You may well know that recruiting and admitting students to a particular field, school, or university has certain bubbles that are completely unique to this part of student affairs. You may also know that these implications vary depending on the location of the school, the target population, the programs offered, and multiple other variables concerning college choice. BUT: Working in Admissions provides a new layer to life in higher education, and it’s crucial for all student affairs professionals to realize these ins-and-outs for both a) their sanity and b) to save their working relationships with admissions co-workers by avoiding unnecessary frustration.
The “big three” in other staff members’ eyes include gaining higher application numbers, processing students through as quick as lightning once they apply, and connecting with students on multiple levels through every source they get information from. But these elements are not as straightforward as they sound, and they’re certainly not as easy. Like every other area of higher education, there are assumptions and realities to recognize — the three listed below just scratch the surface.
Our application numbers are going to skyrocket as soon as admissions staff are out traveling, making their presence known at fairs, and talking to students in the regional area!
Recruitment is not like instant coffee. It doesn’t happen in two minutes. To build application numbers and make the programs more well-known, connections must be made with students, professional companies, other schools, and especially advisers at those schools. On recruitment trips or during campus visits held by the admissions office, the students coming are likely looking at options down the road and may be applying the next year or year after. This is good news for you because it provides you with something to look forward to, and it gives these prospective students more time to spread the word (so their friends might apply, as well).
A suggestion in connecting with students as well, and one that I am creating, is the use of student testimonial. If your students in the programs are inherently busy, try organizing time for them to record their thoughts on personal experiences or specific questions that students would be interested in. You, as a student affairs professional, can tell a prospective applicant about the program as much as you want, but the current student’s words will just hit home.
Once the application materials are received, the applicant should know right away whether their application is complete and moving through the processes for an admissions decision.
Processing time is (unfortunately) unavoidable. Patience is a virtue that all student affairs professionals can encourage their students to strengthen, especially in processes like admissions. Yes, it would be absolutely fantastic if the applicant could know if they are complete the PRECISE moment they apply and send in their materials–that’s just not possible, though. There are many offices that pieces and parts of applications have to swing through en route to the admissions committee for the decisions, and don’t be surprised if processing takes 2-4 weeks with the high volume of applications most programs receive.
Social media is the best way to connect with students, and using the internet is the best way to get the word out about different programs and resources offered by the school.
Technology is your friend, until it’s not. Social media and the internet are wonderful resources, but nothing replaces the face-to-face connections that a student makes when they come to campus and see the school in person. Internet recruitment for virtual fairs is a fairly new concept, and this is great for making initial connections. So, technology’s not all bad; just don’t have the assumption that technology will fix all our problems.
ALSO: The Webinar Concept. When the advent of the webinar became the new hot thing, countless companies and individuals were jumping on board with this new way of communicating with their target population. Not to smash electronic communication and its glory, but webinars are very hard to gain interest for because recruitment and connections are made on a two-way street, and webinars are a one-way conversation. However, technology can be pretty cool. Some examples of effective and fabulous techniques that colleges are using can be found here.
Admissions is part of Student Affairs, as much as they might seem as they are on their own little island sometimes. So, for your sanity and theirs, don’t be afraid to mingle and make suggestions. The students admitted will fall under your hands in time, so it only makes sense that collaboration is the answer to finding the most effective processes and recruitment techniques for new students. With these components in mind, you can better encourage all around you to have open and mutually beneficial relationships (for your good fortune and your students’).
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