These are challenging times for those working with prospective students – especially in the career college sector. Let’s face it, when the Department of Ed forms a special unit to catch people misleading prospective students in marketing and sales it’s time to take a look in the mirror. What could possibly cause someone to misrepresent information to simply gain an enrollment?
In nearly three decades of working with admission professionals in all sectors of higher education, I have met with thousands of these folks. Yes, there are those who represent the stereotypical used car salesman; but let me share insights on the more common attributes of those working in college admissions.
I have found there are four universal truths for college admissions professionals:
1. They REALLY want to help students succeed. The admissions professional is a unique breed who forms a special bond with their students and families and is motivated to help them. They play the role of psychologist, counselor, friend, motivator, parent, and even an arbitrator, if necessary.
2. Numbers matter. This isn’t a for-profit or non-profit college thing. Every school, college and university has to make money by charging tuition. If the student quota isn’t met there may not be enough money to pay for salaries, facilities, insurance, education, etc. Admission professionals realize this is their job. They are paid a salary to attract, enroll and retain students. They feel this pressure because if they don’t do their job bad things happen such as no raises, programs may get cancelled, and their colleagues may lose their jobs.
3. Balancing numbers 1 & 2 is key. Any self-respecting professional does no
t put corporate greed over serving the customer. This involves a focus on long-term outcomes and gains over a short-term numbers game.
4. They deserve respect. Since no one earns commissions for enrollments any longer (this ended a long time ago) what is their motivation? For many, it is the personal satisfaction of helping someone be the first in their family to graduate. Admission professionals are the cheerleaders and voice of their college to anyone who will listen but when the checkbook doesn’t balance due to low enrollments, they are often the ones thrown under the bus.
Moving forward, it is time to give a real voice to the Admissions Professional. I encourage admission representatives out there to stand up and be heard. Be proud of your profession and never compromise your values and integrity. I also call on leadership at schools and colleges to provide their admissions team with realistic goals, seek relevant and updated training, and offer opportunities for growth and development. An investment in the people who are on the front lines can avoid legal issues while improving student satisfaction and retention.