Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

A Stunning Admission: Admissions Counselors Share the Truth about Their Profession

Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

A Stunning Admission: Admissions Counselors Share the Truth about Their Profession

Article excerpt

Few people set out to become admissions counselors, say people in the profession. They tend to stumble into it.

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But the field is requiring skills that are more demanding and varied than ever. And at a time when universities are looking especially hard at the bottom line, people in admissions need to constantly learn new things and make themselves indispensable, according to panelists at a recent conference of the National Association for College Admission Counseling.

Counselors shared thoughts on how to stay on top of the often stressful changes at their universities while avoiding a burnout.

Some say they're still excited by what got them into the profession--the potential to help students and change their lives.

But at many universities, funding cuts, shrinking recruitment budgets, added responsibilities and growing technology in admissions have made their jobs increasingly challenging, they say.

"You're dealing with so many constituents--the president, board, staff, students, parents, alums," says Vern Granger, associate vice president and director of admissions at Ohio State University. "There's increased visibility. You're the communicator-in-chief.

"And it's not just hitting [recruitment] numbers--it's hitting numbers within those numbers," he says, later adding that admissions officers are becoming not just gatekeepers of incoming classes, but also "class shapers."

Angel Perez, vice president and dean of admissions and financial aid at Pitzer College in Claremont, Calif., says as they rise in the ranks, admissions officers should understand how financial decisions are made at their institutions. They should talk to the treasurer about tuition revenues and deans or others about "all of those decisions that are sometimes made behind the scenes" he says.

In picking students, institutions need a sense of ethics that may be tested by the financial pressures they're under, he says.

"How to balance the mission with financial goals, while still doing right by our students" he says, is the question.

Perez also urges colleges to do right by international recruitment and assign more than just one person to the task. Counselors should become knowledgeable about the countries from which they recruit and involve administrators and faculty, he says. The worst thing that can happen is for an institution to be unprepared to receive international students when they come, he says.

Amy Jarich, assistant vice chancellor and director of undergraduate admissions for the University of California, Berkeley, says potential leaders in the industry can see all sides of issues in an argument, are dynamic and charismatic, are good public speakers and know how to use technology.

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She says admissions officers should have healthy life-work balances. "Many times people in the profession leave the profession to raise families -that's not good;' she says. "I see people [in admissions] with kids; that's a good sign."

She says she gives her employees time off if they travel and work on weekends, and allows them to work from home if possible.

Although Jarich says it's important for people to see admissions as an exciting field where they can meet inspiring young people, others say the luster can wear off.

Some months can be spent traveling, and some months spent reading applications at work and on weekends and holidays, counselors say. It takes only a few years for someone to realize whether he or she is cut out for this line of work.

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The business of college admissions

Malika Johnson, who spent nine years as an assistant admissions director at colleges in Illinois and Pennsylvania, says it's important to accept the school's priorities. …

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