The college admissions profession is full of ups and downs. Those in it, particularly young counselors, are finding that they need to constantly acquire and sharpen new skills without a clearly defined career path.
This guest blog, the first in a series, will follow one college counselor as he navigates 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.
By Brian Switay:
With Travel Season coming to a close and application reading approaching faster than the next season of your favorite television series, one can only reflect on the travel season they had in the (not so short) lull of action between traveling and reading. Yes, it is true; many are still finalizing their final weeks of travel, while others are back in the office, responding to emails and phone calls about decision timeframes and if you will be receiving their official scores from CollegeBoard.
Then you remember I want to browse through all the inquiry cards that I have received and reach out to some students to give some personalized attention. As you scour your notes, it hits you. How can I really personalize this information a couple of weeks after meeting them? I am sure that most of you place what you discussed, what program of interest the student seeks out, or their close relationship to an alumni or employee, but did you ever take notes on the personal interests of the student?
I can say that the best relationships that I have fostered with a student and family are not based off of what program they are interested in pursuing but how to connect with that family on a personal level. Ask questions indicative of what the student is wearing at the fair or why they want to study this field. I have built a great relationship with a family after listening to their suggestion on them loving Mexican food and after a campus tour, where do I recommend? After a few days, I HAND WROTE a letter explaining how happy I was to have met them and hope that they enjoyed their lunch at Charrito’s in Hoboken. (The best in town!). When I attended a college fair at her high school, the family approached me with a menu of their recommendation for their favorite Mexican restaurant in their town! I was shocked! After that interaction, I learned that she is planning on applying Early Decision 1 based on how attentive I was to her personal interests.
I have also gone out of my way to make myself available to the best of the worst celebrity gossip, who is dating whom, what is the best television show out, who’s album is currently trending on iTunes, what is the latest phrase and terminology, and relating these thoughts (and sometimes phrases) back to the student in a way that they can connect with the program of study they are interested in. For example, one student said that he was interested in pursuing Mathematics (but had no idea why or what he can do with the degree upon graduation) and that he was also a huge Ben Stiller fan. I quickly proceeded to ask him if he had ever seen the movie Along Came Polly, to which he replied with an enthusiastic “Yes” (Ben Stiller stars in this film)! I continued to explain that Ben Stiller plays an Actuarial Scientist and calculates the risk for people in life for insurance or financial programs and that the student can achieve the same career with a degree in Mathematics as one of the options. By connecting with him on a personal level and how he can achieve something based on such a small interest can open the doors and make your jobs easier.
So I ask, how have you connected with your students lately?