Increasing Productivity and Outcomes for your Admission Counselors
John W. Dysart, President, The Dysart Group
The role of admission counselors in the enrollment management process is important. While at a few institutions they serve as folder reviewers and gate-keepers, for the majority of colleges and universities they are on the front lines of educating and influencing prospective students and their families. What can enrollment leaders do to maximize the impact of admission counselors?
Often, insufficient effort is put into identifying and hiring admission counselors.
- Seek candidates outside of your recent graduates. While recent graduates can be an excellent source, it is always a good idea to try and hire at least one or two individuals with experience outside of just your college or university.
- Interview a diverse candidate pool. It is helpful if the gender and ethnic makeup of your admission counselor team reflects the student population you serve.
- Be crystal clear during the interview process regarding your expectations. Do your best to describe the job in detail including hours, travel, telephone work, electronic communication outreach, social media and any weekend commitments.
No one wants to talk about compensation, but admission counselors are often among the lowest paid professionals at colleges and universities.
- Understand both the importance of their role and the very real financial impact of their failure or success.
- Unlike some other positions on campus, admission counselors are often expected to travel and work weekends and evenings.
Research Position Pay Scales Nationally and/or in Your Region
You cannot expect superior performance without competitive compensation.
- Recall that compensation includes consideration of salaries, benefits, work schedules and vacation time.
- Many organizations publish means and averages on admission counselor compensation including NACAC, The Chronicle of Higher Education, Indeed.com, Glassdoor.com and Payscale.com.
Provide Internal Training
One cannot underestimate the value of training for admission counselors and much of the training can be provided on campus.
- All admission counselors should be given access to an electronic training manual. Creating Power Point presentations on the important topics for admission counselors helps.
- Electronic format means that counselors can easily refresh their memories on specific topics throughout the cycle.
- Topics for training presentations include institutional mission, history of the institution, details on each academic major, the admission standard, conducting effective college fairs, co-curricular opportunities on campus, service opportunities, benefits of residential life, athletics, campus visits, effective communication basics and utilization of social media in the recruitment process.
Providing training materials is not enough.
- Leaders should implement testing for admission counselors to ensure sufficient knowledge of the institution, its history, attributes and mission.
Insist on Professional Development
Admission counselors should be encouraged to engage in professional development outside of campus.
- Administrators should budget to invest in such professional development.
- Many organizations offer excellent professional development opportunities for admission counselors. Begin by researching the following:
6. Academic Impressions
Understand that if you intend for your admission counselors to develop relationships with their prospective students and to provide information about your institution and assist them through the process, they must be in consistent telephone communication with admission applicants.
- Telephone communication means evening hours every week as high school students are not available for telephone calls during 9:00-5:00 working hours.
- Counselor schedules must include flex scheduling to avoid, as often as possible, working more than 40 hours a week. If a counselor is to call until 9:00 in the evening on Monday, she must be able to start her work day at noon or 1:00.
It seems so obvious, but effective admission counselors utilize text messaging as the primary electronic communication mechanism with admission applicants.
- Admission counselors must be equipped with college-provided smart phones.
Admission counselors need to time to communicate with applicants to explain your academic and co-curricular opportunities, tout your location and physical plant and discuss the success of your graduates. Unproductive travel to high schools not generating admission applicants, and college fairs unlikely to produce inquiries, is an impediment to counselor success.
Track Contact Rates and Outcomes
Have mechanisms in place to track counselor performance so that leadership can continuously offer positive feedback and provide additional training or counsel as necessary.
Create Career Tracks for Advancement
Securing an admission counselor position can be a terrific entry-level job at most institutions. In order to effectively encourage excellence and promote retention, establishing a clear career track for admission counselors is essential.
- At minimum, be clear in demonstrating the requirements, achievements and expectations for pay increases.
- Enrollment success and experience should provide opportunities for title changes and increased responsibilities. Consider the following track:
1. Admission Counselor
2. Senior Admission Counselor
3. Assistant Director of Admission
4. Associate Director of Admission
5. Director of Admission
Mentoring is critical. Directors of Admission and Vice Presidents for Enrollment must set aside time for engagement, encouragement and role modeling for admission counselors.
The majority of colleges and universities rely on the work of admission counselors for success on the recruitment front. Counselor productivity is imperative to meet new student enrollment goals and to achieve total headcount targets and net revenue objectives. In this competitive market, Presidents and enrollment leaders must make sure that the stage is properly set to ensure admission counselor efficiency, productivity and ultimately, success.