This is the second post in a series from a college counselor attempting to navigate the current admissions recruiting cycle. He is Brian Switay, a second year admissions counselor at Stevens Institute of Technology, a private research university in Hoboken, New Jersey. His stories are intended to provide an inside look at the challenges he faces as he aspires to grow and advance in the profession.
In his first post, which you can read here, Switay talked about keeping up with the inquiries.
By Brian Switay:
Ascending in the admissions profession can be as easy as changing a light bulb, or as lengthy of a mission as putting up Christmas lights. When I started as an admissions counselor at Stevens Institute of Technology in 2013 I had images of immediately learning the CRM, getting to know all the important people on campus, becoming versed in all the majors available here, and much, much more! It’s definitely been an interesting journey so far.
I’ve had some admission counselors tell me they thought this job would involve hanging out on campus, watching their school’s sporting events and eating lots of free food at the cafeteria. Some counselors have even said they were told that admissions is a way to delay leaving college and getting a real job (yes, I have been told multiple times to get a “real job” from disgruntled parents). It’s not that at all. You have very little free time. There’s a “travel season” and a “reading season,” not to mention the constant running back and forth to campus every other weekend to hold open houses for prospective students. From September to March voicemail and email are constantly full and overflowing. Some days you wonder if you’ll ever be able to recover and catch up to all those messages.
The first couple of years you are a “Yes (Wo) Man, Sponge.” You agree to cover different college fairs (outside your travel territory) and information sessions, not to mention prospective student interviews for colleagues. You become used to living out of your car and hotel rooms, and Netflix is now your best friend when isolated on the road. You conquer how to file your expense reports and get your reimbursement, which by the way is not as easy as you think it is. Weekends off are rare, and it seems like you’re always telling your significant other/family what time you will be home and where you will be that evening.
You do all this and more in an attempt to learn what it takes to become a strong leader and move to the next rung on the admissions ladder.
I want to share with you ways that you can improve your stock in your office and within your university. They’ve worked for me and can do the same for you if you’re new to the admissions profession.
- I became a member of NACAC and my states affiliates, NJACAC and SACAC (since I cover Florida). Becoming a member has led me to countless email group chains and involvement in discussions I never could have imagined. Just by being on the server chain I have learned of a ton of different changes, thoughts, concerns and everything else in-between.
- I have volunteered to become a more integral part of NJACAC (or your local affiliate). I have become part of the planning committee for the Annual NJACAC Conference. Being behind the scenes gives you an amazing networking opportunity. I can happily say that I have found many new friends just from being involved in NJACAC.
- I asked for a mentor from NJACAC (I am sure each affiliate has this option). This is another great way to network and meet with someone who has been in your shoes before. My mentor is a great individual and we set up times to discuss changes in the landscape of admissions, where our goals are at (professionally and personally) and just to catch up and keep me on pace to achieve my goals. I would highly recommend you look into this option if your affiliate has this.
- Set up a logistical and sound proposal to submit to your boss for you to attend the NACAC National Conference, which will be in Columbus, Ohio this year. The sessions are about an hour to an hour and half and the information you receive is incredible! It will be worth the money to send you out to learn any and everything you can. Become a sponge! Not to mention the amount of people you will meet. (I am looking at you, Phil Trout, NACAC President! Pleasure sitting next to you and your wife at the Keynote speech of Sal Khan this year)
- Submit a proposal for your local affiliate’s Conference. I just submitted my first proposal with a group of admissions counselors that I met on the road during my travels. I am honestly thrilled to wait on the decision. I feel like a student waiting on a collegiate decision! But, while I am waiting for my proposal to be decided upon, I have been asked to present proposals for other conferences. It becomes a life of its own, which looks awesome moving forward and up the ladder.
- Social media has become my friend. I follow #EMChat (Thursday Nights at 9pm on Twitter). Here you learn from different professionals in the field about how they are using different tools on their campuses as well as meeting and chatting with different levels in command. Everyone from counselors to Associate Directors, Deans, Directors and Vice Presidents of Enrollment Management participate in the conversation. I love it! I also use social media to connect with current and prospective students. I like to tweet out when I am on the road what high schools and college fairs I will be attending that coming day. Students have direct messaged me as well to ask questions about their acceptance.
- Don’t be afraid to ask questions! I have built, and currently am still building, a long list of colleagues. Every time I reach out with a question I have always received a response, even from people I have met only once while at NACAC.
These are just a few things that I hope you can incorporate moving forward.
I now have a question for you. What are ways you get involved? I would love to connect and chat with you. Tweet me @brianatstevens
Hopefully I will meet some of you at the NACAC National Conference, #EMChat on Thursday nights, or at a local affiliate’s conference. Good luck!