NACAC: The Mullet of All Conferences

Carnegie Higher Ed Oct 11, 2012 Carnegie Higher Ed Persona The Visionary Frontrunner

Yes, I said it…the mullet. If you’re like me (a child of the ’80s), the word “mullet” conjures up images of Bono, David Bowie, Uncle Jesse, and A.C. Slater. The famous hairstyle is characterized by a close cut on top and the sides and then long (often permed) hair in the back. We love to make fun of the mullet, but secretly we all love it and wish we would have been brave enough to try it at some point during our youth…

Just kidding, mostly we just love to make fun of it!

What does this have to do with the annual meeting of the National Association for College Admission Counseling, you ask? This past week, 6,000 of us attended the 67th annual NACAC conference in Denver, Colorado. While having drinks with some colleagues one of the nights after the conference, the topic turned to the mullet hairstyle (conversations in higher education marketing naturally end up here…) and we got a good laugh. However, this made me think that NACAC is quite like the mullet. In fact, it is the “Dog the Bounty Hunter Mullet” of all conferences! You see, the mullet has earned the affectionate description of “business in the front, party in the back” because of the conservative cut on the top and sides, and the crazy mistake…I mean, long hair in the back.

Admission officers from colleges and universities, high school counselors, and many professionals from companies doing business in higher education got together to mingle, attend seminars and lectures, and trade ideas on how to thrive in the ever-changing world of college admission. From the age-old questions about increasing yield and retention rates to the more specific topics like digital display advertising and retargeting for admission, I think everyone was able to benefit from the information exchanged—or, the “business in the front.” After the conference hall closes for the day and the sessions are over, local restaurants and bars are literally taken over by attendees. Nights are filled with client and colleague dinners, giant parties hosted by vendors (1,200 people at the Hard Rock Café alone), and late nights. The last night is the conference social, which is basically a big party to celebrate the long week of meetings, meetings, and more meetings. By this time, everyone is enthusiastic about all they learned during the week and the new connections they made, but at the same time, most are deliriously tired and ready to go home. All of these things together equal a bunch of people who have worked their butts off all week and are ready to cut loose—the “party in the back,” if you will.

NACAC is the one conference all year that everyone looks forward to: business in the front, party in the back! Whether you go for the lectures and seminars, the networking and face time with your peers, or simply for the great times that inevitably occur with people you only get to see once a year, it is time and money well spent. I just wish I could say the same thing about the original mullet hairstyle!

You can follow me on Twitter @jlawnchair; or on Google Plus as Jennifer Lonchar

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