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Getting inside the head of a 17-year-old. #admissions #emchat #highered

March 19, 2014

This post also appeared in the Augustana College publication, Acknowledge. 

In admissions, we often describe our work as “trying to get inside the head of a 17-year-old.” However, when I began in 1992, I couldn’t have foreseen a day like today and a resource like Facebook, which really does allow us to get inside the thoughts of students thinking about Augustana.

When our admissions office experimented with the launch of a Class of 2015 Facebook page, we saw modest participation. Since those early efforts we’ve expanded the pages to include parents, and now see robust and enthusiastic participation. Patterns among deciding and committed students provide insight into what’s on their minds, and almost in real time.

Through our review of questions asked on the Class of 2016 page, we were able to tailor communication to more effectively address questions at the right times. In response to questions about housing selection and parking, we launched a very successful series of videos featuring Gus, our mascot, on the Class of 2017 page. And based on the questions last year, we’ll expand the videos for the Class of 2018 to better serve our students during the transition.

While surveying comments on the Class Facebook pages has certainly helped us communicate better with students, the real benefit is to witness in real time the enthusiasm students have for Augustana. It is through these posts that many of our future students stake their preliminary claim in the Augustana experience. In the past few days, I’ve read of the dreams of veterinarians, speech pathologists, accountants, political scientists, teachers, neuroscientists and aspiring Ph.Ds.

I’ve read of a student looking for roommates in search of a “coherent color scheme.” There are enthusiastic posts about the LGBT community on campus. There are all-state tuba players, bassoonists and a student insistent upon starting a club marching band! Student-athletes in all of our 23 programs post about their excitement to be a Viking.

The posts reveal aspirations of leadership in and outside the classroom, desire to build community, find a roommate and be a part of something big. Facebook provides us with a way to literally read the thoughts of the students seriously considering Augustana, in a way we never could have imagined 20 years ago.

W. Kent Barnds a.k.a. @bowtieadmission

Pick up the phone… please! #emchat #admissions #highered

March 12, 2014

Maybe I am “old school,” but I still believe a telephone call is one of the most important communication methods for college admissions counselors. The give and take—relaying and gathering information—is unmatched and frequently mutually beneficial. However, it’s harder and harder to get students and parents to pick up the phone.

While this is not always the case and there are certainly surprising instances when people do answer (i.e. in a public restroom, at concerts, in class or at work), it’s become increasingly difficult to reach people by phone.

I get it. We have the technology and the inclination to screen calls.

I am guilty of it. I screen my calls at home. I have sympathy for families who are bombarded with calls—wanted and unwanted. I filter calls and answer only those from organizations or people I know or from whom I want to hear. Caller ID serves as my gate-keeper and enables me to spend time talking to the people and organizations that I want to talk to, while ignoring others.

I suspect this is the same behavior for students and parents who are overwhelmed with phone calls. But, to be honest, I am not sure that’s the case. I wish I could be certain.

Are students and families just too busy to take calls?

Is it just not the right time to answer a call?

Are our calls being ignored because of lack of interest?

Are students and families too timid to “break up” with us?

I suppose many families might wonder why we are calling? And that a good question. I like to think we are calling to relay or gather important information, rather than bug, harass or bother students. When we make a call or schedule a call it is usually with a clear purpose in mind.

For example, right now, we are making three very specific types of calls: 1. To inform a student that an element of his or her application is missing and we need it to complete a review and offer an admissions decision; 2. To determine if a student remains interested in Augustana; and, 3. To discuss the detail of their financial aid award letter and make sure the student and family understands every detail of the award they’ve received.

Each of these calls is designed to serve our students and provide timely decisions and communicate thoroughly. However, we can’t serve students and families in this way if they don’t answer the phone.

I plead with students to pick up the phone, especially this time of year. Pick up the phone and provide feedback—tell those colleges you are still interested in that you remain interested, and break up with the rest. Pick up the phone and communicate with us, even if it is to take the 20 seconds to say, “I am no longer interested in your college.” Don’t leave us trying to figure out if you are interested and playing hard to get, or if you’ve moved on.

I also plead with parents and partners—guidance and independent counselors—to join me in this plea to help stop the unnecessary calls and serve all of our interested students and families more effectively by eliminating the guesswork about who’s in and who’s out.

When the phone rings and it’s from a college, just think of it as a question—and answer it. 

W. Kent Barnds a.k.a. @bowtieadmission

Looking at the competition: A comparison of Net Price Calculators from student’s view. #admissions #emchat #highered #financialaid

February 19, 2014

Since the federally mandated introduction of the net price calculator (NPC) in October of 2011, I’ve been curious to know what kinds of results students would get if they completed our calculator and those from some of our competitors.

I’ve been curious to know if the NPC results in a clearer “apples to apples” comparison of cost.

I’ve been curious to see how other colleges present information to students.

I’ve been curious to better understand the impressions about affordability and value with which a student might be left after completing ours and a competitor’s.

I’ve been curious to know how we stack up against flagship universities and other private colleges.

Lots of curiosity on my part, but no action…until now.

Over the recent holiday break, I asked one of our student ambassadors, assisted by the Office of Institutional Research and Assessment, to undertake a project to complete our net price calculator and NPCs from some of our top competitors. To initiate the project, I developed an archetype academic profile and worked with the Office of Financial Assistance to develop four different financial backgrounds to use in our experiment (these profiles are listed below). After developing the profiles for our students, we developed a list of competitor schools based on data from the National Clearinghouse and those schools with which we overlap most frequently.

My initial list included 10 colleges (Bradley University, DePaul University, Elmhurst College, University of Iowa, Illinois Wesleyan University, Loyola University, Marquette University, North Central College, Northern Illinois University, and University of Illinois–Champaign-Urbana). When I asked my colleagues in Institutional Research and Assessment to look at my initial findings, they thought it would be good to add Gustavus Adolphus College (peer), Loras College (regional competition), Luther College (peer), Monmouth College (regional competition) and Northwestern University (competition for highest-achieving students).

 

Academic Profile

ACT: 25; Class Rank: top 20%;

and, G.P.A. 3.2

Student 1: $75,000 household income, family of 3, 1 in college, assets $5,000

Parents’ marital status: Married

State of residence: CO

Family size: 3

Number in college: 1

Parents’ income: $69,662

Parents’ income taxes paid: $4,376

Parent 1 income earned: $56,800

Parent 2 does not work

Parents’ untaxed income: $5,000

Parents’ assets: $5,000

Student income: $2,850

Student income taxes paid: $0

Student untaxed income: $0

Student assets: 160

 

Student 2: $120,000 household income, family of 4, 1 in college, assets $10,000

Parents’ marital status: Married

State of Residence: IL

Family size: 4

Number in college: 1 

Parents’ income: $108,084

Parents’ income taxes paid: $10,041

Parent 1 income earned: $89,792

Parent 2 income earned: $7,154

Parents’ untaxed income: $9,855

Parents’ assets: $10,000

Student income: 1,340

Student income taxes paid: $0

Student untaxed income: $0

Student assets: $2,300

 

Student 3: $200,000 household income, family of 5, 2 in college, assets $20,000

Parents’ marital status: Married

State of Residence: IL

Family size: 5

Number in college: 2 

Parents’ income: $179,670

Parents’ income taxes paid: $23,676

Parent 1 income earned: $175,480

Parent 2 does not work

Parents’ untaxed income: $17,000

Parents’ assets: $20,000

Student income: $3,000

Student income taxes paid: $0

Student untaxed income: $0

Student assets: $8,000

 

Student 4: $45,000 household income, family of 4, 1 in college, assets $0

Parents’ marital status: Divorced/Single

State of Residence: IL

Family size: 4

Number in college: 1 

Parents’ income: $46,230

Parents’ income taxes paid: $183

Parents’ income earned: $47,900

Parents’ untaxed income: $0

Parents’ assets: $0

Student income: $1,000

Student income taxes paid: $0

Student untaxed income: $0

Student assets: $200 

* We also made the oldest parent 55, since it was a question asked by a couple of institutions.

 

So, what did we find?

Before I get to the results, and try to make some sense of it all, I thought the following observations might be of interest.

It will cost you nothing to attend: A couple of the college’s NPCs include the Parent PLUS loan in calculating the out-of-pocket cost for students. This is an interesting technique. The “estimated net price” is clearly outlined, but when the PLUS loan is included under the guise of “eligibility for other aid programs” it can make the out-of-pocket cost appear to be $0.

Indirect costs are wildly different: Indirect costs, which include things like books, personal expenses, and transportation, are considered in calculating the amount of financial need a family has, and therefore indirect costs have a direct relationship to demonstrated financial need. What I found surprising is the dramatic range in indirect costs, which varied on the high end from $4,600 (regional public) to the low end of $2,400 (private, national liberal arts college). The wild variation seemed odd to me.

Work Study is applied inconsistently and amounts vary: The amount of Work Study availability varied from $1,200 to $2,500 for the same student with the same need levels. Furthermore, there were a number of NPCs that include Work Study as a resource used to reduce the cost to attend. This is an interesting technique because it, of course, lowers the cost to attend. But, Work Study earnings are seldom used to pay a student’s bill.

Some colleges offer very broad ranges: A small number of colleges offer ranges of need-based grants, rather than a specific level of grant support. I certainly understand this from an enrollment management perspective (you don’t want to promise something you can’t deliver), but the practice makes the NPCs almost useless, given the range offered can vary from $2,000 to $8,000.

The results are damn confusing: NPCs are anything but clear in presentation and results. In fact, they are terribly confusing even for someone who knows his way around this stuff. One college’s results were so crazy that we sent an anonymous email seeking clarification. The response we received directed us to yet a different calculator housed on the business office’s website. A further complication is that there is no easy way to find NPCs on most college websites—some are hidden deep within the structure and others are right up front. We ended up Googling Net Price Calculator + (college name) to make it easy. I hope that’s what families are doing.

If you’ve made it this far, you may want to know what we found out about Augustana and whether there are any general tends to which I can point?

With the help of the Office of Institutional Research and Assessment, and in an effort to try to compare apples to apples, rather than apples to basketballs, we “standardized” the results to determine net cost by looking at direct cost minus estimated grant aid and the Federal Stafford Loan. We left out PLUS, Work Study in order to try to assess how we stack up. Here’s what we found.

 

In short, here’s what was discovered:

 

 

Direct Cost

Student 1

Net Price

Student 2

Net Price

Student 3

Net Price

Student 4

Net Price

Mean

43,246

22,249

27,048

27,552

16,471

Median

43,161

20,784

25,944

27,119

15,060

Augustana

44,938

19, 338

24,638

24,638

13,438

Augie Difference from Median

1,777

-1,446

-1,306

-2,481

-1,622

 

Of the 16 schools we considered, Augustana’s direct cost is $1,692 above the mean and $1,777

above the median. However, after considering the scholarships and grants and $5,500 in

Stafford loans, Augustana is below both the mean and the median for each of the four students. 

Augie is more than $5,000 less than five other schools on the list for each student profile. 

The move from direct cost to net price is about a $3,500 jump for Augie.

 

 
 
 
 

Now I don’t know exactly what this means. My initial thought was; hey, that looks pretty good for us. I mean, our price is more than the mean, but our cost is less. And, in most cases, if we less expensive or perceived as a better value, I am perfectly comfortable making the case for the cost differential. However, I suspect the results are more nuanced.

Are we offering too much financial aid? Are we a better value? Do we make a more substantial investment in students?

I need to look deeper at all of these questions, but in the meantime, if you want to know how Augustana stacks up against these colleges for our archetype students, you will find the results below.

 

School

Student 1 – 75k CO

Student 1

Difference from Augie

Student 1

Augustana

19,338

24,838

 

Bradley

18,514

24,014

-824

DePaul#

30,392

35,892

11,054

Elmhurst

20,300

25,800

962

Gustavus Adolphus

20,885

26,385

1,547

Iowa

34,061

39,561

14,723

IWU

21,702

27,202

2,364

Loras

20,682

26,182

1,344

Loyola

29,130

34,630

9,792

Luther

21,847

27,347

2,509

Marquette

28,198

33,698

8,860

Monmouth

16,529

22,029

-2,809

NCC

15,869

21,369

-3,469

NIU

3,226

8,726

-16,112

Northwestern*

16,213

21,713

-3,125

U of I

39,105

44,605

19,767

 

School

Student 2 – 120k IL

Student 2

Difference from Augie Student 2

Augustana

24,638

30,138

 

Bradley

29,714

35,214

5,076

DePaul#

36,392

41,892

11,754

Elmhurst

23,900

29,400

-738

Gustavus Adolphus

28,894

34,394

4,256

Iowa

34,061

39,561

9,423

IWU

24,152

29,652

-486

Loras

24,132

29,632

-506

Loyola

31,250

36,750

6,612

Luther

25,695

31,195

1,057

Marquette

30,018

35,518

5,380

Monmouth

22,550

28,050

-2,088

NCC

21,069

26,569

-3,569

NIU

21,092

26,592

-3,546

Northwestern*

26,193

31,693

1,555

U of I

29,014

34,514

4,376

 

School

Student 3 – 200k IL

Student 3

Difference from Augie Student 3

Augustana

24,638

30,138

 

Bradley

24,514

30,014

-124

DePaul#

36,692

42,192

12,054

Elmhurst

25,600

31,100

962

Gustavus Adolphus

30,679

36,179

6,041

Iowa

34,601

40,101

9,963

IWU

29,102

34,602

4,464

Loras

24,882

30,382

244

Loyola

31,250

36,750

6,612

Luther

25,695

31,195

1,057

Marquette

31,018

36,518

6,380

Monmouth

22,550

28,050

-2,088

NCC

22,969

28,469

-1,669

NIU

19,092

24,592

-5,546

Northwestern*

28,543

34,043

3,905

U of I

29,014

34,514

4,376

 

School

Student 4  – 45k IL

Student 4

Difference from Augie Student 4

Augustana

13,438

18,938

 

Bradley

17,014

22,514

3,576

DePaul#

25,461

30,961

12,023

Elmhurst

9,510

15,010

-3,928

Gustavus Adolphus

13,648

19,148

210

Iowa

30,066

35,566

16,628

IWU

16,657

22,157

3,219

Loras

19,882

25,382

6,444

Loyola

23,235

28,735

9,797

Luther

15,167

20,667

1,729

Marquette

22,823

28,323

9,385

Monmouth

8,735

14,235

-4,703

NCC

13,854

19,354

416

NIU

14,953

20,453

1,515

Northwestern*

4,548

10,048

-8,890

U of I

14,538

20,038

1,100

 

 

*Archetype student unlikely to be admitted. This may be the case for other colleges in the comparison group, too.

#An average of the grant range provided by the NPC was used to come up with a grant value.

I am not sure that any of the results are earth-shattering, but they are interesting.

What do you think about all of this? Are you aware of other efforts to compare NPCs results?

If you are an enrollment professional, you might try this out on your own to see what a family might see at your institution and at your competition.

W. Kent Barnds a.k.a. @bowtieadmission

New blog post: Is social media is the new cocktail party for parents engaged in the college search? #emchat #admissions #highered

January 3, 2014

At Augustana College we use a number of tools to track what people are saying, writing and blogging about the college. It’s helpful to know what’s out there, to track trends and celebrate good news or prepare for bad news. These tools track all sorts of things, and an alert I received today really got me thinking.

Yesterday one of the alert services provided a link to a parent’s Facebook page on which Augustana was included. The parent had listed several other colleges and universities, too. The post, which I will paraphrase, includes a list of colleges this parent’s student is considering. Plus the post includes the academic and co-curricular interests of the student.

It’s a fascinating list of colleges—ranging from the super-selective to the local public university. The list includes 20 colleges in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Ohio, Missouri, Tennessee, Kentucky and Wisconsin. Colleges range in size from 800 to 5,000.

What is most interesting to me about the post, though, is that the parent asks for advice on how to decide, compare and even negotiate with colleges.

Presumably, this parent is asking for advice from people who he trusts to be informed and have the best interest of his student in mind. However, the replies are what you might expect – both biased and anecdotally based.

I am very tempted to follow the parent, so I could continue to monitor the post. I am curious to see if anyone makes a good case for Augie among those who post.

I guess this really shouldn’t surprise me at all, considering how people use social media. But, this particular post may suggest a new way to gather information about colleges and the college search.

It seems to me that discussions on comparing and negotiating with colleges were once reserved for the cocktail party circuit. These questions were reserved for close friends or those who one knew had recently navigated the process. These questions were held in reserve—somewhat like one’s voting preferences. However, this post suggests otherwise.

While I know plenty of people who have queried their Facebook friends for dating, dining, vacation and voting advice, what do you think? Are you ready to ask for advice via Facebook about important issues, like your student’s college choice?

Please complete the poll below:

Let me know what you think? Is social media the new cocktail party?

W. Kent Barnds aka @bowtieadmission

Preparing for a career in college admissions: You should umpire Little League games. #admissions #emchat

November 21, 2013

Last Friday I received the first of call of the year from a parent questioning why we’d denied her son admission.  It was a respectful call and the questions were serious and genuine. I sensed advocacy and curiosity on the other end of the line.  The call ended in the same way these calls always end, with an invitation to be proven wrong by the student attending another college and transferring.

It was the first of many more to come, I suspect. 

These calls are an important part of the cycle and I appreciate the parents who call (even those who don’t do their homework before calling). These parents are advocates for their kids and are involved, which is a good thing.

These calls are never joy-filled, even after more than 20 years, but they’ve never really troubled me.  In fact, I believe my job as a Little League umpire prepared me for my job today and equipped me to handle even the most unreasonable passionate parents.

I grew up in Gering, Nebraska, which is a small town in Western Nebraska. As a teenager I had a number of jobs including a morning paper route, mowing lawns, painting houses and serving as a Little League umpire. It was may dad, an Episcopal priest who knows nothing at all about sports and probably couldn’t tell you the difference between a ball and a strike, who suggested I try umpiring. I don’t know if his encouragement was to make sure I earned some money—Lord knows it was not “easy money”—or if he genuinely wanted me to learn a little bit about life. Whatever the rationale, I am grateful for the lessons learned as an umpire. Those lessons, described below, have been important to my work as an admissions officer.

A few lessons from behind the plate (and the catcher) and how they relate to college admissions

Trust your gut—As an umpire, you have to trust your gut. If it looked like a ball, you have to call it a ball, AND it probably was. You can’t second-guess. An umpire has to make the call and has to trust his or her experience. This is the same for an admissions officer. Our work is about good judgment, not certainty. Students with great application and records can bomb in college, just as those with modest backgrounds can go on to excel. As admission officers, it is our job to trust our gut when making a decision.

Listen respectfully—As an umpire, I got yelled at A LOT. Yelling is what parents do—particularly parents living vicariously through their 6 or 7 year old! The worst thing an umpire can do is get emotional, yell back, raise his or her voice or let the chatter become an irritant. The best umpires are those who keep their eyes on the game and ignore the yelling. When a coach challenges a call, the umpire must listen respectfully and allow the coach to speak (when doing so it’s important to be open to the idea that a mistake was made, too). This is the same thing an admissions officer must do when working with a disgruntled parent or student. respectfully is critical. Many times the yelling and complaining is simply part of the process—a catharsis or mourning. A good admissions officer, just like a good umpire, will take it and take respectfully.

Perspective is dependent upon proximity—Balls and strikes look different depending upon perspective and proximity. What looks like a strike to some often looks really different from behind home plate, which is why the umpire has the best position to call the game. A parent’s perspective when it comes to their student’s application to college is the same as fan calling balls and strikes from the stands—they are not positioned to best see the big picture and all they can see is what’s right in front of them; their kid and their kid’s desires and dreams.  As an admissions officer, just like an umpire, you have the best perspective because of your proximity.

Someone has to make the call—In college I was an intramural referee (a topic for another blog post) and we had an honor code, which could be invoked if a referee could not make a call. As you can imagine, when participants were left to make a call it didn’t go so; everyone one thought they had the best position and their call was the right call. This is exactly why an impartial umpire is so important. An umpire needs to see the big picture and have the long view AND he or she needs to make the call, rather than rely on someone else to do. I recall fondly my days as a catcher in Babe Ruth baseball; I frequently tried to make the call on behalf of the umpire. I’d not so subtly suggest a ball was a strike, move my glove into the strike zone and make snarky comments when the ump “missed the call.” A good umpire makes the call because he or she has to. A good admission officer does the same thing. They are there to make the call—even the difficult ones. They have to exercise good judgment, but they must make the call.

While all of the aforementioned qualities were developed as an umpire and honed as an admissions officer, I think the most important lesson I learned as an umpire was to be fair. Fairness is essential to both jobs. If one is confident that decisions are arrived at fairly it’s easy to defend and explain any decision. This is the essence of the work of admissions; to be fair.

What job prepared you for work in college admissions?

W. Kent Barnds a.k.a. @bowtieadmission

 

 

 

 

Blog post: College #admissions…for the rest of us: It’s not what you think it is. #emchat

November 13, 2013

I regret two things about my beloved profession of college admissions: First, the way college admissions is portrayed in the media; and, next, the limited understanding most people have about the profession.

Because there is so much focus on a very small number of institutions that are outrageously selective, far too many people (even some who are quite close to the profession, like some college counselors) believe that admissions professionals are cutthroats, sitting in the ultimate seat of judgment, looking for reasons to wait list or deny otherwise qualified students.  For most of us this is completely removed from the reality of college admissions. In fact, modern day admissions counseling, for the vast majority of admissions offices and counselors, is less about choosing than it is about being chosen.

It’s inarguable that college admissions is more complex than ever before. Admissions success or failure is probably more important to a college’s financial health than ever before, too.  For some, this certainly increases the stakes and has changed what was once a fairly folksy profession to one that is more professional and even occasionally corporate using terms like “demand, revenue, and data-driven.” Competition for students is fierce, marketing is overwhelming, application submission levels have increased to a rate well beyond what is necessary, and, admissions staffs have become a permanent and professional part of the higher education landscape. All of this is widely documented and much is made each year of reports about increasingly “selectivity” and how many “equally qualified” students are denied or wait listed at Ivy League or Flagship Public Universities. The attention to these outliers or fringe players, when considered within the universe of colleges and universities, completely distorts college admissions for the public and doesn’t even come close to representing the reality of college admissions for the rest of us.

Too many constituents on- and off-campus continue to believe most admissions offices are in the choosing business because of these overstated depictions, when reality suggests that the choosing (i.e. selecting and admitting students) part is a far more straightforward process than in decades past. Many admissions officers have perpetuated this by emphasizing larger applicant pools and increasing selectivity.  (I am guilty of this). However, increasing demand and larger applicant pools has enabled admissions offices to actually admit more students while providing the impression that it’s harder to get it. So, if we are in the choosing business; most of us are actually choosing more students than ever before.

I don’t want to discount the choosing part of the job. I love reviewing application and consider application review to be the most important work we do. But, my review is always done with an eye toward what can I find that will allow me to admit this student. I continue to believe that the vast majority of college admissions offices and officers approach application review in the same exact way. (although you wouldn’t know that as a result of what is reported in the media or discussed on online discussion board, which frequently leave one with the impression that admissions offices and officers are doing everything they can to disadvantage students)

The work of the modern day admissions office and admissions counselor is really about getting chosen.  This is what admissions for the rest of us is all about; getting chosen. That’s right, working with students post-offer of admission to illustrate advantages, differences, hooks, etc. that might lead a prospective student to choose the college we represent.

I’ve often compared the work of the vast majority of today’s admissions officers to the work of a campaign manager; rather than a candidate to be elected on Election Day, we have a college we want students to choose. We have a certain number of prospective students who we need to choose our college by May 1. We’ve also taken notice that we need to expand the universe of students who are available to talk into choosing our college, which is why applicant pools have expanded and more students have more offers of admissions from which to choose than at any other time in history. Again, it’s about being chosen, rather than choosing.

There is plenty of evidence of this shift from choosing to being chosen, but too many people ignore it because they’d prefer to define college admissions by the actions of the fringe players. All one needs to understand admissions for the rest of us is consider what’s happened to yield rates (conversion of admitted students to enrolled students) over the course of the last ten years.

Image

Source: IPEDS

You might be asking what exactly does this chart mean? Here’s what it means:

  • It’s not about who a college chooses, it’s all about who chooses a college.
  • Public universities used to be able to count on enrolling about 1 of every 2 students offered admission, but now enroll 1 out of 2.
  • Private universities used to be able to count on enrolling about 4 of every 10 students offered admission, but not enroll closer to 2 of every 10.
  • Admissions officers are in competition to be chosen, rather than doing the choosing. The real work for admissions officers is getting chosen, rather than choosing. And, it looks like that work is getting more difficult!

This is the dynamic (getting chosen) that defines modern day college admissions for the rest of us. It’s not about ridiculous selectivity rates, burgeoning demand, nit-picky assessment of a student’s application, evaluation of an applicant’s social media footprint or creating barriers for access to college.  In fact, most college admissions officers and counselors are going to do everything possible to create the conditions to be chosen, rather than create barriers to being chosen.

Finally, when I think about some of the depictions of admissions officers and admissions strategy, I am saddened.  Once again, these depictions bear no resemblance to what I see when I think about college admissions for the rest of us. Rather than the cold, calculating, institution-before-students caricatures one frequently encounters; the admissions professionals I know are some of the best people in the world. The people I know are warm, caring, empathetic professionals who want to balance what is best for the student with what’s best for the college. They show a deep respect for students and demonstrate a love for their institution. And, they work incredibly hard to get their institution chosen.

College admissions for the rest of us is the reality that the majority of prospective students and families encounter and should be what defines the profession, rather than what happens at the outliers.

W. Kent Barnds @bowtieadmission

I fell in love with the parent of an entering student. #admissions #emchat #highered

October 25, 2013

A colleague of mine just rushed into my office to inform me that she’d just heard from a top recruit that the student was ready to commit to Augustana and “the money was one the way.”

This is always music to me ears and I dutifully celebrated with the counselor and congratulated her. I also took the opportunity to listen the story behind the commitment. This is always the best part of the job for me; learning how a student navigated the process, interacted with our office and partners, and finally arrived a final college choice.

This particular story, as conveyed by one of the counselors here, made me fall in love with the parent of this student, though!

Yup, the parent. 

(The student is awesome, too.)

Why the parent?

And, why a parent I’ve never met?

I mean, how could I be in love?

Let me tell you. This parent did exactly what I wish every parent would do. 

As my colleague described the story of the student’s choice, which apparently had been made some time ago (but wasn’t officially final until an offer of admission was in-hand), she told me what the student’s mother made the student do before committing and sending in an enrollment deposit.

When the decisions was made the parent asked the students, “how are you going to tell the other colleges.” As one might expect the student answered, “I will send them an email.” The students asked, “do you think that’s ok?” The parent asked in turn, “what do you think?” That question led the student to conclude that a “break up email” was insufficient and said, “I need to call them, don’t I?” 

This parent didn’t stop with, “yes.” 

This student’s mother suggested her to write down exactly what she intended to tell all of the other colleges to which she’s applied and been admitted. Her mother helped her think about  what she might say, how she might thank the other colleges for their interest in her and how she could describe the process that led her to decide on Augustana.

And, the mother offered to to review the notes before the student called!

All of this was expected before the student could send the check into Augustana or officially notify anyone here on campus—an admissions counselor or a coach.

What an admirable mother!

Man (don’t tell my wife), but as an admissions officer, I love this mother for teaching her daughter responsibility and respect. Too few parents would expect the same from their sons and daughters. Too few parents recognize how much admissions counselors and others put into the recruitment process and how much we appreciate a thank you and candid break-up.

My colleague, who spoke to the mother earlier today, told me that the mother said, “learning how to say no respectfully—even is hard to do—is a very important lesson for my daughter.” I wish every parent was as thoughtful as conscientious about teaching their son or daughter this very important lesson as part of the college search. 

Since it’s early in the admissions cycle for the year, I hope this is a harbinger of things to come.

W. Kent Barnds a.k.a. @bowtieadmission

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