Retaining Quality Admission Counselors

John W. Dysart, President
The Dysart Group

Admission counselors are among the most important employees at any college or university.  Their impact on the institution is broad and vital.  When you have successfully recruited and hired excellent admission counselors, what can you do to keep them?

Career Track

You are more likely to retain good admission counselors if you structure the office in a manner where counselors can see a clear career track.  Few want to remain admission counselor for the long term.  Good people, however, might persist if they see opportunities for advancement and professional growth.

You may initially hire candidates as “admission counselors.”  After a year of good performance these people could be promoted to the title of “Senior Admission Counselor,” a position that includes a raise and more responsibilities.  Excellent performance in this position should result in a promotion to “Assistant Director of Admission,” a title that should include some supervisory responsibilities.  Successful outcomes in this position could result in a promotion to “Associate Director of Admission.”  You have now created a clear and useful process to groom the very best professional staff members for the role of “Director of Admission.”

The job can be made even more attractive if you provide continuous training to your people on financial aid and teach them the basics of packaging, aid types, folder completion and budgeting.  Allow employees at the associate level to participate in financial aid activities.  This can open the possibility of a new title like “Associate Director of Admission and Financial Aid.”  This title can be useful for folks who eventually would like to secure the position of chief enrollment officer.

Flexible Schedule

Admission counselors must work difficult hours because of travel and evening hours to make telephone calls to prospective students.  Be creative when establishing the work schedule.

  • Regardless of Human Resource Classification the work schedule should be established in a manner that ensures counselor do not work more than 40 hours per week. Working until nine in the evening one night might mean coming in at noon the next day.
  • Consider the use of long weekends in the work schedule. A counselor working two nights per week might be given every other Friday off.
  • Summer can be a great time to reward excellent performance with additional vacation time.

Professional Development

Providing opportunities for professional development makes sense based on just the merits.  But professional development investments are a requirement if you seek to retain good admission personnel.

  • Allow the counselors to attend state National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) conferences every year.
  • Encourage more senior professionals to attend the national NACAC conference.
  • Consider attendance at other conferences such as NASFAA and AACRO. Academic Impressions offers professional development webinars and conferences useful for admission professionals.

Compensation

Compensation makes a difference.  The position should not be viewed as an interim job for recent college graduates but must be a professional position with a salary that reflects the importance of the position.  Admission counselors generate a significant portion of total institutional revenue.  Their work can influence net revenue, discount rates and even retention and graduation rates.

The national average salary for an admission counselor is approximately $35,000 a year.  Many counselors, however, earn much less.

One cannot expect dedicated performance, high quality communication, a demonstrated zest for the institution and thus recruitment success if individuals are not compensated appropriately.

Review your salary ranges and compare them to both national and regional averages to ensure you are competitive.

Retaining admission professionals should be a priority but institutional leaders should understand the good retention rates require investment.