So, here it goes. I love college admissions work because, as professionals, we get to teach, preach and compete and I think that’s a pretty powerful combination for a fulfilling career.
I am a teacher (and so are you)
I know there’s some danger describing what we do in college admissions as teaching in an environment that has a pretty clear definition of who teaches and who does not. But, after more than twenty years in college admissions work, I consider myself and my colleagues to be teachers. Not only are we teachers—we are excellent teachers. We teach, generally, about a critically important process—the college search and selection process. The curriculum changes from year to year as processes, the environment and the competitive landscape shifts. We have to keep on top of the changes and have an obligation to keep our teaching fresh in order to serve our students effectively.
We also engage in a great deal of one-on-one teaching through the sort of advising we do. I can think of no more rewarding teaching than those intimate conversations with prospective students as they navigate the most important decision they’ll make up to this point in their life. All of those interviews, phone calls, one-on-one conversations and opportunities to advise prospective students is the teaching we do as admissions officers and it is tremendously rewarding.
Oh, and, we also do a little bit of grading, just like teachers, during the selection process; that’s a pretty important parts of what we do.
For those admissions officers, like me, who are in leadership roles, we engage in different sort of teaching through training new staff in the profession, the ethics of our work and the Xs and Os of the day-to-day work in the office. This is critically important teaching for our institutions and for the profession as a whole and it is this teaching role that keeps me excited about this great profession.
The bottom-line is that if you don’t think of yourself as a teacher, you should.
Preach it like you mean it
These days the word passion is overused. However, the most effective admissions officers talk about the institution they represent like they are spreading the gospel. They are passionate about the subject, institution, people, place and product. Admissions officers are evangelists for the type of institutions they represent, as well as the individual institution. I’ve witnessed countless information sessions, college night conversations, and one-on-one exchanges that resemble a member of the clergy or layperson in the pulpit engaged in sharing an important, impassioned message or lesson. The most effective admissions officers get behind their institution and the type of institution they represent in the same way a preacher gets behind sharing the gospel. To be successful, long-term, in this work, one has to get fired up about the people and place and spread the good news by preaching it high and low, on- and off-line and with the passion of an evangelist.
For me, as a product of a residential liberal arts college and having witnessed the transformative value of similar colleges for which I’ve worked, I look forward to preaching the good word each and every day.
Competition is good
While we all like to say, “we want every college to be successful,” the truth is that the best admissions counselors like to compete and are very competitive by their nature. In my view, the refrain competition is good is like Gordon Gecko’s, “Greed is good.” Not everyone will embrace this part of the work, but the fact is competition is an important part of this work. One’s competitive nature may be more internally-driven and might manifest itself with an overwhelming need to continually improve. However, there are plenty of great admissions people who I know who compete hard and may approach things differently. There are some for whom it is important to identify a competitor against whom it’s important to always win.
Competition and competing is what makes this job fun and fresh. Competing for mind-share, market, applications and enrollments is tremendously rewarding. Competing is not for the faint of heart and one has to have a tough stomach. But, engaging in goal-driven work and knowing that others (especially at tuition-driven and enrollment-urgent colleges) depend on you and the work you do is fulfilling and is among the many things that keeps me excited about this job and profession.
What do you love about college admissions?
And, do you consider yourself a teacher, preacher and competitor?
W. Kent Barnds is the vice president of Enrollment, Communications, and Planning at Augustana College. This article was originally posted to Kent's blog, @bowtieadmission.