20+ Years in Admission vs. Three Weeks at Carnegie: What I Thought I Knew

Carnegie Higher Ed Nov 12, 2013 Carnegie Higher Ed Persona The Visionary Frontrunner

Once upon a time, before Facebook and Twitter took over the world, there was me, the undergraduate admission counselor. The road warrior that ate more stale donuts and logged more miles than Del Griffith selling shower curtain rings.*

I was one of the few fortunate enough to spend an entire admission career working for one university. I started off as a counselor and moved up the ranks to Associate Director of Undergraduate Admission. Then one day, out of the blue and much to my surprise, I was appointed Director of Graduate Admission.

Taking on this new role, I figured I could just use the tools I learned in the undergraduate office and simply apply them to the graduate office. Wrong! Every admission person who has made the leap from UG to GR knows exactly what I’m talking about. And for those of you who don’t—graduate admission is a completely different animal!

Fast-forward 14 outstanding, crazy, meaningful years, and I decided it was time to hang up my admission hat and embark on a new adventure. But I also knew I wasn’t about to throw away all of those hard-won enrollment management skills and knowledge. I found myself in a place I never thought I would visit: the land of “The Vendor,” the “Service Provider” . . . the “Dark Side.”

We have all received (and dodged) their e-mails and phone calls looking for just 15 or 20 minutes of our time. During my final two weeks in the graduate admission office, I started to look at those vendor inquiries in a totally different light. Holy smoke—this was going to be me on the other end of that e-mail or phone call!

Well, I am now in my third week here at Carnegie, and I couldn’t be happier, but I’m a little puzzled by this “dark side” description admission people keep throwing around. I spent nearly a week at the Carnegie headquarters in Westford, Massachusetts, and not once did I see Darth Vader or any of the stormtroopers. What I did discover, however, was that I didn’t know as much as I thought I did about recruiting college students.

In these first weeks, I’ve visited several campuses and seen college admission/recruitment from a completely different perspective. The one common theme is that every admission office works tirelessly to assemble a great incoming class. To that end everyone is trying to keep up in this world of digital recruitment. There is usually someone on the admission staff tasked with maintaining the Facebook page, Twitter feed, admission home page, and other social media outlets. But it’s about so much more than status updates on your Class of 2017 Facebook page, application deadline posts, and cute campus photos. I too used to think this was an effective social media presence.

I recently attended my first College Board forum as a vendor and sat in on a presentation titled “What I wish I knew about service providers before I became one.” (Ironic, right?) I sat up in my seat like a college freshman in their first class, pen in hand, mind wide open, ready to learn.

The thing that stuck with me from that presentation was when the presenter said he wished he would have taken the opportunity back when he was an admission professional to pick up the phone more often and listen to those vendors. Those were opportunities for him to learn more about what was new and innovative in the field of college recruitment.

At that moment I knew I had made the right decision in my new adventure. I could use not only my years of experience but all of these new tools at my disposal to help an admission office succeed. I had my mission!

So the next time your phone rings and your caller ID shows an unknown number, it could be a vendor on the other end asking for just a few minutes of your time. That 15- or 20-minute call could be the difference between making or not making your next class, or you may just end up a little more informed than you were before you picked up the phone. Who knows—it might even be me calling you.

You can follow me on Twitter @kevinroane

* If you don’t get this reference, make sure you rent Planes, Trains, and Automobiles!

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