With the amount of turnover in an admissions office a standardized on-boarding process can be helpful. Any system that is set up can then be scalable and while it likely won’t be a set and forget it kind of deal it can ease up one section of managing of the office.
When I started in admissions the process was:
Then I was on my own. I hit the road to do visits, fairs, and presentations. My boss was available via text but mostly I relied on my own college experience as the foundation for my conversations. Certainly not ideal but it seemed to work. When I moved to other institutions I learned the process wasn’t much different.
Reliance on this sink or swim or swim methodology also relies on hiring the right personality types. Those who have a disposition for uncertainty and a willingness to fail.
High turnover in both admissions counselors and leadership creates a reliance on this training method. Establishing standards takes time and consistency. Different leaders are going to approach the work differently - requiring their staff to follow suit.
The recent difficulties in hiring the right personalities for counselors and the shift in the way recruitment and admissions works I have had to think harder about on-boarding. Building a system that will support of diverse staff, bringing them together and provide opportunities for their own career growth.
I have always seen Admissions Counselors as entry level. I assume we are starting from ground zero with admissions knowledge. A student ambassador program is an ideal on-ramp for admissions counselors. But that source will not always be reliable.
Assuming I am starting from scratch it’s beneficial to approach on-boarding from an educators perspective. The information should scaffold into each other. Building on the previous information to create mastery.
I started here. Giving the counselors an understanding of the kinds of students they’ll be working with. This will help them identify the student early so they can frame the conversations that can meet student need and be transparent about the admissions process and the requirements to be admitted.
Here’s my list:
It is necessary to break down the admissions process by student type, outlining the requirements, standards and timeline for completion and processing. Knowing these will create clear communication and transparent expectations. This will also break the process down into manageable sections making the work trackable and easy to follow up with students.
Now that counselors understand student types and their admissions process the funnel stages contextualize the students college search journey, from first contact to first day of class.
Each funnel stage should have a clear entry and exit point with clear processes that takes the student from the entry to the exit. Without this counselors have no way of following up with students or knowing how to help them move from stage to another.
Understanding the stages of the funnel leads to the software that tracks the progress of each student. Making the work itself manageable. Counselors can then break their territory into lists by student type, and funnel stage. Outlining the work that needs to be tackled on a daily and weekly basis.
This tracking of the work gives counselors an idea of what it means to be successful. Making it possible to set goals, and develop skills that show professional development.
The final stage of initial on-boarding is how to communicate with students in the admissions process with the goal of taking them from one stage to another. This is a sales process and should be the framework for each conversation the counselor has with the student.
The pandemic forced me to embrace 21st century methods of communication and consumption. Along with many digital tools I’ve had to set up the on-boarding process in a way that made it accessible from everywhere and consumable, without feeling like a drinking from a firehose.
The documents I wrote out will be in PDF format and added to an on-boarding folder in the office’s Team. But to help with consumption and make the material more approachable I set up a Canvas course. This allowed me to break it down into bite-sized sections.
The on-boarding and training process is an important element that when established can accelerate enrollment growth. Establishing these procedures gives way to other aspects of admissions work: communications, events, travel. This foundation will give new counselors the ability to develop themselves professionally and take advantage of opportunities in the industry.