Monthly Archives: October 2014

October 7, 2014

Marketing vs. Counseling: The Changing Field of Admissions

In the last couple of decades, and particularly the past few years, colleges have become accessible to more than just the upper-middle-class. What used to be “the ideal college” is no longer tied to one demographic or set of qualities. Students are looking for many different options and features for their future college. With the number of entering college students hovering above 21.8 million and the number of accredited colleges nearing seven thousand, the options are bountiful and so are the students’ preferences.  Admission staffs are now forced to balance the needs of the institutions and the ever increasing and diversifying applicant pool.  Admission staffs are constantly struggling with enrolling students that will “ensure a college’s financial stability”, diversify and enrich the student population, and become substantial additions to the institution. In many cases, these requirements do not always match up, causing drifts between the financial and academic departments and leaving the admissions staff stuck in the middle. A field traditionally known as ‘counseling’ has turned into ‘marketing’.

Admission staffs are now starting to look more like marketing teams and this raises the stress levels on many of the officers who are not used to spending as much time and effort with the prospecting process. Institutions are continuously tightening budgets, which is causing an ever increasing rise of dependency on the recruitment and acceptance of future students. Class sizes from year to year are increasing at a phenomenal rate; the number of enrolled students has increased by six million in the last thirteen years – a 38% increase.  The growth in applications and admission duties has left admissions officers in a stressful and time-scarce cycle facing many challenges.

Looking at a bar chart figure from The Chronicle of Higher Education‘s Shaping the Class, admissions officers from different levels of colleges and universities are facing many challenges, including maintaining an enrollment focused culture in the institution.

Enrollment Management

Chronicle

The chart above shows just how far the responsibilities and functions of the  admissions officers have changed and expanded. There are ways to minimize and manage the amount of stress within the admissions office. Using scheduling tools, such as Schedule Today, has decreased the amount of time the admission staff have to spend on menial tasks like scheduling appointments and updating calendars. Medical, Law, and Graduate schools are also using programs, such as AMP Admissions Software, to balance the lengthy and in-depth admissions process. By transferring over duties automatically to simplified software, admission staffs are able to manage more time with students and balance tasks with tight budgets.

Although schools are finding ways to stretch budget dollars with prospecting and the admissions process, the question of how to balance a genuine relationship and encouraging ‘sales’ is still unanswered.  In a recent Chronicle article, Dr. Hawkins, director of public policy and research at NACAC, says, “Even though admissions has been around for a long time, the field still isn’t at a point where it has really defined itself. This profession is being shaped right now, and there’s this question of, Are we counselors or are we marketers? Do we understand the emerging markets that we’re trying to tap into? Ideally, you don’t want to see the entire emphasis be on marketing.”