospective students feel like they can be themselves at GU.
If students have any further questions about requirements, commitments or any other information about the Student Hosts program, they can contact Spencer at email@example.com.
“It’s such an inspiring moment to see [prospective students’] eyes light up,” Taylor said. “It’s this moment where you see that they think they could be a potential Zag. It’s so exciting.”