Say Goodbye to the "Admissions Guy"

The year was 2003. I landed my first admissions gig after short, and wildly disappointing, stints in Corporate America and a community-based organization. I was immediately hooked to the pace, the people, and the competition. I was being paid to travel and meet interesting people. I was given a stage and all the coffee I could drink. Life was good. My professional foundation was based on a simple idea; students and families would select me as much as the institution that I represented. I would make my mark developing new feeder schools, yielding the un-yieldable, and outworking the competition. In retrospect, while noble, this initial philosophy was sophomoric (pun intended). I was looking at the recruitment process in a vacuum; one devoid of vital socioeconomic, academic, and systematic factors that help drive college enrollment and success. Nevertheless, I wanted to be The Admissions Guy, Mr. Fix-It, The Funnel Master, and The Counselor Closer. And at the time, this was a perfectly effective way to begin a successful career in enrollment management.

Well, times they are a changing. A couple months back I sent out a tweet. It was one those “hey, this may or not be a clever thought, let me write it down just in case” throw-away notes.

I learned my belief that the next wave of enrollment management leadership will come directly or indirectly from financial aid side of the house is shared by many. Think about how priorities and resources have shifted on your campus. Large public universities are emphasizing fiscal responsibility, transparency, and compliance more than ever before. Small private colleges are focused on leveraging, long-term viability, and net tuition revenue. This is heavy stuff.

My concern is we are still working in silos. My rock star Admission Counselor is doubling applications in a target high school, why would I take them off the road to send them to a NASFAA Basics workshop? Our new Assistant Director of Financial Aid is managing $50 million in federal and state grants; they don’t need to concern themselves with the admission funnel. Are these valid? Of course! They are also short-sided. I fear we are becoming too one dimensional in enrollment management. We must ask ourselves, at what point do we become so specialized that the human element, so crucial to successful enrollment management, is no longer an asset?

This is not a new idea. One of my go-to articles on this topic – The Next Wave of Enrollment Leaders by Eric Hoover (@erichoov) – helps define what a professional development plan for aspiring EM’ers should look like. I would add that the trends and near tragedies of the last two years have proven that much of this increased emphasis should be placed on financial aid. Ambitious admission professionals should be jumping in with two feet. Don’t stop learning until you have a nightmare about Pell reconciliation. Your new skills will make you better at your current job and a more attractive candidate for your next one.

So, with enrollment trends, I too have evolved. The Admissions Guy in me will never die – all I need is an Open House, a mic, and an absurdly corny opening joke to prove that to my team. But, I have devoted much of the last three years to learning the intricacies of financial aid and it has made me a much more effective and well-rounded Enrollment Manager. I think it will stick too – I had just as much fun implementing my first comprehensive financial aid packaging strategy than I ever did with funnel analysis or territory management development. Never stop learning.

College Admissions: Why I Love My Job

Ashley Scott (@ashleygscott)

With every undergraduate admissions essay I read I am reassured education is the field for me. Instead of deterring or annoying me, the most overwhelming student essays compel me to work harder for solutions to their problems. It's easy to downplay the impact a child’s home environment can have on their in-class and standardized test performance. Coming into this profession I believed that those who worked hard and focused would come out on top and that they deserved an offer of admission whenever they chose to apply. I thought that if determined enough, each student could exceed our expectations. Although those statements never really sat well with me I relaxed thinking yeah, they'll be fine.

However as I read college admission essays summarizing accounts of rape, abuse, neglect, homelessness and low self-esteem I feel determined to serve as one of the champions these students need to succeed. I don't believe we are put on this earth to survive all by ourselves. So every chance I get I jump at the opportunity to serve as the advocate they require to advance. Nothing will change for them unless passionate and determined people create space then offer support, resources, and opportunities to progress.

I work hard to make young dreams become reality and I'm proud to be associated with all who contribute to that cause as well. Parents, family, friends, teachers, school administrators, and supportive community members - be encouraged. Our hard work pays off. I'm thankful that it does; it is for this reason alone that I love my job.

EM, Data and @JonBoeckenstedt

#EMchat is over a year old and we've completed 55 chats!  As a self-proclaimed "data nerd", I am so excited about this week's #EMchat: Data Series I.  After 55 chats, can you believe that this week will be the first time we have dedicated a Thursday night to data?  Ask any EMer about what skills successful EMers posses and they will almost always say: 1. analyzing data and 2. effectively communicating about it should rank at the top of that list. There are two types of "data nerds" out there: ones who embraced it early on in their childhood & ones who discovered it by accident when their job forced them to submit reports.  I fall into the "by accident" category.  I am not a math wizard by any stretch of the imagination.  I am not an excel expert.  I have to Google excel math functions more than I care to admit.  I still consider myself a "data nerd". I love the art of telling a story by using hard data.

I believe the reason why we haven't tackled this topic on #EMchat is because we are all at different levels of data analysis depending on size of institution and requirements for your position.  It is also extremely difficult to discuss in 140 character limitations, but we are going to give it a shot, so join us!

To kick off our week dedicated to data, I would like to introduce you to Jon Boeckenstedt (@JonBoeckenstedt).

He has participated in a few #EMchats in the past -- he's the one with the wicked funny sense of humor.  He is the Associate Vice President of Enrollment Management for Policy and Planning at DePaul University in Chicago, IL.   His blog is filled with insightful posts about data visualization and other enrollment management specific topics.  I wanted to share one of his posts this week to help us get you thinking about this week's chat.



Original Post can be found HERE.

Life, and EM: A Series of Trade-offs

There are very few people who understand that Enrollment Management is, at some level, an exercise in managing trade-offs.  Even though the old Michelob Light commercial suggests that you can have it all, in fact, you can’t.  And in reality, if you could, you wouldn’t be working in higher education. (Those of you who know me also know I like good German and American beer, but I’ll keep my comments about Michelob Light to myself for now.)

So, helping people understand trade-offs is a critical component of working in Enrollment Management:  If you want to push up or down on quality, quantity, diversity, or net revenue, the market is going to be more than happy to push back on you, often harder and more dramatically.  But very few people outside of Enrollment Management understand this; those who do grasp the concept of trade-offs probably don’t have the time or the inclination to dive into the details to see the nuances.

My job is essentially trying to hit a sweet spot: Managing to generate enough net revenue to pay the professors, heat the buildings, buy computers, and keep the library stocked with academic journals and important books; keeping quality as high as we can in light of the need to pay the bills; and not ever giving up on a critical component of our mission to educate those whose economic situation might not normally assume a private university education, because offering low-income students anything less than a top-quality education only adds insult to injury. Keeping these things in balance is vital to accomplishing what we set out to do.  And we re-invent the way we do it every year, because the number of students in the world is fixed, and competition is pretty fierce.  On top of it all, every university has a different recipe for success.

Historically, we’ve managed this delicate and ever-shifting balance by using SPSS and Excel to examine the relationships between and among the variables we are interested in; typically, we spend several days a year doing nothing else, and it often involves Powerpoint decks of literally hundreds of slides.  When your attention span is as short as mine, I guarantee you lose something important while day dreaming.

So, for internal use and to illuminate the balancing act, this year I took four years of data and rolled it into my favorite visualization tool, Tableau Software. In the interest of full disclosure, I’ve served on their Customer Advocacy Board, because I’m a fan, not because of the free T-shirts, or the beer I’ve been promised by my former account manager for five years now!  I have no financial interest in the company.

The data is confidential, of course, so I can only show you a screen shot, which has been sanitized by removing the values and the axis labels.  But look at this: With just a click or two, you can make a shallow or a deep dive to see the give-and-take between and among a handful of variables: Which students have the highest GPA?  How much do test scores vary by financial need?  Are men or women better students (as if we don’t already know the answer to that one!)  What percentage of our first-generation college students are from Illinois? Who helps us accomplish our mission? Who helps us pay the bills?  Which college has the most attractive students? OK, perhaps that last one is not in the data set.  But you get the idea.

If you work in EM, you owe it to yourself to explain to your campus community the ins and outs of your profession; if you work in higher ed but not in EM, you owe it to yourself to educate yourself about how these important variables relate to each other.  How you do that is up to you, but I strongly recommend against a 247-slide presentation.  You can do better.

Huge thanks to Jon for giving me permission to repost this and I hope he can drop-in to this week's #EMchat.

See you all on Thursday night at 8 pm CST!



#EMchat 49: Minimizing EM Turnover -TOTN goes to @FirstGenCollege

#EMchat 49: Minimizing EM Turnover (click for transcript) touched on how we can increase the retention of EM professionals in the industry. We discussed professional development, mentors, and community building ideas. 

Tweet of the Night: 

TOTN goes to one of #EMchat's own, Yolanda Norman (@FirstGenCollege) for this tweet:  



Honorable Mentions: 









Thank you to everyone who participated tonight!

#EMchat 49: Minimizing EM Turnover transcript. 

In case you missed it, we also announced our first community project: #EMchat Gives Back.  Please help us raise money to send to the American Red Cross for those affected by Hurricane Sandy.  Click the Poll to say, YES, I'm IN.

Have a great weekend! Check out our calendar for upcoming #EMchats. 

EM, Meet Advancement. Advancement, EM.

I’m sitting here without electric. I’m bored, getting kind of cold, watching the candles dwindle as the flames start to burn out (mostly because I’ve been burning candles all’s what we do here), and enjoying the sound of the wind and rain. To be honest, I should probably be scared. I don’t know.  I have a glass of sauvignon blanc on my left and a glass of cabernet sauvignon on the right. I’m taking on this frankenstorm in the classiest manner I know how. I’m also typing this post with my thumbs and I’m not going to lie, I’m amazed at my dexterity. I’m pretty fast. Let’s hope that autocorrect doesn’t place any ridiculous words in this post.

I just read this article from our friends over at Noel-Levitz, and I realize more than ever the importance of having a connected university. I was lucky to have the opportunity to work in enrollment management, student affairs, academic affairs, and university advancement as an undergrad and graduate student at Salisbury University. I know that I drove my now wife crazy with all of my jobs, but I wouldn’t have the knowledge of how institutions work without those experiences.  She’s awesome.

It’s interesting that I would write this post tonight. As a Marylander, I’ve [obviously] been affected by Sandy. And yet, as I’m worrying about my family, my coworkers and my life here in DC (ish), I’m also worrying about my school. Salisbury sits 30 miles away from Ocean City, Maryland, practically underwater.

I’m thinking about the residence halls, the buildings, the city and the students. I’m thinking about the local barsI used to head to with throngs of friends for Thirsty Thursdays or weekend nights as I see pictures on Facebook of those establishments underwater. I remember mud sliding in the quad…running and jumping head first across the giant puddle, formed by a would-be-snow-storm that JUST wasn’t cold enough, ultimately ending on the other side, being amazed at how this was possible. I’m thinking about my freshman experience, especially as a good friend and cluster mate left me a voicemail yesterday that I’ve yet to return (but WILL very soon). I remember sitting on the beach and watching waves with friends as crazy storms rolled in. I’m smiling, thinking about taking Meggie on our first date as freshmen, just four months into our college years…driving to the beach to see the Christmas lights.

As I look down, I notice that I’m wearing Salisbury sweatpants and an SU t-shirt. I look at the collages of pictures on the wall and see my friends smiling back. I look at the blanket on my floor. Salisbury. The photo album on the shelf. Salisbury. My engagement pictures. Salisbury. And let’s not get ahead of ourselves, no, my apartment is not a shrine to SU. My wife is a phenomenal decorator. Really phenomenal.

When I go to college fairs as an alumni volunteer, I see firsthand the shocked faces of students and parents when I say that I don’t work for SU. I’m there, volunteering on a Saturday morning or Tuesday after work because I love my institution. I’m able to provide an insight to my school that these students may not otherwise see. I can tell these stories. I can smile and laugh and be genuine. And, that’s what sells an institution. I can pull from my cross-campus experiences (look for this term in a later post) to answer student questions, paired of course with the EXCELLENT alumni admissions training offered by my alma mater. I can mention my friends who are successful teachers in the state and those who went on, like me, to pursue their master’s. I can talk about my friends working for non-profits, the government, or starting their own businesses after winning competitions put on by Salisbury. I can offer that level of credibility. I can talk directly about job placement. I can speak both to and from experience.

I don’t want to step on Kristen Rothfeld’s excellent past posts on utilizing alumni in EM, I just want to offer my vantage point.

And now I’m thinking about giving. At 25, I’m pretty much just beginning my professional career; and, while I’m in a great place, it’s not one that offers me the opportunity to give to my school on the level that I desire. So I give my time at college fairs, I give my knowledge when it comes to social media and I give my stories to anyone who will listen.

How do you give back?