Whether it's politicians stumping to campus audiences during election season, or celebrities performing in university-owned theaters, college students don't have to go far to attend blockbuster events. But high-profile events tend to have fierce competition for seats, where students may often be bumped by donors.
A senior official at Baylor University in Waco, Texas, for example, expressed "deepest apologies" in November 2011 to students, who had to yield their seats to patrons at an event with Condoleezza Rice, the former secretary of state.
Many passionate students have been known to line up in the wee hours of the morning in anticipation of the release of tickets to limited-engagement events. "I remember hearing rumors of students sleeping outside a professor's office in order to sign up for [a] popular overseas trip," says Corey Fick, a current Drew University employee and former student government member while attending Lee University.
Here are seven guidelines current students and alumni suggest students should follow to land coveted event invitations.
1. Show up early: Camping out to get tickets actually works, says Caitlin Wember, an alumna of Illinois State University.
"For the men's basketball games, especially the games leading up to March Madness, people would pitch tents outside the ticket booths so they'd get the prime seats," says Wember, a former Public Relations Student Society of America event-planning committee member.
[Learn how college events can benefit students and parents.]
2. Volunteer: Offering to help out is the best way to score seats, says Erin Jordan, who planned events for four years as a student at Loyola University Chicago. Being involved also helped Jordan meet some of the visiting celebrities, she adds.
Volunteers, who may only need to assist with part of the event, often get free tickets, says May Medallada, a former director of Towson University's student-run Campus Activities Board. "If you become a regular volunteer, you will become an insider that gets information before the general student population regarding tickets," she says.
3. Monitor event announcements: Students need to know about events in order to seek tickets, says Elizabeth Jahr, a Marymount University junior and Student Government Association member. Students should "friend and follow related Facebook pages and Twitter pages," she says. "If there are mailing or text messaging lists they can sign up for, they should do that as well."
At Boston University, for example, students follow Assistant Dean of Students John Battaglino and Dean of Students Kenn Elmore on Twitter to get the scoop on upcoming events, says junior Jeremy Lowe, an event manager for BU's student-run Programming Council.
4. Find strength in numbers: If a group of friends designates one member to get tickets, those with other commitments such as class can benefit. It also ensures that no one is left behind, says Jitter Garcia, a recent University of Maryland—College Park graduate who planned more than 60 events as a student. "There's nothing worse than only part of your group nabbing tickets," she says.
But some schools require a student ID for each ticket, so the student tasked with getting tickets should gather friends' identification cards first, warns Wember, the Illinois State graduate.
5. Befriend student leaders: Having friends in high places—such as student government, programming boards, or clubs—can't hurt, says Marymount's Jahr. "A lot of times those students are the ones selling the tickets, so you already have a point person to buy them from," she says.
Knowing event organizers personally is also a good idea, adds Chris Pruijsen, an undergraduate at University of Oxford and former president of Oxford Entrepreneurs. "It helps you stand out of the crowd," he says.
[Find out whom to get to know at college.]
6. Make your own wait list: Students who don't secure seats should look for ticket holders who learn of conflicting commitments, advises Nadia Chaudhry, a recent graduate of Benedictine University, where she was president of the Muslim Student Association. "But don't be aggressive with people who don't want to give it up," she says.