A strong admissions office is a formidable machine. There are plenty of moving pieces: campus tours, visit days, application deadlines, complicated mail flows, digital campaigns, financial aid and housing complexities. At the center of it all is a single person, meant to smile, understand, and make everything seem easy–the admissions counselor.
We at The Parish Group have been fortunate enough to meet hundreds of these employees, and over the years we’ve seen that a truly good admissions counselor can make up for a host of other deficits in an admissions office. And, similarly, those without proper training or passion can cost an admissions office significantly more than their salary.
Either way, admissions counselors hold great power. If you are leading an admissions office, here are some important factors to consider in developing an effective team:
What makes each of your counselors get up in the morning? Often, admissions counselors are paid a wage that rivals that of a Resident Director and they frequently must share apartments or rides to work. Because of the low average salary for this position, those who take on this work do so out of a desire to help people, a strong school spirit, or a hope for promotion within higher ed. Knowing what makes your counselors tick will enable you to motivate them accordingly.
Do your counselors feel supported? Often, they work long hours or travel for weeks at a time away from family. Do you know when they cross important milestones? What happens when they reach their application goal or have the highest yield rate on the team? Is there a plan in place to effectively cover for them if they’re out when one of their students visits campus? Is there a way to celebrate their accomplishments and positive notes from families? It doesn’t cost much to create a culture of teamwork that makes a good admissions counselor great.
Have you asked your admissions counselors what they need? Are you willing to hear the answer? Too often there can be a communication bottleneck within the admissions office, where a counselor can try to advocate for a student and wind up equally ignored. Can you create clear expectations for all staff regarding communication timelines? Are weekly meetings part of your culture? Do you invite guest speakers from housing, financial aid, and academic majors to consistently increase your team’s holistic understanding of the school?
Generally, admissions counselors are busy folks. Except when they aren’t. The cyclical nature of the year creates times of high stress and periods of slower downtime. What can you do to capitalize on those slower days? Often, admissions counselors who are eager to prove themselves have a variety of untapped interests that could be used for the benefit of the team. Maybe you have a counselor who would love to manage your social media platforms, take some additional campus photos, develop content for new publications, research scholarship options, or produce short promotional videos. Leaning into the natural interests of your team is a great way to show that you value each member personally while enabling them to prove their unique assets.
After May 1, everyone is thinking about how to fight melt. Remember that your counselors are your first line of defense! The average admissions counselor’s salary nationwide is just under $40,000. After discounts, the national average for four-years of college is over $100,000. If your admissions counselor recruits ten students for you, they’ve made the school a million dollars. But you’re asking much more than that. Investing in your admissions counselors as powerful and persuasive linchpins will pay dividends in your ability to secure the next class and shine like the leader you are.
Do your counselors need extra guidance? The Parish Group offers customized counselor training based on each institution’s discriminators. We cover everything from customer service and sales tactics to tips on effective resource management. It would be our pleasure to partner with your team. If we can be a help, let us know!