Approaching Admissions Today: Perspective and Advice for Enrollment Management and Admissions Leaders

By Greene, Howard; Greene, Matthew | University Business, September 2010 | Go to article overview

Approaching Admissions Today: Perspective and Advice for Enrollment Management and Admissions Leaders


Greene, Howard, Greene, Matthew, University Business


IT SEEMS LIKE A GEOLOGICAL AGE AGO when admissions officers considered themselves educators first and foremost, with a penchant for interacting on a personal basis with adolescents, their parents, and professional counselors in the high schools.

The greater portion of their time was spent ing prospective applicants on campus or at their high school, where time was also taken with the counselors to make them aware of their new admission policies, as well as new programs and facilities. In the 1960s and through the 1970s, the central themes were diversification of the student body, financial aid, and, in a number of instances, coeducation. A good portion of the school visit was intended to build or continue a relationship of trust and good will with the folks who dealt directly with the surge of aspirants for a college education.

We all know these times are gone, most likely forever. Could we imagine trading in the engines of today's national and international admissions programs--namely, the computer as an information and management tool and the internet as the vital means of communicating and marketing to the greater numbers of student applicants?

The following observations and recommendations are offered through our lens as independent educational counselors to high school youth and their parents, and to many school counselors. The feedback we receive from these sources and the actions that ultimately accrue are the basis for the following counsel. We hope these suggestions will ring true to those experienced admissions officers who have spent a career in the academy building class after class, as well as be helpful to the next generation of younger admissions professionals just starting out.

Consider the Whole

Today's college-bound individuals approach the college search with far greater awareness, sophistication (relatively speaking), and wariness than preceding generations, thanks to the ubiquitous flow of information from colleges' websites, organizations both nonprofit and for-profit, rankings lists, student blogs, and media coverage of trends and issues in higher education. As a result, applicants and their parents expect a good deal more than heart-in-their-hands visits to campus or interaction with staff and alumni interviews on home ground.

It is incumbent on colleges to focus holistically on the admissions process and to understand the impressions, intentional and otherwise, made on each new round of candidates.

A broad group of college administrators should maintain an explicit discussion of the power for good and bad that the interview, information session, and tour guides can exert on the prospective family (and we include parents and students together here intentionally). In an increasing number of cases, faculty and coaches also play an admissions role, often without adequate training or oversight. The same holds for alumni interviewers, who make a greater impression than you might possibly recognize.

While most colleges seem to have picked up on the differences in application numbers and yield that result from campus visits and interactions, families are often stunned by the apparent lack of preparation and poor selection, training, and oversight of staff and student volunteers. Families do not generally differentiate among college representatives, but rather group them as a whole and have both specific recollections about colleges and overall impressions. Once these are formed, it is quite hard to break them (and when we hear ones that sound off kilter, we do indeed try to challenge them!). So, while much time and money is spent on coaxing students to campus, visits can result in highly successful fulfillment of expectations, or complete disillusionment.

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Make sure that all those who represent the institution are educated and comfortable with the mission of your school and how it plays out in the educational, social, and extracurricular realms. …

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