Hey, I think I like college admissions work... now what?

Okay, so you’ve been working for your admissions office for a couple of years and you really enjoy it.  You are excited about helping students find their educational pathway, and perhaps you are interested in the theories and strategies evolving around enrollment management.  What to do next?  For new admissions officers who take a liking to the profession and wish to continue moving forward, here are a few simple things you should do to help you learn more and to assist you with moving up through the ranks:

  1. Become involved in admissions and enrollment organizations, and make a point of attending seminars, webinars, or conferences.  If your office has the funding, join your state affiliate of NACAC (National Association of College Admission Counseling) or AACRAO (American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers).  These organizations hold wonderful national and regional conferences at which you can learn about pertinent admissions issues, as well as get a chance to network with colleagues from other universities.  ACT, The College Board and many other higher education consulting organizations hold learning conferences as well.  As much as your supervisor and office budget will allow, take advantage of attending whatever you can.   Volunteer to serve on a committee.  You will gain some amazing insights and ideas to bring back to your office.
  2. Get a mentor.  This is a concept that is obvious and useful in so many professions, and one to which I should have paid more attention years ago.  It is so great to be connected with someone whom you can ask for advice, someone with whom you can exchange ideas, or who will help you to ask the right questions.  This person is maybe your boss or director, but perhaps it can be someone whom you’ve met through admissions travels or at a professional meeting.  SACAC (The Southern Association for College Admission Counseling) even offers a Mentorship Program which is, according to the SACAC web site, “designed to offer a lifeline for those who are in the first few years of college counseling or admission counseling.”
  3. Train yourself on concepts outside of your area of direct responsibility, and volunteer to help as often as possible in these areas.  Don’t be afraid to tackle topics about which you feel less comfortable, for example, working with transfer students, articulation agreements, or international students.  So often in my admissions office tenure I’ve heard people say something like: “I can’t speak to a prospective international student on the phone.  I would honestly have no idea how to answer his questions.”  Don’t let yourself fall into this trap.
  4. Find ways to enhance your education.  Thinking about another college degree?  There are many advanced degrees in higher education that are designed to teach future administrators of college campuses the skills needed for effective leadership.  If seeking another degree is not in the cards for you at this time, you can always take advantage of other types of learning opportunities.   AACRAO, for example, offers short-term online professional development courses.  Some organizations or institutions even offer a certificate in enrollment management.  Or, perhaps you can even try taking a class in public speaking to improve your presentation skills.

Let me close with this thought: take a risk!  No, I’m not talking about bungee jumping off of your student center.  I mean…  try to find an extra way to make a difference at your college or university.  Ask your supervisor for an additional project and bring back extraordinary results.