21st Century Job Description for an Admission Professional in a Post-Pandemic, Competitive Market
John W. Dysart
The Dysart Group
The college admission vocation has changed so much in the last 25 years. While the front-line influencers (admission counselors, advisors or representatives) are still the most important and influential professionals, their roles must evolve to meet the new challenges.
- Demographics are still discouraging as the decline in high school graduates will continue. Shifts in ethnicity, gender, levels of pre-enrollment preparation and ability to pay will be a constant for years to come.
- Even as several colleges and universities close, the competition for students is intensifying.
- We have not yet been able to measure the longer-term impact of the pandemic. Some may view the traditional, on-campus experience as less attractive.
- The declining ability of students and their families to pay, combined with stagnation of federal and state aid and rising tuition costs, will make the demonstration of value and outcomes paramount.
What are the qualifications and skill-sets necessary to thrive as a front-line admission professional in this environment?
Communication skills have become more important than ever as institutional representatives seek to demonstrate value to prospective students and parents. Colleges and universities will need to hire individuals comfortable speaking on the telephone. They must be equally able to engage via text messaging, traditional email and social media. Face-to-face interview skills are essential as traditional visits to campus will be more influential than ever. The bottom line is that colleges and universities will be relying less on professionals with “folder review” talents as test requirements are permanently retired, and much more on communicative salespersons.
Comfort in a Virtual Environment
The pandemic has shown that some students and families are more comfortable with virtual conversations via Zoom and other formats. This mechanism is unlikely to go away, even with higher vaccination rates.
In a competitive market with rising costs, communicating value must be a top priority. The best method for such communication continues to be the telephone and for most prospective college students, their availability for telephone outreach is limited. Most high school students are in school until late afternoon. The majority of working adults are engaged until 5:00. It should be clear that effective telephone outreach is likely to occur between the hours of 3:00 and 9:00. Some evening hours must be part of the work schedule for admission professionals in the new market.
Less Travel and More Time in the Office
Historically, availability for travel has been a requirement for many admission counselors. The pandemic has revealed that recruitment objectives can be achieved without visiting high schools and attending college fairs. While such travel is unlikely to be completely eliminated in the future, given the expense and questionable value, travel will be significantly reduced. This will allow for more time in the office for meeting students and families in person, connecting by telephone and sending personalized digital messages via email and text.
Social Media Content
Social media is important to target prospective students and to keep the interest of inquiries and applicants for admission. In social media, content is king and admission counselors must be able to update content often. This might mean attending more events on campus and keeping cell phone cameras handy to record activity.
Better Understanding of Financial Aid and the Financial Aid Process
It should be obvious by now, but knowledge of the financial aid process and access to financial aid information is critical for admission counselors.
Detailed Knowledge of Academic Offerings, Especially Outcomes
Admission counselors must be aware of the various academic majors on campus and must also be able to answer the following questions about each concentration:
What is unique about this academic offering? What are the distinctive credentials or experiences of the faculty? What types of jobs are available upon completion? Where are the jobs? What salaries can one expect? Are there natural progressions for graduate programs? Specifically, what jobs have recent graduates of the program secured over the last two years?
The role of the traditional admission counselor is important, as it has always been, but the essential duties and skill sets are changing in a new marketplace forever changed by the pandemic.