Our Jobs Weren’t Designed This Way
What on earth were we thinking?
That’s a genuine question I have for my friends and colleagues, those of us who have been admissions leaders over the last generation. What were we thinking when we created this work environment for admissions counselors?
Staff morale in admissions offices is as bad as it has ever been. At first, we could maybe convince ourselves that it was just The Great Resignation hitting us like everyone else. But that’s not true – it’s much worse here.
Here’s why: over the course of a generation, we have slowly changed the job of admissions counselors, and right now, quite frankly, it sucks.
In order to achieve short-term objectives, we have bloated the applicant pool of each of our admissions counselors to the point that no individual person can be expected to manage them in a personal, relational way. Just to add insult to injury, every time we made this problem worse, we sent out a celebratory press release!
With this ever-expanding applicant pool, we are still holding on to the level of personal outreach and engagement with students that we were trained on when we started. But with a 5% increase in the applicant pool every year, surely we can’t keep increasing our contacts by 5% – there is a human limit. That’s something we somehow left out of our press releases.
So this problem we’ve created by bloating our applicant pool has created a need for a new skill set among admissions counselors – data analysis and mining. If we still need to be as personal and relational in our recruiting, but the applicant pool has grown by 50-75% in the last fifteen years, then we have no choice but to identify which students will get that engagement. Failing to do this means we’re equally spreading our most precious resource, time, across the entire applicant pool, diluting the effect.
Now, we have a core skill: data analysis, which is at odds with what we hire people to do. When hiring admissions counselors, we usually look for energetic, outgoing, effervescent people who get excited about the prospect of talking to prospective students about their future and how this institution could be a good fit for them.
That’s why most admissions counselors are accepting jobs in our profession.
But they get here, and then we sit them at a desk and put them behind a screen reviewing data records for, on average, 2 ½ hours per day. That’s looking through spreadsheets, queries, contact reports, CRM records; you name it. That’s before a single conversation with a student – it’s all just data analysis.
To be clear – that figure comes from quantitative research I have been conducting with admissions leaders. Currently covering over 200 admissions counselors, the average time reported on reviewing data for student contacts is, on average, 627 hours per year, or 2 ½ hours per day.
None of us meant for this to happen, but we all played a part in creating it. So now we must change it – we have to change the job of an admissions counselor back to what it was – working closely with individual students.